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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

The reaction of Australians to Italian migrants

Laura Mecca and Mara Moustafine.

Historian Laura Mecca describes the sometimes prickly relations between Italians and Australians in the early years of the big post war immigration program.



Date Added:

03 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

7.2 MB






It was a bit of a shock, they were handsome, they were beautifully dressed, they pinched all their women, so there was trouble for Melbourne and Sydney, you know, the Italians had to go out in groups. But all in all, I think they sort of liked them, they started to conquer them, with their food, food neighbourhood exchange of food over the fence, particularly in suburbs like Brunswick and Carlton when they co-existed along with the Greeks and along with the Jewish and so on. And you know, so all the Australian neighbour and of course, I mean, they were considered a bit of – you know, sort of black sheep in how could they have vegetables in the front garden? They had you know, so, it was quite a shock for many of the Australians, but I think it’s a lack of knowledge and a lack of education about the people who come into the country and their background that dictates a lot of this today is the same in Australia.


They don’t know about the background of the people that came and their richness, cultural and whatever. Same with Italians, the Italians would not waste a piece of garden with flowers. Because land was such a precious thing in Italy, we had large families with one plot of land. So you know, anything that was cultivable, sorry, no flowers, first you eat. Maybe the flower but only those flowers that would repel the insects, you know, because they had that knowledge, because they’re brought up with that knowledge. So – but it had to be the vegetables in the front garden. And if it wasn’t possible, because they had two shifts to work they put concrete because the house has to be swept and nice and clean.


So, you know, it was the concrete there. And paint the house a different colour, why not? In Italy they have the beautiful houses: blue, ochre, yellow and whatever, except the paint was not as good as in Australia. It was lime-based, so after a couple of years it would fade away, in Australia it would stay. So – and the columns, why not the columns? Signora the Padroni in Italy had an amazing renaissance villa with all those columns, or Palladian or whatever, you know, to them, that was ultimate goal to achieve: a house with the columns, because it was a symbol of wealth in their own land. And that’s how they did it.


End transcript