From Poggioreale, Sicily, to Sydney, Australia
Italians have a long and proud history of living in and contributing to Australian society and culture.
The Italian presence in Australia predates the First Fleet when Italians sailed with Spanish and
Portuguese explorers in the sixteenth century. It is documented that Italians were on
the Endeavor with Captain Cook. Italian immigrants began arriving in Australia in the mid-1800s;
many left their birthplace in search of new opportunities and a better life.
This story is very familiar to Americans of Italian descent who experienced the same challenges.
We acknowledge and thank the creators and writers of the book,
"50 Years, S. Antonio Da Padova Protettore di Poggioreale Trapani Sydney & Nursing Home Village", published in Sydney, Australia. They have graciously shared their history with us so that
members of Poggioreeale in America can learn about their Australian cousins.
The first Poggiorealesi known to migrate to Australia was Nicolo Catalano. Born in 1872, he left Poggioreale to make a new beginning in Australia arriving in Sydney on 10 June 1890. Catalano was instrumental in encouraging family and "paesani" to make a new life in Sydney, and it is believed that he opened his home to them until they were able to support themselves.
During the 1920 to 1940's, a number of Poggiorealesi arrived in Australia. They worked hard establishing themselves as greengrocers, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, builders and market gardeners.
During WWII, many Italians were interned. Most Poggiorealesi living in Australia at the time were sent to camps while others were sent to work on farms, sugar cane fields, to build roads, railways or work in mines. Many years would pass before some of these men were reunited with their families.
The post War period saw the greatest influx of Italians in Australia's history. Motivated by the need for work and the depredations caused by war, poverty and natural disasters. Many left their birthplace in search of new opportunities and a better life. Most had only a few pounds in their pocket, but all had big dreams.
The journey to Australia was long and arduous, often taking up to 8 weeks by ship via the Suez Canal. Most had never travelled outside their birthplace and all their possessions were usually in their wooden trunks.
Between 1950 to mid-1960;s, many Poggiorealesi migrated to Sydney. Work was already waiting for them, and they were quickly absorbed into local Italian communities. With little knowledge of the English language and unfamiliarity with their new country, they naturally sought security by congregating with other paesani, often living together with families or in boarding houses throughout the Inner West, North Shore, the Southern Suburbs and Greater Western Sydney. Many married paesani in Sydney, and in some cases enlisted the help of extended family or neighbors back in Poggioreale to vet potential spouses and negotiate a proxy marriage "procura."
The next significant surge of migration from Poggioreale was due to the Belice Valley Earthquake in 1968. With their homes destroyed, many travelled to Australia to be with their relatives.
From their humble beginnings, the Poggiorealesi resilience and determination enabled them to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them. Today the Poggiorealesi constitute the third largest regional group within the Italian migrant population.
Read more about the fascinating story of the Poggiorealesi history in Sydney,
the immigrant lives, and their accomplishments in these book links:
Like most Sicilians who settled in Sydney, the Poggiorealesi are devoted to Saint Anthony, their patron saint. The worship of their protector is often practices with particular intensity because of the difficulties the Poggiorealesi underwent in their journey to a new life.
This beautiful book published tells a detailed story of the Poggiorealesi who immigrated to Australia and the creation of their Saint Anthony Associatin which holds, today, one of the biggest Italian/Australian committees in Sydney with over 300 members spanning three generations of Poggioreale ancestry. The Association has brought the community together through a range of religious and social events. It has has enabled the traditions, customs and cultural practices of Poggioreale to be exposed and experienced by the immigrant Poggiorealesi children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Thank you to Lina Maiorana, Director of the Association, for creating this Anniversary Book and for sharing the Poggiorealesi culture of Sydney, Australia with the members of Poggioreale of America. We have much in common.
Former Mayor of Poggioreale, Giovanni Maniscalco, wrote
this book about "The Two Poggioreales" in 2004.
The book is out of print. For our readers,
we have scanned the book so you can view it in full.
See link below photo.
We are looking for someone who can read Italian to write a book
summary for us. Down the road, we would also like to have this
book translated. CAN YOU HELP US? Contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org if you are willing to assist.