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Australians in Italy: Contemporary Lives and Impressions


Bill Kent [editor]; Ros Pesman [editor]; Cynthia Troup [editor]

  1. Download this book
  2. First page
  3. Cover; Copyright and Contributor Information; Table of Contents
  4. Preface
  5. Presentazione
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Introduction
  9. Ch 1. Australians in Italy: The long view
  10. Ch 2. Twentieth-century diplomatic and trade relations
  11. Ch 3. Some facts and figures
  12. Ch 4. Gaining a foothold: Australian cultural institutions in Italy
  13. Ch 5. Arthur Dale Trendall: A memoir
  15. Ch 6. More than a love affair: Australian writers and Italy
  16. Ch 7. A great tradition revisited
  17. Ch 8. Funghi, family and fables
  18. Ch 9. ‘Everything else in Italy’: A journalist in Rome
  20. Ch 10. Australian artists in Italy: Residencies and residents
  21. Ch 11. Donald Friend: An Australian artist’s affair with Italy
  22. Ch 12. Drawing on Italian art
  23. Ch 13. Rinascimento through a contemporary lens
  25. Ch 14. Australian clergy in Italy after Vatican II
  26. Ch 15. Rome: My two cities
  27. Ch 16. Rediscovering Rome
  28. Ch 17. ‘Unevenly buried’: A personal topography of Rome
  30. Ch 18. Elusive landscapes: Australians and the Italian garden
  31. Ch 19. Educational tourism – cultural landscapes
  32. Ch 20. Carrara: Landscape of stone
  33. Ch 21. Imagining and experiencing Italy in the 1980s and 1990s
  35. Ch 22. Reflections and refractions: An Italian perspective on Australian Studies
  36. Ch 23. Australian cinema in Italy: Sguardi australiani
  37. Ch 24. Remembering Bernard Hickey
  39. Ch 25. Italian Australians in Italy
  40. Ch 26. Washing faces, cleansing hearts: Who am I?
  41. Ch 27. The returned migrants: The Associazione Nazionale Emigrati ed ex Emigrati in Australia
  42. INDEX


This publication does a valuable service in analysing the presence of Australians in Italy over recent history and that presence is significant, although obviously less well known and less studied than that of Italians in Australia.

A visit to the non-catholic cemetery in Rome reveals that a number of people from Australia have been buried there over the years, often after making a significant impact in their chosen field in Italy, such as the arts, literature, diplomacy and business, including a former Australian Ambassador to Italy, Hugh Alexander McClure Smith CVO. The fact that these Australians also came at different times using various means of transport shows that geographic distance need be no obstacle, even less so in the modern transport era.

No-one need be surprised to recognise that it is those people who are prepared to overcome the physical divide who form the bedrock of our excellent bilateral relationship. Some have gone well beyond the call of duty. I wish to recall one prominent Australian in particular, Professor Bernard Hickey, who was instrumental in promoting the study of Australian literature in Italy. The start of my appointment in Italy coincided with his untimely death, but I have had ample opportunity to learn of the tremendous influence he had in introducing Australian literature to generations of Italian students and his role as Australia’s ‘unofficial ambassador’.

The Italian presence in Australia is well documented and, while the era of mass migration is now behind us, the flow still goes on, now perhaps concentrated more on business, scientific, academic and cultural exchange, not forgetting tourism. In particular, it is a pleasure to see an increasing number of young Italians take the opportunity to spend some time working, studying and travelling in Australia.

The Australian presence in Italy takes two forms. The first is the large number of returning Italo-Australians who choose to enjoy their retirement in Italy, often dividing their time between the two countries and feeling equally at home in either. The second, again in increasing numbers, is that of Australians, perhaps without direct Italian roots, who come here for a variety of reasons such as business, study, sport or simply for tourism. While they often initially come for a short period, this may then become a decision to stay permanently or at least for a significant number of years. Whether a permanent resident in Italy, like one of Australia’s best known artists Jeffrey Smart, or more recent arrivals, including young Australians making an impact in film production, material design and the law, each of them brings a piece of Australia with them.

And what do these Australians have to offer Italy? First, they come from a culture which has been partly shaped by Italian emigration and so have some feel for Italy and its customs. In addition, they come from a country whose lifeblood is immigration and which has developed a truly multicultural society in the space of just a few generations. This is an experience which Italy is now going through, while seeking to retain its own unique identity. We have some positive experience to offer. Finally, we have that most particular of Australian characteristics, what we call the ANZAC spirit, that determination to go on striving for success, despite setbacks and adversity. Thankfully, it is not a quality which we need to display in our everyday lives in Italy, but it has helped Australian business people, sports stars and cultural performers make a mark in their adopted country.

Amanda Vanstone

Ambassador of Australia to Italy

May 2008

Publication information

This chapter is from Australians in Italy: Contemporary Lives and Impressions, edited by Bill Kent, Ros Pesman and Cynthia Troup (Monash University Publishing: Clayton, Melbourne. 2010). For more information about this book, or to purchase print copies, please go to

Australians in Italy: Contemporary Lives and Impressions

   by Bill Kent [editor]; Ros Pesman [editor]; Cynthia Troup [editor]