Records relating to Italian migration held in Brisbane – Fact sheet 236

Large numbers of Italians migrated to Queensland in the period following World War I to the 1930s, and again after World War II. Many Italian workers were recruited to the sugar industry in North Queensland, where they settled before their families joined them.

The National Archives in Brisbane holds many records documenting the relationship between Italian migrants and the Commonwealth Government. These records are a valuable source for those searching for a particular Italian person, or researching the general Italian experience in Australia.

Immigration

Records documenting Italian migration to Queensland include passenger lists, nominal rolls and correspondence files relating to reception and resettlement. Details of records held in Brisbane are listed below.

Collection references

* Available as microfilm

Alien registration

Records on aliens (ie non-British residents of Australia) are held for the two periods of compulsory registration. Aliens were first registered in 1916 during World War I, under the War Precautions Regulations 19161920, and again from 1939, under provisions of the Aliens Registration Act 1939. These measures continued beyond the war with the Aliens Act 1947 until 1971. Registration forms were collected by Customs and Immigration officials or local police. During World War II enemy aliens were required to present their alien registration to the local police station each week.

Alien registration

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesAliens travel documents1909–41BP313/1
SeriesAlien registration forms1916–44BP4/3
SeriesAlien registration cards1920–78BP289/1
SeriesPersonal statements and declaration of aliens entering the state of Queensland1927–49BP9/3
SeriesAlien registration papers1939–85BP25/1

Service with Civil Construction and Civil Alien Corps

During World War II many aliens served in the Civil Construction Corps and the Civil Alien Corps, which undertook projects to support the war effort. The Archives in Brisbane holds personal files for those who served with both corps.

Civil Construction Corps and Civil Aliens Corps

Naturalisation

The office in Brisbane holds naturalisation files for persons naturalised in Queensland after 1945 in the series J25. Naturalisation files for earlier years are held by the National Archives’ office in Canberra. Microfiche copies of naturalisation certificates for the years 1904–37 are also held.

Internment

The Brisbane office holds many records relating to Italians who were investigated and interned. During World War II, Italians living in Australia were considered ‘enemy aliens’, including those born in Australia of Italian parentage. Concerted efforts were made to restrict the movement of those considered to be a threat on the home front. Enemy aliens, naturalised and Australian-born persons of enemy alien descent, and Australians whose political activities or loyalty was called into question were interned in camps administered by the Australian Army. Italians suspected of involvement with secret societies such as the Black Hand (Mana Nera) were particularly targeted during police investigations. Members of the Black Hand were suspected of being involved in organised crime during the 1930s in north Queensland, and were often held responsible for cases of extortion, kidnapping and murder.

Enemy aliens transferred from overseas and prisoners of war captured in war zones were also held in Australian internment camps. The majority of Italian internees from Queensland were sent to camps in Barmera and Loveday in South Australia and to Cowra in New South Wales, predominately during the period 1940 to 1943. Most internees were away from home until the end of the war. For those on the land this meant leaving their farms to be maintained by their wives and children.

Collection references

* Digital copies of some records in these series can be viewed on the RecordSearch database

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