War-Time Anti-Fascist Documents Discovered in Chimney

Jim Andrighetti

Recently discovered documents have shed new light on the anti-Fascist movement and internment of Italian civilians in war-time Australia.

The records are of the NSW Branch of Italia Libera (‘Free Italy’), the Australian-Italian Anti-Fascist propaganda in Australia. It was committed to the Australian war effort, and campaigned for free and popular elections in a democratic Italy.

Among its distinguished supporters were Sir Isaac Isaacs, former Governor General, and several Federal Ministers.

Two important issues dominate the records:

The release of Italian anti-Fascists from internment camps. especially after the killing of Francesco Fantin, by a Fascist internee in Loveday Camp, South Australia in November 1942, and the economic discrimination of anti-Fascists conscripted into Federal Government labour camps as a cheap labour force after their release from internment.

Nearly 4,000 Italians were interned in Australia during the Second World War, regardless of their political affiliations.

Included in the records is correspondence with wives of internees revealing hardships encountered while their husbands were behind wire. The NSW Branch’s fundraising for the Australian Red Cross and the Government’s Victory Loans is also documented.

The records were acquired for the State Library’s ‘The Italians in NSW’ Project, a joint venture with the Italian Historical Society of NSW. Launched in 1989, and partly funded by the Australian Bicentennial Multicultural Foundation, the Project aims to collect, preserve and make available in the State Library’s collections the documentary history of the Italian presence in NSW.

For further information, film and photographic opportunities contact:

Jim Andrighetti,
Co-ordinator, The Italians in NSW Project

Ph: (02) 230 1506 Fax: (02) 223 4086