Aussie the migration nation

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
This migrant group from Europe is among the post World War II influx into WA.
Camera IconThis migrant group from Europe is among the post World War II influx into WA. Credit: Western Images


Immigration is often in the news.

Should Australia take in those that want to live here, those fleeing danger and terrible living situations, or should Australia ensure our country remains the way that it is, with a strict border policy?

It would seem to me that our nation is somewhat polarised.

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It is ironic, when you consider that despite some of, if not, the strictest border measures in the world, we are, arguably, one of the biggest examples of multiculturalism.

This is very noticeable in our major cities.

Melbourne is considered to be the biggest Greek city outside Athens, and the biggest Italian city outside Italy, while the Lebanese population in Sydney would rival Lebanon in the Middle East.

Melbourne is also said to have one of the world’s biggest China Town districts dating back to the 1850s goldrush, and the Vietnamese influence in inner Sydney and Perth is quite distinct.

And the hills around Adelaide definitely have a German flavour.

All this comes together with a heavy sprinkle of English and Irish.

Now, I’ve mentioned in this column before that I come from a migrant background, so, without immigration, I simply wouldn’t exist.

The other day, I was having a bit of an online search, when I came across a very interesting site.

Without being too specific, the site was about the Fiorenza family across the globe.

It involved a series of dates and what could be described as random photos of Fiorenza family members, mainly in the US but also Australia.

Suddenly, out of the blue, there was a picture of my cousin, and later one of my uncle, but it was the photograph and reference to my grandpop that really grabbed my attention.

It was a faded black-and-white picture of my grandfather when he was about 40.

Underneath was a brief description:

“Domenica Antionio (sic) Fiorenza (Document) Date 16 Nov 1939 Location: MT Magnet Police Station.

“Photo taken when registered for being a possible Italian agent during the Second World War...”

In 1939, my grandfather was imprisoned with many other Italian migrants in Harvey in the South West of Western Australia during the war, while my nanna was left to bring up a family of six.

Seeing this extract made me think a little of the sacrifices my grandparents made, fleeing Mussolini’s Italy in 1922, travelling around Australia and working hard to create a better life.

Ignorance and racism were the accepted norm during that time.

I wonder what would have been if my grandparents had been shunned from our shores.


Peter Fiorenza is the host of SHL Sunday 10am-noon on Radio MAMA. The program will return early in February.

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