Hometowns of Italian Australians

Presented with the assistance of the Consulate General of Italy, Sydney, at Point Light Gallery, Surry Hills (2 September to 10 October 2004) and subsequently at Latrobe Regional Gallery, Victoria, in 2005.

Italians began migrating to Australia en masse after World War II. It was a time when Europe was war ravaged; many infrastructures were badly damaged and employment was low. It was a time too when Australia was realising that, to have a secure and viable future, it needed to populate.

The Australian Department of Immigration was newly formed, created by a Labor government in 1945. In March 1951 the Australian and Italian governments signed the Assisted Migration Agreement. Enduring the sometimes gruelling application process, hundreds of thousands of Italians took the opportunity, and risk, of assisted passage and set off for a new life in Australia.

The majority of Italian immigrants came between 1945 and 1972. There were almost 400,000 of them, a significant number given that Australia's population in 1945 was only 7.5 million. After the British, the Italians were the next largest group to migrate to Australia.

Although there doesn't seem to be an official list of towns which the Italians left behind, it appears that specific regions were targeted by Australian immigration officials. A case in point is the valley running inland from the seaside city of Chieti in Abruzzo, which is dotted with Australian connections.

There are thousands of hometowns of Italian Australians. This exhibition is a journey through some of them. It is a slim but real connection between Australia and Italy, between Italian Australians and their past, between contemporary Australians and their diverse, close or distant, origins.

[These photos were later combined with those of Il Destino to create the book Qui e Lì.]