Researching Italians in Australia: war and internment

123063Among the sources of funds which postgraduate researchers can apply for are scholarships offered by the National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association to cover the costs of copying records held in the Archives. A recent winner is Mia Spizzica, a PhD candidate at Monash University, whose research is concerned with the experience of Italians interned in Australia during the Second World War. The loss of the breadwinners –  some 5000 men were interned after Italy declared war on Britain and France in June 1940 – had a serious impact on their families so that the consequences of wartime security measures extended directly or indirectly to some 30,000 Italians. The study uses both documents and interviews. The thousands of primary documents from the National Archives of Australia (NAA) have been essential in providing a corroborative context for eyewitness narratives, diaries and memoirs of wartime internment. In addition files covering about 400 Italians who were arrested in Britain, Malaya (1940), Singapore, New Guinea, New Caledonia (by the French) and Palestine and were transported for internment in Australia have been consulted. The interviews cover eight of the last surviving former internees and forty families affected by wartime internment. Two children born at the Tatura Internment Camps and one born in Haifa were also interviewed.

So far the research has generated several publications, including journal articles (‘On the Wrong Side of the Law (War): Italian civilian internment in Australia’, International Journal of the Humanities, 2012; ‘Italian Civilian Internment in South Australia Revisited’,  Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 41, 2013, pp.65-79), a conference paper, and a report for Museum Victoria to be completed in 2015. An edited book with the working title Hidden Lives: Italian internment experiences in Australia is scheduled for publication in late 2015 and will include contributions by academics and by members of the families of internees.

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