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1999-12, 324, Biography, Jim Andrighetti, Recollections, War

Books from behind Barbed Wire

A talk given by Jim Andrighetti

This talk focuses on published accounts, being chiefly memoirs and literary works, by participants in civilian and military internment on the homefront during World War II and related private archives in the Mitchell Library. My choice of topic draws on three convergent personal factors: my ethnicity, education and vocation. I am Australian-born of Italian postwar migrants. My father introduced me to the travails of Italian Australians of an earlier generation who were interned. One of these was Tom Saviane, founder of the N.S.W. Branch of the Italia Libera (Free Italy): Australian-Italian Anti-Fascist Movement in 1942. In the late 1970s at Sydney University, I studied under Professor Henry Mayer (see illustration, p.134), the founding father of Australian political science and himself a former Dunera internee, who was a palpable influence in my taking up a career in librarianship. I joined the Mitchell Library as a reference librarian in 1981.

My transfer to the Manuscripts Section in 1986 initiated a more hands-on involvement with Australian history. 1989 was a hinge year in my historical education and professional development. Late that year I commenced work on two archival projects simultaneously, one relating to the papers of Australia’s “Wild Man of Letters”, P.R. “Inky” Stephensen, and the other collecting the state’s ltalo-Australian documentary heritage. It soon became surprisingly apparent that nuances of the former would influence the early direction of the latter.

I began to further arrange and describe the Stephensen papers, a sprawling multi-faceted archive acquired by the Library between 1966 and 1979. Stephensen’s controversial wartime internment as a fifth columnist became a cause célèbre, a turbulent episode of his life that is extensively documented in the papers. A celebrated chapter in the abrogation of civil liberties in Australia, his internment is deftly covered in Craig Munro’s superlative biography, Inky Stephensen: Wild Man of Letters.1 The papers meticulously document Inky’s prodigious input to his long-standing literary collaboration with Frank Clune, which resulted in a shelf of best-selling books conceived in captivity. He also wrote scores of letters to his wife Winifred describing daily life behind the wire and offering tantalising snippets about Italian and German internees, his fellow habitués in the camps.

At the same time I was appointed the State Library’s representative in a pioneering multicultural collecting venture, The Italians in New South Wales Project. In a collaborative venture with the Italian Historical Society (N.S.W.), the Library undertook to collect and preserve the historical record of the Italian presence in New South Wales. In so doing, the Library sought to redress the collecting imbalance in its holdings that had contributed, in part, to the marginalisation of a prominent ethnic group from the recounting of Australian history.

The conjunction of the Stephensen and Italian projects brought into sharp relief the dearth of unpublished first-hand accounts by Italian internees held by the Library. As a primary source of non-Italian provenance, the Stephensen papers touch on an important aspect of ltalo-Australian historiography. As a result, one of the Italian project’s early priorities was to identify and collect Italian internment documentation, such as diaries, letters and artworks. Publicity in the local Italian media and a higher profile for Italo-Australian documentary heritage matters in the Library’s public programs effectively combined to heighten community awareness about the aims of the project.

The project’s most sensational acquisition has been the wartime records of ltalia Libera (N.S W. Branch). They were discovered early this decade behind a chimney2 during the refurbishment of a house in Surry Hills. The records had remained undisturbed in a sealed wooden box for over 40 years. This discrete collection comprises correspondence files generated by the founding secretary, Tom Saviane. A victim of Mussolini’s political persecution, Tom had fled for the freedom of Australia in 1927. Under his direction, Italia Libera lobbied the Federal Government to release Italian anti-Fascist internees, especially after the killing of a compatriot at the hands of a Fascist counterpart in Loveday Camp, South Australia, in 1942. The Branch also sought government intervention against the economic discrimination encountered by anti-Fascists who were conscripted by the Allied Works Council following their release from internment camps. Despite many of these Italians having been pre-war trade unionists, they were subjected to lower rates of pay and worse conditions than Australian labourers employed in similar work.

