Some of the original New Italy settlers.
Some of the original New Italy settlers.

New Italy celebrates a daring history

The story of how New Italy was settled reads like something out of a good book.

It all started back in 1880 when 50 northern Italian families left Europe on the India believing they were off to start a new life full of sunshine and freedom in a Pacific paradise.

These emigrants had been ‘sold’ homes and land on a fictional island by the Marquis de Rays, and when they arrived at this ‘promised land’ they were confronted not with a burgeoning new settlement but with poverty and death. Supplies on the island (Port Breton in Papua New Guinea) were grossly inadequate and the promised housing non-existent.

After four months and many deaths the emigrants sailed off seeking refuge, but when they reached Noumea the India was declared unseaworthy and the Italians found themselves stranded on what was then a penal colony.

Luckily, the Italian Consul in Australia heard of the misadventure via a colleague in Noumea and requested assistance from Sir Henry Parkes (the then Premier of NSW). As a gesture of goodwill, Parkes arranged for their rescue and chartered the James Paterson to collect the survivors. On April 7 1881, 217 of the original 340 emigrants arrived in Sydney, destitute and in poor health.

This Sunday, New Italy will celebrate that first landing in Sydney with a special anniversary at the New Italy Museum where you can hear the full tale of how the emigrants finally made their way to Woodburn.

“It’s a chance to come and learn about this fascinating story and meet some of the descendants of those original Italians. It’s a story that’s not just relevant to the descendants but also to our region and the history of this nation,” New Italy community development worker Jo Kijas said. “It’s also a chance to find out how the New Italy complex came to be, which is a fascinating story in itself, and there’ll be lots of warmth, music and dancing, food and community.”

The anniversary this Sunday, April 11, begins with an Italian and English mass at 10.30am in the New Italy Community Hall.

From 11.30am the fun and pasta starts flowing plus there’s a jumping castle, live music and a surprise auction. There will also be a tree planting in the Park of Peace to honour the work of Dot and Tony Sawatzki.

Money raised on the day will go towards a history walk within the New Italy complex, the plan being to eventually create lively storyboards that meander around the grounds telling the history of the settlement.

A New Italy cookbook is also being planned, and people are asked to bring their favourite recipes on the day.

New Italy is located on the Pacific Highway, 10km south of Woodburn. For more information, phone 6682 2310 or email newitalymuseum@harboursat.com.au.


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