Migration heritage - Italian and Maltese migrants

Interviewees: Jack Iori (2006), Pat Nati (2006), Charlie and Carmen Camilleri (2008)

Interviewer: Frank Heimans

Transcription: Kevin Murray, March 2009

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee


JACK IORI (00:02)

Now, when did your father arrive from Tuscany to live in Australia? How old was he when he came here?

He was 21...

It was very hard for him because he came out by himself. My Mum didn't come out at that time. And he couldn't speak, and it was very difficult when you got put on a farm like that and just told to go and do a certain job so it took him a long while to get Mum... it took him about six and a half years before Mum arrived.

...he borrowed the money from a bloke called Fellini who was a well-to-do man in those days and he borrowed money off him to bring my brother, who was born before my father came to Australia.

Chook sheds behind 49-53 Mile End Rd late 1960s

Well, I was born in '34 and I was about 18 months when I come, when I arrived in Rouse Hill, so it would have been roughly 1935 that they arrived here in Rouse Hill. (Edo thinks Jack was 4 years old, and they arrived in Rouse Hill in August 1938).

They came over here for a new living and Dad was good at what he done - he was a good farmer, he worked hard. he taught me how to work hard. And my brother Edo. It was one of the things he instilled on us - if you want to get anywhere in life you've got to work.

Firstly, he had to go and get a job, because he had no money and he worked at Riverstone Meatworks for quite a few years. And at weekends, he used to accumulate some building... like some timber. Well mainly he used to cut the trees and have his own poles for his sheds, get some iron and he started producing eggs, and growing vegetables at the same time, but all with horses.

And he also built his first dam, just 100 metres from here with a horse scoop, so I still remember all that. So, he worked terribly hard for what he got, but it was a way of life in those days.

Mum and Dad used to make their own cream. They used to make all their cheeses. I remember Mum standing there for hours making a cheese roll - you know how you'd get a piece of tin about that high and that long, and you'd put it around the cheese and you'd keep on pressing it and pressing it, to make it narrower. She used to spend hours doing it. Beautiful cheese, it was really great.

PAT NATI (02:20)

Dad arrived as a sixteen year old in 1936 and Mum arrived around the same time but she was a four year old. Both my grandparents were very good friends, so dad was eleven, twelve years older than Mum, but they lived in the south of Italy in two towns one was Martone...

and on the other side of the mountains was a town called San Giovanni (di Gerace), that’s where dad was born

Nati packing shed c1975

What was the soil like in these villages?

Very poor, very poor that’s why it was hard for them to make, lot of mountains, lot of hilly mountains and that’s why they couldn’t make a living, lot of olive trees and olive plantations, but there was not enough flat land for good farming and that’s why grandfather went looking for a better life for the children.

they tried Australia and my grandmother always said to me she remembered quite vividly that she got a letter and it said we’ve found paradise and this was Australia and it is paradise compared to other countries, we’re far away from all the troubles of the world and it’s a wonderful country.

Did they settle in Sydney then?

Settled in North Ryde... All the Italians migrated round that area, around Macquarie University, it was all market gardens and I had my Uncle Vince Mesiti was next door to Uncle Roy Monteverdi further up was my cousin John Nati and his father and their family, but it was all market gardens around North Ryde, but then it all got released and they all went different ways. Who went Kellyville, who went Kenthurst, who went to Dural but they all moved to different spots.


My village is Manikata which is in the St Paul’s Bay area... from our house where we lived as children you could see the beach and rocks really nice.

After school we helped on the farm. When it was holidays we were with Mum and Dad. As we got a little bit older then if you could help you helped.

Well I was born in July 1946 and I was born in Mjarr which is in Malta of course. Well my father he didn’t work the farm much because he was more of a fruit and vegetable seller. Like a green grocer but selling from house to house.

we came in Australia in 1949, but that was his job there. When we came here well we started growing vegetables.

My father came out in 1960. Mum and the five girls we stayed back in Malta and then we came out nine months later which is 1961.

Well I think my parents chose Australia because a lot of people from our village were coming to Australia at the time. He knew some people here that they act as guarantors for you. They supply you with somewhere to live and work. So he came out, got settled and when he made arrangements for somewhere for us to live. Then we came out.

we lived in Kellyville for nine months we went to school at St Monica’s at Northmead. Then nine months after that just before Christmas Mum and Dad had bought a place at Glenorie. They started working there and we moved up there and of course we helped them in the farm and we just basically worked together and lived together as a family. It was a great opportunity for Mum and Dad to start a new life for us. It was hard because of course they’d bought the place and they couldn’t afford to employ anyone. So every pair of hands made a difference.

Marriage of Charlie and Carmen Camilleri by Fr Leonard at
Our Lady of the Rosary Kellyville 1972

We used to do work before we used to go to school. Because we used to grow a lot of bunches in Glenorie when we were in Glenorie because we had a small acreage there. That was our main product beetroot and spinach and parsley and more small stuff. Not like when we came out to Maroota. Then we used to help him before we go to school. Go to school, come back straight to the farm. Hardly ever did any homework anyway.

All the people that came from Malta they were mainly farmer in those days. Not like now but in the late 1930’s to the late 1960’s whenever they came they were mainly all farmers.

We used to go to church at the same place every Sunday.

Yeah so we just knew each so...

One thing turns to the other...

We got married at Kellyville because there was a Maltese priest there and Mum and Dad wanted us to get married in the Maltese community. We got married in 1972 and then we moved to Maroota straight after that.