Italy and Queensland

Interconnected histories


  • Claire Kennedy Griffith University
  • Catherine Dewhirst University of Southern Queensland



acculturation, Italian culture, Italian migrants, North Queensland, Queensland–Italy connection, sugar industry


The Introduction to this special issue explains the rationale for its publication. It is intended to further the exploration of both sides of the Queensland–Italy connection, extending the already considerable body of work on Italians in Queensland and contributing to the heretofore less-examined field of Queenslanders’ experiences of Italy. In particular, the influences exerted on Queenslanders by Italian culture and history, and the many ‘views from Queensland’ of Italy and Italians, warrant further attention. The contributions to this issue therefore fall into two categories: those concerned with Italians in Queensland, which relate to migrants and their descendants; and those concerned with movement in the opposite direction, but mainly for purposes other than migration, such as study and work, personal exploration, and acculturation. They include an interview, a memoir, a creative non-fiction piece and two book reviews, alongside five research articles.

Author Biographies

  • Claire Kennedy, Griffith University

    Claire Kennedy is an adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University, where she previously taught in Italian Studies for many years. Her current research is in translation studies and theatre studies, and her most recent publication is Staging Violence Against Women and Girls: Plays and Interviews  (Bloomsbury, 2023), co-edited with Daniela Cavallaro and Luciana d’Arcangeli.

  • Catherine Dewhirst, University of Southern Queensland

    Catherine Dewhirst is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Southern Queensland, where she teaches histories of Europe; global interrelations; women’s experiences and ‘voices’; racism, sovereignty and equality in Australia; and historiography. She specialises in migration and women’s histories, and the Italian-migrant periodical press. Her most recent publications include two co-edited books (Palgrave Macmillan 2020, 2021), which explore the voices of Australia’s migrant and minority communities through the lens of ethnic newspapers and other media initiatives.


All translations from Italian to English in this introduction are ours, unless otherwise stated.

See Karen Middleton, Albanese: Telling it straight (Sydney: Vintage, 2016).

Rayane Tamer, ‘Anthony Albanese to be first Australian prime minister with non-Anglo-Celtic surname, praises “great multicultural society”’, SBS News, 22 May 2022. Available from: [31 May 2023]. Albanese also hailed the existence of several current and recent state premiers with non Anglo-Celtic names (in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia), as well as candidates for and members of parliaments, as reported in James Massola, ‘“You can achieve anything in this country”: Albanese on his Italian roots and modern Australia’, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 2022. Available from: [31 May 2023]. There has not yet been an Italian-Australian premier of Queensland. However, we cannot resist mentioning that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT (version 1), when interrogated recently, out of idle curiosity, on the contribution of Italians to Queensland, produced a 270-word essay that included the ‘information’ that: ‘In the early 20th century, several Italians were elected to local councils, and in the 1930s, an Italian-Australian, Vince Gair, became the state’s first Catholic premier’ – that is, with errors both in the time period (1930s) and in Vince Gair’s ethnicity.

An earlier publication we co-edited with Francesco Ricatti on the experiences of Italian migrants and their historiography, to mark Queensland’s sesquicentenary, is Catherine Dewhirst, Claire Kennedy and Francesco Ricatti (eds), Special Issue ‘150 years of Italians in Queensland’, Spunti e Ricerche 24(1) (2011).

Bruno Mascitelli, ‘Italy and Australia: Different origins – different strategies’, in Gianfranco Cresciani and Bruno Mascitelli (eds), Italy and Australia: An asymmetrical relationship (Ballarat: Connor Court, 2014), p. 5.

Some of Sacchi’s articles, translated into English by Jacqueline Templeton, have been published in Filippo Sacchi, ‘From our archives: Italians in Queensland’, Italian Historical Society Journal 14(1) (2006), 16–25.

Operation Mare Nostrum was abandoned – declared too costly for Italy to continue to pursue alone – in favour of a collaborative European Union operation called Triton, with a return to greater emphasis on protection of borders and less on protection of migrants. See Martina Tazzioli, ‘Border displacements: Challenging the politics of rescue between Mare Nostrum and Triton’, Migration Studies 4(1) (2016), 1–19.

Mia Spizzica, ‘Why Australia must apologise to Italians interned during World War II’, The Conversation, 6 December 2011. Available from: [29 June 2023].

