Siamo andati a Genova per fare la visita e lì ci hanno spiegato un po’ dell’Australia...Hanno detto che c’erano dei boschi e le foreste ma non che dovevamo buttarli giù...
Date and place of birth
Born 1926, Castignano, prov. Ascoli Piceno, Marche
Date and place of arrival in Australia
March 1952, Fremantle aboard the Castelbianco ship
Type of migration
Assisted Migration Scheme
Life in Italy
Giovanni Marinelli was born on 29 September 1926 in the primarily agricultural town of Castignano in the province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region. Giovanni’s family lived with his uncle and aunt’s family and together they share-cropped land (mezzadria) in Castignano and later in Appignano giving a portion of their produce to the landowner (padrone). Giovanni’s wife Maria (née Albertini) was also born in Ascoli Piceno in the town of Castel Di Lama and her family also share-cropped land.
Forse il 10% aveva una piccola proprietà sua, il resto tutto col mezzadria...Crescevamo grano, granturco, patate, piselli, pomodori, tutti i vegetali. Il nostro padrone era lontano...Allora prendeva i polli, le uova. Quando c’era la frutta si portava la frutta.
In 1952, posters began to appear in town encouraging Italians to migrate to Australia under the new Italy-Australia Assisted Migration Scheme. Under this scheme both governments assisted migrants with the cost of the voyage and provided work for them for two years in specific industries in Australia. Giovanni decided to apply to migrate despite knowing very little about Australia and despite his parents and their padrone being unhappy about his decision as they needed his help on the farm. As well as the farm work, Giovanni used to raise and sell pigeons, and, in the Summer, he would collect flowers and seeds. He used the money he had saved from these jobs to help him migrate to Australia.
Non si conosceva l’Australia...Non ho saputo che distanza era Australia dall’Italia fino a quando ho fatto la domanda...L’ho girato in testa ed era una cosa da fare.
Life in Australia
In 1952, at the age of 25, Giovanni left Italy from Genoa on the Castelbianco ship. He used to entertain his fellow migrants by playing his accordion and they had a special ceremony when the ship crossed the equator. Giovanni arrived in Fremantle in March 1952. When the first group of assisted passage migrants arrived in Australia, there was a downturn in the economy making it difficult for the government to meet its promise to find work for them and many returned to Italy. After staying at a migrant reception camp in Belmont for about a fortnight, Giovanni was fortunate to find work in rural areas in the South-West. His first job was as a machinery driver on a farm at Congelin Park in Williams. The silence of the Australian bush, its different plants and the stories about dangerous animals all made an early impression on Giovanni. He also remembers that Italians often experienced discrimination in the period following World War Two.
In quel tempo, l’italiano non era ben visto a causa della guerra. Credevono o avevano in mente che l’italiano era feroce, crudele.
Giovanni lost his job at Congelin Park after being encouraged by his Italian workmates, who found the living conditions difficult especially the different diet, to go to Perth to try and find alternative work for them because he spoke the most English. Giovanni had begun studying English by correspondence because communication was one of the things he found most difficult about living in Australia.
Giovanni later worked for the Main Roads Department in Albany where they used to live in tents. Restless and in search of higher pay, he then found work clearing land for the War Service and Land Settlement Scheme in Mt Barker. Under this scheme, the government gave ex-servicemen cleared land for them to farm. Giovanni travelled all around the South-West living in a caravan and felling trees.
Stavo a Rocky Gully e andavo in giro per chilometri...Ero solo a buttare giù alberi. Avevo una carovana e una radio che non funzionava bene...È una storia che ci va un anno per scrivere.
Giovanni recalls how one year he got to drive a D4 Caterpillar to fill in rabbit burrows for the Agricultural Department. Giovanni loved his work in the South-West so much that union members tried to have him sacked because he would always be the last to leave at the end of a day’s work. As a result of Giovanni’s work experience, knowledge of machinery and ability to understand and speak English, he was later invited to manage some land clearing work near Esperance. Giovanni then became involved in the construction of small dams or weirs on farms and he has kept some of his measuring tools.
Giovanni saved hard so he could help support his family back in Italy. He was eventually able to buy land in Italy and have a house built for his parents. In the mid-1950s, Giovanni’s cousin joined him in Australia and Giovanni found him work in a local sawmill but he returned to Italy, where he had a girlfriend, after just 31 days the reasons for which remain unclear. In 1958, Giovanni himself returned to Italy for three months to see his Italian fiancée/girlfriend (Maria’s sister). He did not end up marrying her but got to know Maria whom he married in 1962 during another visit to Italy.
In 1962, Giovanni returned to Australia with his wife and moved to Merredin where they later had two sons. In their early years there, they lived in a caravan park and conditions were similar to living in rural Italy such as having to go to the public tap to collect water. While there were many Italians living in Merredin, Maria felt isolated living out of town and Giovanni was also often away for work. Maria also disliked the hot and dusty environment as well as the snakes that would enter their house! She did enjoy the gardens of fruit trees which had been planted earlier by some of the approximately 3,000 Italian prisoners brought to WA to work in rural areas during WWII1.
In 1970, Giovanni and Maria returned to Italy with their sons with the intention of remaining there. They stayed for just under a year but then returned to Australia because they found it difficult to make enough money to live in Italy. After living in the suburb of Rivervale for a while they returned to Merredin for a few years while they built a house in Kalamunda. Now retired, they gain much satisfaction from looking after their orchard. An Australian citizen since 1958, Giovanni has been back to Italy 11 times since migrating to Australia. He is proud of the contribution of Italian migrants to WA.
Se non c’erano gli italiani non ci sarebbe l’Australia come adesso – nel senso che l’italiano lavora e sa organizzare. Ha preso l’Australia che era per terra e l’ha alzata in aria.
1 Approximately 18,000 Italian men were brought to Australia as prisoners of war during World War Two. Cf. Johnston, R 1987, ‘The rural employment without guards scheme: The use of Italian prisoners of war on Western Australian farms 1943-1946’, BA (Hons) thesis, Dept of History, The University of Western Australia.