Arts & Culture

Lifestyle

New Italy…commemorating pioneering Italian families

Historic New Italy sits alongside the Pacific Highway, approximately 10kms south of Woodburn on the far north coast of NSW. This heritage-listed site has a peaceful ambience and commemorates the Italian families that established a community in the surrounding area in 1882.

The story of New Italy starts in 1880 when a group of some 300 impoverished rural people from the Veneto region of Italy joined a privately funded colonising expedition to the S.W Pacific. This “expedition” was concocted by a French citizen – the Marquis De Ray – who was later convicted in France and jailed for fraud. In the meantime, however, the victims of his fraudulent scheme suffered terrible hardships with many perishing before coming to the attention of the then Premier of NSW, Sir Henry Parks. He arranged for them to be brought from Noumea to Sydney where, in April 1881 the 217 Italian survivors were welcomed into the young colony of NSW.

After one year of dispersed assimilation in the Sydney region most of the group reunited in 1882 and took up the availability of land in the area now known as New Italy. Under great hardship and on poor soil in isolated virgin bushland they established a unique Italian community. This community assimilated with the surrounding European settlers and the traditional owners of the land, the people of the Bundjalung nation. Eventually, as the older generation died and the younger ones moved away in search of work, the settlement declined and effectively ceased to exist by the 1920s.

In 1981 a centenary celebration by some 3,000 descendants of the Italian expeditioners was held at the Lismore Showground. With money raised at that event, a parcel of 17 acres was purchased at New Italy with the intention of building a commemorative facility to honour the original settlers. From humble beginnings in the mid 1980s, volunteers have built and today maintain this historic site which includes a Museum, an Italian Pavilion, an Italian-themed gift shop, a community hall, café, a Park of Peace, a glass-blower’s workshop and 24×7 toilet facilities.

The Museum and Italian Pavilion are wonderfully informative places where the stories are told of the New Italy settlement and Italian migration to the Northern Rivers. Historic New Italy is a MUST STOP for highway travellers and a great place to visit for both tourists and residents of the Northern Rivers.

The site is open daily from 8am to 4pm and is well worth a visit.

X