Immigration

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ITALIAN IMMIGRATION

 

A PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN PROMOTING THE STATE AS "THE LAND OF GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES" SPONSORED BY THE GOVERNMENT, ATTRACTED A FLOW OF IMMIGRANTS, BOTH UN-ASSISTED AND WITH SOME FINANCIAL AID BETWEEN THE YEARS 1903 AND 1913.   #1

 

 

IMMIGRANTS IN 1911. IN THIS YEAR 9,562 PEOPLE ARRIVED IN W.A. WITH FINANCIAL HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT   #2

 

Transoceanic immigration from Alpine and Prealpine zones of northern Italy where seasonal immigration to other parts of Italy or Europe had long traditions began even before the Unification of Italy (1861) and accelerated after it. The great European migrants of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century occurring on an unapprehended scale with mass flights from the land by helpless and bewildered peasants. Much of the immigration was temporary in nature, although poverty was seen to be the main reason for Italians immigrating; this was not always the case. Many came to earn cash and buy more land at home or to maintain families with the intention to return home at a later date. As many as ten to twenty years often passed before families were united and in some cases they never returned home

The first census to give separate figures for Italians living in Australia was taken in 1871 and most of these would have come during the gold rush years of the 1850’s to 1890’s.  By 1911 the number had risen to 6,719 and between the wars, 1922 the Italian population was 8,000 and in 1937 it was 26500. For the first time unassisted non British migrants reached significant proportions.  The immigration coming mainly from Italy, Yugoslavia and Germany, in 1930 assisted immigration stopped and between 1932 and 1936, due to the poor employment prospects for migrants, they were required to have fifty pounds on entering Australia. This effectively stopped Italian males arriving until the post world war period when assisted and unassisted migrants arrived in large numbers providing labour for Australia’s secondary industries. It was argued that increased population would give Australia a greater feeling of security following proof of her vulnerability during the war.  Australia also felt her responsibilities towards the refugees and displaced persons of Europe and offered them a safe haven.

 

IMMIGRANTS LINING THE RAILS OF THE "CASTEL FELICE" AT FREMANTLE 1947   #3

 

FAMILIES POSING ON THE GANGPLANK 1947   #4

 

 The first large group settled in Queensland and played a significant part in the sugar cane industry.  In 1891 three hundred arrived from Lombardy and Piedmont but as their arrival upset the local trade unions the government of Queensland put a stop to further arrival of cane cutters.

The discovery of gold increased the number of immigrants dramatically in other Australian states and in the years that followed the increase continued.  It was not until the gold rush days that Italians came to Western Australia in any number and they had generally been in the Eastern States prior to coming to the West.

Nearly every Italian who came to Western Australia before the second world war worked either in the mines or to cut timber.  The timber industry was one of the first industries to be established in Western Australia.  The south of the state was once dotted with timber mill towns but many of these are now extinct and their history and lifestyle fast disappearing.

Timber was also cut in the goldfields. Wood was needed for the steam driven winder sin, the mines, generators and pumps. Salmon gums and gimlet were cut in massive quantities to support thousands of kilometres of shafts and slopes underground.  As the area around the mine became cut out and the railways began forging into more distant areas, thus was born the “woodlines”

The Millar's Company and the Australian Hardwood Company were responsible for opening up much of the timber country in the south west.  The Department of Forest was established in 1895.  The first Annual report of the Woods and Forests Department of WA was published on June 20th 1897. In its report it noted that about 2500 men were employed in the timber industry supporting 7000 people.

 

IMMIGRANTS IN 1911. IN THIS YEAR 9.562 PEOPLE ARRIVED IN W.A. WITH FINANCIAL AID FROM THE GOVERNMENT   #5

 

 

One thousand four hundred and fifty one horses and two hundred and eighty four bullocks were used in the industry. There were 193 miles of private rail line and tramways used in the forest. The peak of the industry in WA was reached in 1913.  Further along the Darling Scarp the timber industry was expanding with settlements in the hills.  Canning Mills grew into a large settlement complete with inn, resident doctor and school

A smaller mill, Smailes mill was later built east towards Carinyah and dozens of spot mills and smaller cutters operated in the area between Canning Mill and Barton’s mill in Pickering Brook. Barton’s Mill, situated east of Kalamunda, in the area now called Pickering Brook was originally owned by John Barton.  When he died in 1908 Millars took over and moved the mill two miles east. Many Italian immigrants worked as cutters and sleeper cutters during the life of the mill. The original mill settlement housed families in tents, bark huts and weatherboard homes.  A school was opened at the Mill in 1910.

  In October 1883 regulation were gazetted requiring all timber cutters to be registered.  After the creation of the Forest Department in 1895 the supervision of all cutters was done by forest rangers. The trouble facing the Italians during the depression did not miss the timber workers.  Because of the lack of work the mills were forced to employ only union members.  Italians had to be naturalized to become union members and many had not been in Australian long enough to be eligible for naturalization.  They returned to Perth and eked out their savings until work was available again.

There were many problems facing migrants in the years before and after the Second World War. Tensions ran high during this time. Civilian Aliens were non naturalised people of suspect sympathies, mainly Italian, who were placed in the Civilian Aliens Corps. (CAC) and put into camps at Rottenest, Harvey, Northam and some mill townships.  Many Italians in the Pickering Brook area who were orchardists and vegetable growers and who had no other man power to run the properties were allowed to return and work their properties.  Naturalised Italians were seconded to the Defence Department as “manpower” and were required to work in the timber industry or agriculture.

The difficulties facing Italian immigrants into the Pickering Brook area was the sheer isolation especially for the women who had left their families in Italy to join their husbands. The isolation of women in the outlying mill towns was a great tragedy.  Everyone at times wants to speak to another person in their own language and if cut off from this social interaction the heart withers and diminishes.  As the years moved on and immigration increased the loneliness and isolation for the women lessened.

 

 

 

References:   Article:            Valleys of Solitude - J. Heast
                                         Cala Munnda  A Home in the Forest - John Slee & Bill Shaw
                                         From The Mountains to the Bush - Jacqueline Templeton

                      Images:       1, 2  The Gate of Dreams - Ffion Murphy & Richard Nile
                                         3, 4  Western Images

 

 

 

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