These Phoenix-like records significantly amplify previously known sources on the Italo-Australian anti-Fascist movement. Historian Gianfranco Cresciani has drawn attention to their importance as a corrective to the confused oral testimonies of ltalia Libera offrcials whom he interviewed for his seminal book, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and ltalians in Australia 1922-1945.3 The records also elucidate the formative influence of Italian Jews in the movement, and contribute another chapter to the slim literature on the diaspora of Italian Jews to Australia as a result of Mussolini’s racial decrees.

Another leading light of ltalia Libera was Claudio Alcorso, who after the war went on to make outstanding contributions to Australian fashion and the performing arts. He became Foundation Chair of the Australian Opera, a board member of the Australian Ballet, long time executive committee member of the Australian Elizabethan Trust, and a successful winemaker in Tasmania. His autobiography, The Wind You Say, 4 published in 1993, reflects on the vicissitudes of his private and public life. While born into a Roman Jewish family who ran an established textile business, he was brought up in a laic way and consequently abandoned his Jewish faith. He left his homeland before the promulgation of the, racial laws, which nevertheless would have categorised him as a Jew. He went to England to study at the London School of Economics before arriving in Sydney at the end of 1939.

Italy’s entry into the war in June 1940 precipitated the mass internment of thousands of Italian Australians, regardless of whether they were naturalised British subjects. A month later Alcorso was arrested and not released until October 1943. The Wind You Say includes a comprehensive account of his internment, serving also as a potent reminder of the prevailing xenophobia in Australia at the time. His reminiscences are buttressed by public records obtained under Freedom of Information legislation. The transcripts of his hearings before the Aliens’ Appeals Tribunal confirm he was unjustly interned. After his release Alcorso became founding editor of ltalia Libera’s bilingual newspaper, Il Risveglio [The Awakeningl, in 1944.

When the war broke out, Father Giuseppe La Rosa, founder of the local Italian mass circulation newspaper La Fiamma, was a newly ordained priest from Rome working on the staff of the Apostolic Delegate, the Vatican’s representative in Sydney. ln 1942 Archbishop Gilroy appointed him chaplain of the Italian community. He compiled a pocket-sized prayer book, L’amico del prigioniero (The Prisoner’s Friend),5 published in 1943, for distribution among his flock behind the wire. Thousands derived solace from this handy compendium, not least La Rosa’s father and brothers who were also interned. His family had emigrated from Calabria between the wars. In 1946 La Rosa proposed the idea for an Italian Catholic newspaper to counter the influence of Italia Libera’s secular organ, Il Risveglio. Originally to be titled L’Apostolo (The Apostle), the newspaper was launched as La Fiamma (The Flame) on 15 April 1947.

Over 18,000 Italian prisoners-of-war were confined in Australia between 1941-47. Owing to a manpower shortage, many prisoners were enlisted in rural employment schemes geared to food production for the war effort. During 1943-44 P.O.W. Control Centres were established throughout New South Wales to distribute P.O.W. labour on private farms.

E.O. Schlunke was the first Australian writer to chronicle and satirise the impact of Italian P.O.W.s as farm labourers on a rural community. Schlunke’s diaries of 1944-45 record his experiences as padrone (boss) of these prisoners on his wheat and sheep property near Temora in the Riverina. In these diaries the seeds of ideas were sown, which sprouted into a sheaf of stories in The Bulletin prior to the migration boom of the 1950s. Schlunke’s sympathetic portrayal of the Italians exposed city and bush folk alike to the assimilable qualities of these future migrants as New Australians. Four stories were gathered for Schlunke’s collection, The Man in the Silo and Other Stories.6 His papers also include an unpublished 65,000-word novel, “The Obliging Prisoners”.

Schlunke’s first P.O.W. story and his most anthologised one in Australia and abroad, “The Enthusiastic Prisoner”, appeared in The Bulletin, 10 January, 1945. His diary entries track this acclaimed story as having germinated at least five weeks previously, at the same time that a pair of P.O.W.s worked on his homestead. The Italian character Pietro’s unflagging zeal towards chores and his gratuitous advice on matters seemingly beyond his ken, such as mothercraft, leave in his wake and flabbergast a farming couple. The simmering relationship between two prisoners, each with distinct skills, boils over as the cook wins the favour of their bachelor employer in “Cheap Labor”. The complicity of a farmer enables prisoners to celebrate a saint’s feast day in “Saint Joseph’s Day”. In “The Music Lovers”, Mario has a remarkable tenor voice, better suited to an opera house than a milking shed. His employer and a music teacher disguise his entry in the local eisteddfod. One of several prisoners allotted to Schlunke over his twenty-month involvement in the scheme was Giuseppe Maringoni, who recurs as a character of the same name in a number of stories.

