Saturday, 25 September 2010

RHSV Lecture - Italians ans Swiss-Italians on the Walhalla Goldfield

Speaker: Annamaria Davine
Date: Tuesday 12 October
Place: Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne
Time: 5.15 tea/coffee 5.45 lecture
Cost: members free - non members $5.50

In the decades following the discovery of gold in Walhalla in late 1863, thousands of men and women went to the district eager to make their fortune. Among them were hundreds of Italian and Swiss-Italians (Italians), mostly males. These were usually sojourners, temporary residents who, although assumed to be ‘migrants’ when entering Victoria, did not necessarily have a commitment to permanent settlement. They were woodcutters, timber contractors, tramway builders and charcoal makers and it was not unusual for them to travel from Europe to the Walhalla goldfield 2-3 times during their working lives. Nor were they always desperately poor. Pietro Bombardieri, for example, ‘migrated’ to Australia at least seven times over a forty year period and lived in Walhalla for part of this time working as a timber contractor.

Who were they and what were their aspirations? I will provide some background into my research and, using two case studies, discuss what ‘migration’ may have meant to Walhalla’s Italians. Has its meaning changed over time, or has its use oversimplified and formularized a complex and diverse process in time, place and belonging?

Annamaria (Anna) Davine is an honorary research fellow in the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical Studies and a member of the Professional Historians` Association.

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