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Enemy aliens: How my family’s lives were changed by Australia’s wartime internment camps

Adam Grossetti speaks about the impact on his Italian migrant family (ABC 28.1.16)

‘Many internees were Italian sugarcane farmers from North Queensland. Close to the war in the Pacific, the area was seen as vulnerable to an invasion by the Japanese. Authorities and the wider community feared that Italians might conspire against Australia in such an event. Fear and paranoia spread through towns like Gordonvale, where my aunt lived with her Italian-born husband. He was visited by local authorities after neighbours saw his bathroom light being turned on and off. They were convinced that the light switching was act of sabotage. In fact, my uncle had learned how to develop photographs and was using the bathroom as a makeshift darkroom. The roundup of Italians in North Queensland affected farms, factories and towns. Adam Grossetti looks back at a dark chapter in Australia’s history. The internees were sent thousands of kilometres south on crowded trains, away from their families and former lives. Philomena still recalls visiting her father. He was standing in what she described as a cage full of people. “He appeared heartbroken, it changed him completely,” she said. “There was sadness in his face and lines that weren’t there before. “We were so sad that our father could have changed so dramatically. He never got over the fact that it happened”.’

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