A footnote to literary connections with Italian P.O.W.s on the homefront should refer to the Australian historical novelist E.V. Timms. He was an army commandant overseeing Italian prisoners at Cowra at the time of the breakout by hundreds of Japanese prisoners in August 1944. He appears to have published nothing else on the mass escape apart from his eye-witness account of the event, “The Blood Bath at Cowra” in As You Were !: A Cavalcade of Events with the Australian Services from 1788-1946  7.

Although in mired circumstances, P.R. Stephensen was a writer and editor who made literary capital out of the war. His career up to then had reflected political opportunism and an unswerving commitment to promoting Australian literature. A Queensland Rhodes’ Scholar, Stephensen’s student radicalism led to his membership of the British Communist Party. With Jack Lindsay he co-managed Fanfrolico Press in London. The cocksure expatriate returned to Australia in the early 1930s brimming with entrepreneurial chutzpah. His local publishing operations, however, met with mixed success. The book for which he is, perhaps, best-known is The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay Towards National Self Respect. 8 Not only was it a spirited rebuttal of the views of a Melbourne-based English don decrying Australian culture, but also a clarion call for Australian cultural independence. Around the same time Inky became a leading supporter of Aboriginal rights. By the advent of war, the mercurial Stephensen was leader of the Australia First Movement in Sydney, a right-wing group antipathetic towards Australia’s alignment to Britain in the war. The subject of security surveillance over several years, Inky was arrested for suspected subversion and interned without trial. Immured for three-and-a-half years in Australian internment camps, his protests of innocence counted for nought with the authorities. At war’s end, although his detention was revoked, Stephensen was neither exonerated nor compensated.


In the early 1930s Stephensen and Frank Clune (see illustration, p.119) had struck up a mutually beneficial and fruitful business arrangement which continued until Inky’s death in 1965. The pair worked closely on scores of books in various genres. Stephensen elucidated their relationship in a letter to Rex Ingamells on 14 December 1952 [MLMSS 1284/50]:

… I have edited all Frank Clune’s books, except four (the first three, and Tobruk to Turkey). However, I have not wanted my name mentioned as editor, principally because (1) His “travels” are autobiographical and severely introverted; (2) I cannot take ultimate responsibility for some of his neologisms or even gaucheries which he adds after the typescript leaves my hands; (3) I do not read proofs, but only doctor the MS.

The extent of the co-operation is a secret between Frank and me. I do not in the slightest require réclame for doing what is only a professional job, as far as I am concerned, or hackwork at most. Enough satisfaction for me to have had a very substantial share in demonstrating that there is a market of from 10,000 to 15,000 copies per book for books published in Australia, and written from an Australian point of view. Every Clune book that I have edited (at the rate of two or more a year) has proved this point, and the general effect has been a boosting of Australian book-publishers’ morale. This was about all that was left for me to do for Austalia after the collapse of my efforts to do something better than that in the 1930s.

… It is no secret that I have been editing his books for years. The dogs bark it, at least in the literary kennels. If you look at the Acknowledgments, page viii, Wild Colonial Boys you will see that the collaboration is no secret. (ln fact I put this work together, from material that Frank sent me, while I was in the Internment Camp at Tatura ! It was all I could do for Australia in those surroundings !)

… Please understand, Frank is not the slightest “phoney”, as his detractors are inclined to allege. He has a real sense of fact, a zeal for historical research, and a kind of Joycean or just Irish flair for the phrase … He is primarily a “business man”, boasts that he left school early to sell newspapers, and that he spends six months every year doing lncome Tax returns, and the other six months travelling in quest of material. What more natural, then, than for him to obtain professional and very expert advice from me on the preparation of his material for press? The fact that he did this proved his good sense, and even modesty. The fact that I agreed to do it indicates that I thought he was worth helping.