Mia Spizzica, interviewed by Craig Encer, Levantine Heritage Foundation, July 2019. Available from [30 June 2023].

See Vanda Moraes-Gorecki, ‘“Black Italians” in the sugar fields of North Queensland: A reflection on labour inclusion and cultural exclusion in tropical Australia’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology 5(1–2) (1994), 306–19; Helen Andreoni, ‘Olive or white? The colour of Italians in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies 77 (2003), 81–92, 192–4; Catherine Dewhirst, ‘Collaborating on whiteness: Representing Italians in early white Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies 32(1) (2008), 33–49; Catherine Dewhirst, ‘Colonising Italians: Italian imperialism and agricultural colonies in Australia, 1881–1914’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 44(1) (2016), 23–47; Francesco Ricatti, ‘Elodia and Franca: Oral histories of migration and hope’, History Australia 7(2) (2016), 33.1–33.23; Francesco Ricatti, Italians in Australia: History, memory, identity (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

See Gary Foley, Andrew Schaap and Edwina Howell (eds), The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black power, land rights and the state (London: Routledge, 2014).

Maria Elena Indelicato, ‘Beyond whiteness: Violence and belonging in the borderlands of North Queensland’, Postcolonial Studies 23(1) (2020), 100, 109–10.

Francesco Ricatti, ‘The emotion of truth and the racial uncanny: Aborigines and Sicilians in Australia’, Cultural Studies Review 19(2) (2013), 126–7.

See also Ricatti, Italians in Australia, p. 71.

Anecdotally, we have heard some people who grew up in North Queensland comment on the intensity they perceived of their Italian-Australian parents’ or community’s racism against Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, their pride in being ‘successful migrants’ seemingly accompanied by a refusal to acknowledge the original owners of the land on which they had prospered. Such attitudes may have been embedded for a long time: when the Italian aviator Francesco De Pinedo visited Innisfail in 1925, he was warned by a man he understood to be the Italian Consul in Townsville of the dangers of any contact with Aboriginal people if he had to make a landing while continuing en route to Papua. While recognising that ‘The persecutions and humiliations to which these Aborigines were subjected by the first colonies of whites who arrived in Australia [had] forced them to withdraw to deserted and inaccessible places’, the Consul spoke of the Indigenous people as ‘outside the control of any authorities’, adding that ‘one hears tell of truly incredible cases of brutality that have happened in the past against whites’ – thus effectively acknowledging the First Peoples’ resistance, but evidently not perceiving colonisation as an ongoing process and one that involved participation by Italian immigrants and their descendants. He went on to assume they would soon see ‘the complete disappearance of this race’. Francesco De Pinedo, Un volo di 55,000 chilometri (Milan: Mondadori, 1927), pp. 124–6.

See Stefano Girola, ‘The Italian connection: New historical sources on European–Aboriginal relationships’, The Australasian Catholic Record 87(1) (2010), 92–106.

Chris Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra: My life working for a stronger, smarter future for our children (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2022).

Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra, p. 109.

Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra, p. 1.

Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra, p. 13.

Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra, p. 2.

Sarra, Good Morning Mr Sarra, p. 105.

Stefano Girola (ed.), La guerriera che sorride. La storia di Rina Louise Dal Cengio (published by Stefano Girola, 2018).

Girola, La guerriera che sorride, pp. 15–16.

Girola, La guerriera che sorride, p. 13.

A book that aims to deepen understanding in Italy of Australian Aboriginal arts is: Franca Tamisari and Francesca Di Blasio (eds), La sfida dell’arte indigena australiana. Tradizione, innovazione e contemporaneità (Milan: Jaca Books, 2007). It includes chapters by various artists.

Fiona Foley, personal communication, 2 August 2022. See also Joe Hinchcliffe, ‘“Enabler” of massacres: The push to reexamine the legacy of founding father Samuel Griffith’, The Guardian, 5 June 2022. Available at [7 June 2022]. Foley’s 2020 book Biting the clouds: A Badtjala perspective on the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was reviewed by Stephanie Gilbert in vol. 29 no. 2 (2022) of Queensland Review.




How to Cite

Kennedy, C., & Dewhirst, C. (2023). Italy and Queensland: Interconnected histories. Queensland Review, 30(1), 1-9.