People celebrate a previous New Italy anniversary. The Northern Star
People celebrate a previous New Italy anniversary. The Northern Star Northern Star

Safe haven for Italians

LONG ago, a battered but determined group of Italian migrants found a safe haven in Lismore.

In 1880, appalling poverty and living conditions in Northern Italy caused a group of 340 people to flee their homeland by boat in search of a better life.

After their ship almost sank, they ended up on an island near Papua New Guinea, where many members of the group died from tropical diseases.

However, a British vessel came to their aid and 217 survivors sailed into Sydney Harbour on April 7, 1881, which is known as Our New Italy Anniversary Day.

New Italy Museum president John Barnes of Alstonville is a descendant of one of the families which arrived in Australia in 1881.

"Our New Italy Anniversary Day is a celebration of this rescue of our ancestors and their survival," Mr Barnes said.

The migrants saved enough money through labour-intensive jobs to buy land in Lismore, which other settlers had rejected.

"Through sheer tenacity and hard work they made the sterile land productive and built a school, a church, a wine shop and small industry," Mr Barnes said.

Today, Italians are the largest population of people in Lismore and Richmond Valley with a non-English-speaking background.

Mr Barnes invited everyone to partake in Our New Italy Anniversary Day celebrations the New Italy Museum, 8275 Pacific Highway, on Sunday, 10.30am-4pm.

For information visit newitaly.com.au.



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