He is not the only Australian author I have helped. I do not care two hoots of a mopoke what “literary” mobs here may think of me, or of Frank. These books are put forth to help create a general Public Opinion in favour of Australian bookpublishing, and they have achieved their aim… .

Stephensen here, in part, alludes to his literary activity behind the wire. He was arrested in March 1942 and detained, first, in Liverpool Camp. In mid-September he was transferred to Loveday Camp, near Barmera, South Australia. Five months later he was sent to Tatura where he saw out the war. In Tatura Inky had been granted permission by the camp commandant to undertake editorial work for Clune. However, there were caveats to the type of work he could perform. He was restricted to historical works, having to pass over commissions relating to contemporary events of the war, especially newspaper articles and broadcasts. Munro (p.238) records

Stephensen worked on eight Clune titles including the bushranging saga Wild Colonial Boys. Although this lengthy work was not published until 1948 because of the wartime paper shortage, Clune and Stephensen were able to carve a number of shorter books out of it in the meantime.

Inky stamped his imprint all over the paper trail that led from the camp to Clune and back again. He received a steady flow of regular mail and parcels from Clune, containing notes and research material from which he fashioned out a first draft. This was then relayed to Clune, usually in chapters, for typing then returned for revising. By March 1945, and nearing the end of his time in Tatura, Inky was well into work on Song of India, Clune’s account of a six-month journey through India, Burma and Ceylon the previous year. Stephensen’s routine had been set back a week due to the ‘flu. His update to Clune on 15 March is, apart from the typical style and content, instructive for the sharp publishing advice he usually dispensed to his friend and patron [MLMSS 1284/62]:

… Now as regards your book, Song of India, we have completed 14 chapters, comprising 366 typed pages, about 112,000 words (including Prologue). This, however, is only a first draft, and it all has to be gone over again, and thoroughly revised. You must realise that there is an enormous amount of material to be digested and incorporated in the text. The original idea was to make two books of it, each 100,000 words- Working on this plan, I held over a lot of first class material for the second book. Now you say the publishers want only one book, of 150,000 words. Also you have in mind submitting it to Cape’s in London, Dutton’s in U.S.A., and Thacker’s (?) in Bombay, in addition to Australian publication by Truth & Sportsman.

O.K., I’ll accept this as the final idea but it means very considerable revision of the whole job, to compress some of the digressions, and include the choice bits which were being held over. I will give it all the time I can but I would not like to spoil the job now by careless haste. If you want a book for world-wide publication it must be up to the highest standards, all through. I therefore earnestly advise you to be patient, and it will be finished, for sure, to your complete satisfaction, within three months from now. Hustle and bustle at this stage might spoil the effect aimed a! which is a standard book on India, packed with reliable information and interest.

It’s a pity I’ve had so many distractions. Apart from my Court business, I’ve had to stop the job several times for odds and ends of editing the Shanghai booklets, Gartner booklets, wireless talks, etc., as you know; and all the time this mammoth opus was growing stupendouser, as you kept on sending me more and more material each week !

My idea now is to go ahead with the first draft, and finish it somehow in a total of about 150,000 words.

Then I propose to go over the whole thing, condensing and deleting about 20,000 words, so as to make space for the “omitted” material, about 20,000 words, thus arriving at a final version of 150,000 words total. I don’t want to start “revising” yet, until the first draft is completed. Then the whole thing can be seen in perspective, and a unity will pervade the book. This is the only correct way of arriving at a result which will endure, instead of a book which is just a “flash in the pan”. I realised, when re-editing the Shanghai book, that careful abridgement improved the text enormously. There has been too much slipshod stuff published in the previous travel-books. This one on India is too important to be spoiled by pressure of haste. It is quite obvious there will be a great sale for it, for years, as Australia’s trade with India is going to boom after the war, and people will want information.

