The Internment Diaries of Mario Sardi

booksIlma Martinuzzi O’Brien will present her most recent book, The Internment Diaries of Mario Sardi, on Wednesday 7 May at 6.30pm at the Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday Street, Carlton 3053. The event will be introduced by Tony Pagliaro. It’s free and will conclude with a Q&A session and book signing. Please signal your intention to attend here or by phone (0393499021).

During the Second World War 4,855 Australian residents of Italian origin were interned under the National Security Act. This represented one-fifth of the total number of Australians of Italian origin. However, seventy years later the internment story is not well remembered except by those families whose loved ones were snatched unexpectedly and imprisoned during the war.

One of them, Mario Sardi, an Italian immigrant from the Isola d’Elba, spent 21 months behind barbed wire, from February 1942 to December 1943, in Loveday Camp 14A, a camp which was especially set up for the detention of Australian resident civilians. This book is the first publication in English of a diary written by an Italian detainee of an internment camp; it records what it was like for civilians to be “captured” because they were Italian, placed in detention thousands of miles from home and held without trial for months and years.

The diary has been set in the context of the war and Australian society by Melbourne historian and academic Ilma Martinuzzi O’Brien, who has included details taken from official records relating to many of those mentioned in the diary. Material from their dossiers gives the information used for their capture, and in many cases reveals the arbitrary and unfair grounds for their detention. These internees were all legitimate and accepted immigrants, and about a quarter of them had become naturalized British subjects, and some were even Australian-born. Yet despite the difficult treatment they received, after the war they resumed their lives and went on to make an important contribution to Australian life.

About the author:

Dr Ilma Martinuzzi O’Brien is an Honorary Research Associate in the School of Historical and European Studies at La Trobe University. She was Director of the Co.As.It. Italian Historical Society from 1987 to 1993 where she curated the national Bicentennial exhibition Australia’s Italians 1799-1988 and also co-curated Bridging Two Worlds: Jews and Italians for the Museum of Victoria. She has published widely on internments in Australia during WWII, including a chapter in The Great Mistakes of Australian History (UNSW Press) on internments from Innisfail in a volume published by the National Museum of Australia. She co-edited Italian Pioneers in the Innisfail District (2003) and Under Suspicion: Citizenship and Internment in Australia during WWII (2009).

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