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agricultural endeavours of Italians in New South Wales

Kevin, C. A History of Italian Settlement in New South Wales

Probably the first Italian farming community in Australia was New Italy. After the bitter disappointment of New Ireland where they had been led to believe they would be able to employ their knowledge of farming techniques, these settlers determinedly sought to salvage a community of Italians, mostly farmers, by establishing New Italy. They had moved to the mouth of the Richmond River, near Woodburn, after hearing from another Italian, Rocco Caminiti, that the soil and water supply were favourable. As soon as they arrived, they set to work building cabins from the logs, bark and foliage around them. They then began clearing, ploughing and sowing the land. During the course of a six year period, in the place of dense bushland there rose up orchards, vineyards and welltilled paddocks. This was land that had been dismissed by British colonists as barren and unproductive. The presence of the New Italy inhabitants was barely noticed until they arrived in nearby towns laden with fresh fruit and vegetables and barrels of good wine. People were astonished that so much had been gleaned from the tract of land that had become New Italy. On the site of New Italy today, there are small physical legacies of the school that was established in 1885. Although the main building no longer survives, there remains a tiny part of the original fence and children's engravings of world maps on rocks, in what would have been the school playground. In addition, an original well, built by Luigi Antonioli, as well as the distinctly structured wooden fence he built to surround his vineyard, still stand.

In the post-New Italy era, members of the Italian community of Lismore and its surrounding areas followed in the footsteps of their forebears by leasing land considered unproductive by Australian farmers. Fernside (previously called Inglevale) was in the hilly area which meant it was both difficult to cultivate and unsuitable for stock. Enough Italians leased the area however, that it resulted in the formation of a community of migrant families. The steepest parts of this frost-free country were used for banana growing while the plateaus accommodated market gardens. The area had to be cleared before any of this could take place. Initially the scrub was cut, burnt and then thoroughly dried before the soil was tilled with a mattock. Horses and ploughs replaced such methods before long. The community at Fernside disbanded in the late 1950s for a number of reasons, not least of which was the frequent raising of rents. Fernside had been a continuous Italian settlement for twenty eight years…

Guiseppe Nardi arrived in New South Wales as a child survivor of the Marquis de Ray's scandalous expedition. In the 1920s he moved from New Italy to Lismore where he and Caterina Nardi, his wife, established a Boarding House on Pitt St. This served many purposes for the developing Italian community and thrived in the decades prior to World War Il. When there premises proved too small for their needs, the Nardis purchased a produce store at 19 Bridge St North Lismore and called it Venezzia House. They built on another storey and opened a grocery store and second hand furniture shop at the front. Venezzia House became a place for dancing and music, for celebrating marriages and a resting place where women went before being hospitalised for childbirth. Basegios and Sartories, two other boarding houses both in Union St, did not cater to as many in as many ways, but they were nevertheless important points of reference for the Italian community in Lismore.

Reproduced with permission of the NSW Heritage Office.

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