Your biggest worry is to find a decent publisher. You have a gold-mine in Wild Colonial Boys, also the three Shanghai booklets, the Hargraves book, and the Gardiner story – all “frozen” by dilatory publishers, despite the big success of The Red Heart. War-conditions are partly to blame, but you have the assets there, all lying idle. They’ll blossom some day. I’ll get on now with Song of India. Don’t bustle me! I’ll deliver the goods!

yrs P.R. Stephensen


As mentioned at the outset, Stephensen’s papers provide fascinating insights into his former polyglot inmates in Loveday and Tatura Camps. Indicative of his loyalty to those he befriended is the post-war correspondence he maintained with them. Self-proclaimed as Australia’s only authors’ agent in the late 1950s, Stephensen resumed contact with the former notorious German P.O.W. with literary aspirations, Gunther Bahnemann. An Iron Cross winner for bravery in the German Army, he was a despatch rider in Rommel’s Afrika Korps when he deserted in 1941. Bahnemann cited the execution of his father by the Nazis as his reason for absconding. He was hunted by the German and Italian military police for three months in the Western Desert before he was captured by a British patrol and shipped to Australia as a P.O.W. Released in 1947, he settled in Queensland and worked as a commercial boat operator, pearler and crocodile shooter.

In 1959 Bahnemann approached Stephensen to edit and to arrange publication of his remarkable adventure tale of escape and survival, Tonight I Desert. Stephensen rewrote the book from his rookie author’s “rough German sort of Australian English”. He then sent copies of the manuscript to his agents in London and New York. Shortly afterwards, the American actor Marlon Brando expressed interest in the film rights to the unpublished book. Bahnemann corresponded with Brando, his preferred Hollywood star to play him on the screen after seeing the actor’s performance as a German soldier in the movie The Young Lions (1958), and for which he received a nomination for Best Foreign Actor at the 1959 British Academy Awards. Although Bahnemann’s macho story was tailor-made for Brando, the actor later declined to take on the role. Incidentally, the London-based Robert Grothey, a former German internee in Tatura who had painted Stephensen’s portrait in the camp, had also sought to place the film rights.

Later in the year Bahnemann was convicted for having unlawfully attempted to kill a Brisbane detective who had come to investigate a domestic dispute at the German’s home. Bahnemann had served nearly four years of a seven-year prison term when he was released on parole. He had written several books during his time behind bars, but the first to be published, by Jarrolds in London in 1961, was the retitled I Deserted Rommel. 9 Stephensen puffed the book in a letter to an American agent, Armitage Watkins, on 5 September 1961,

Some booksellers are saying that this could be the All Quiet on the Western Front of the 1939-45  War: a revelation of the German soldier’s mentality. I believe that this is the only book ever written by an Army deserter, and it is absolutely authentic.

Three months later Stephensen claimed in his press release for the Australian launching of the book that Bahnemann was then ‘the only successful author in Australia writing books in jail”.


Despite all this, Stephensen’s quest for a local publisher to take up paperback rights proved fruitless. Even a largely positive review of the book by the Sydney bookseller Alex Sheppard, a former Colonel in the A.I.F.’s Western Desert campaign of 1940, could not sway any interest. Stephensen remained undeterred and continued to scout for markets abroad such as the United States and for foreign translation sales.

Two Australian internees, Charles Willyan and Harley Matthews, both of whom were not members of the Australia First Movement, warrant brief mention for their writings. Willyan was an apiarist at Murchison in Victoria when he was detained. After the war he published a booklet on his internment, Behind Barbed Wire in Australia.10 At the behest of Melbourne bibliophile J.K. Moir, he solicited Stephensen to edit the manuscript. Drastic changes ensued. As Stephensen reported to J.K. Moir on 4 August 1945:

As the typescript stood before I tackled it” Willyan’s narrative reminded me of the Lachlan River below Booligal … just losing itself in swamps … . The purpose of my editing was to make his narrative read crisply, while preserving his often very clever and lucid phrasing. I view him as first-class but guess that he lacks experience in writing for serious print … .

The poet, playwright and vigneron Harley Matthews was incarcerated for purportedly having incriminating material in his possession. While he was in Liverpool Camp, his vineyard, in neighbouring Moorebank, fell into desuetude. He wrote a series of poems in camp, published as Patriot’s Progress, 11 the marked galley proofs of which are housed in the Library’s manuscripts collection.

