Italian Community

Diego Bernacchi in 1910 (AOT, PH30/1/2315)

In the nineteenth century, a divided Italy did not present a scenario for emigration, though there were some half-dozen Italians among convicts in Tasmania, and a few other emigrants. From 1824 Josef Reichenberg, born in Napoli, was a musician in Hobart, and Gerolame Carandini taught music in the 1840s, marrying a pupil, Maria Burgess, who in her long singing career became known as 'the Tasmanian nightingale'. Thomas Marzetti emigrated from England to Ouse in about 1824 and his family intermarried in the district. The patriot leader Garibaldi touched the Tasmanian shore in 1852, and his later writings made many Italians dream of Tasmania. Diego Bernacchi arrived in 1884 and became a prominent but ultimately unsuccessful entrepreneur at Maria Island. His son Louis became a distinguished scientist, the first Australian to set foot in Antarctica.

The unification of Italy brought some social and economic problems which led to more emigration, mostly to the Americas, but some to Australia. A handful of Italians arrived in Tasmania, a few before 1914, and some in the 1920s and 1930s, such as mechanic C Scarfiotti, and concrete workers Marco Rizzolo, Joe Ledder, and Q and Vic Di Venuto. In the Second World War some Italian prisoners of war worked in Tasmania and a few returned, but the majority of Italians arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. Claudio Alcorso, a prominent industrialist, established the Silk and Textiles factory where many Italians worked, and helped establish the first 'New Australians' club, the Australian Italian Club, in about 1956. Many emigrants' first job was with hydro dam projects, and most eventually settled in Hobart and Launceston, making a difference within the community at large. Skilful tradesmen established businesses, restaurants and pizza shops were opened in numbers, San Carlo church in North Hobart had a large Italian congregation, and the Italian cultural association taught Italian language and culture. Italians' influence can be recognised in Tasmania's new society of multicultural values and broad vision.

Teodino Ottavi