The Library also holds the papers of two prominent Hungarian Australians who met the same fate as thousands of other aliens during the war. The journalist Emery Barcs and the painter Desiderius Orban were part of a small colony of Hungarian emigres in Sydney at the time of their arrest. Barcs’ book, Backyard of Mars: Memoirs of the “Reiffo” Period in Australia,12 graphically depicts his odyssey from pre-war Europe to wartime Australia, where he was prejudiced against as a neutral alien, stigmatised as an enemy alien, then demoralised as a friendly alien. Extracts of his book had previously appeared in Quadrant.

Barcs was a foreign correspondent who had been expelled from Italy following his despatches critical of Mussolini’s domestic and foreign policies. Back home he fell out of favour with the Hungarian regime then siding with the Rome-Berlin Axis. The regime’s introduction of racial laws in April 1938 signalled the ethnic cleansing that would escalate in Hungary and other parts of the continent under Nazi rule. Hungarian society was about to be convulsed, freedom of the press suppressed. Life as an unbridled journalist was over for Barcs. He set his sights on pursuing his craft abroad, far away from the maelstrom of Europe.

Australia had fascinated Barcs since childhood. His reading of it in Jules Verne’s Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant fostered an arcadian image of this southern haven. He and his wife Vica arrived in Sydney on the eve of World War II. They settled in beachside Coogee and mixed among the cafe circle of their compatriots. The Australian Journalists’ Association admitted him as a member. As his European outlets dried up, Barcs increasingly relied on his freelance assignments for The Daily Telegraph, specialising in assessments of the volatile situation in Europe. When Australia followed Britain into the war, the Barcs reported to Randwick Police Station for manpower registration and “to sign an undertaking not to engage in anti-British activities”. Not long afterwards Emery volunteered for the 2nd A.I.F., but foreigners were not wanted. He met the same rejection in May 1940 when, as a neutral alien, he sought to enlist in the 7th Division A.I.F.

To supplement his income, Barcs took up the offer of foreign language monitor in the Telegraph’s radio room. This involved summarising German, French and Italian broadcasts. In February 1941 he was invited to be a contributing commentator in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Talks Department. Barcs’ by-line was by now being heard and seen by the authorities, as well as the public.


In April, news of Hungary’s attack on Yugoslavia had ended any pretence of Magyar non-belligerency. Hungarians here faced the prospect of their reclassification as enemy aliens. By the end of the year the fate of a cohort of these Central Europeans had been sealed. Around midnight on 8 December 1941, after having just scripted a news commentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor for the A.B.C., Barcs was rounded up by the police and hauled off to Kingsford Police Station. He spent the night locked up in a cell with three Rumanian detainees.

Next morning they joined a bus load of other aliens headed west to be interned at Liverpool. Barcs was for a brief time the leader of some 30 Hungarians, organising them into working parties. Other nationalities in the camp included Germans, Italians, Rumanians, Finns and Japanese. He met up with internees who had been there for over a year, among whom were the anti-Nazi Germans and Austrians transported from Britain on the infamous HMT Dunera. The Dunera misadventure, its history and legacy, is documented in the archive compiled and presented to the Library in 1994 by former “Dunera boy”, Henry Lippmann. Barcs also struck up a friendship with Lamberto Yonna, the Italian businessman and sometime artist who had emigrated from Italy in the 1920s. Some of Yonna’s artwork, including watercolour caricatures of camp life, is held by the Library. A colour reproduction of his whimsical depictions of friend and foe appears in The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, its People and their Origin.13

Barcs’ brief stint in Tatura exposed him to the wondrous delights of the Grand Cafe and the Collegium Taurense which catered for body and mind respectively. Barcs was in compound 4D, a veritable Gymnasium, or grammar school, of Central European middle-class intelligentsia. Amongst them was the young German Dunera internee Henry Mayer, who, displaying a precocious intellect, gave lectures on sundry topics, a foretaste o the encyclopaedic knowledge he would share as an academic with colleagues and students. Barcs took up bookbinding under a master craftsman. As chores were remunerated, Barcs earned a shilling for gardening in the morning and lecturing on international politics in the evening.


Barcs’ impending hearing before the Aliens’ Appeals Tribunal in Sydney hastened his return to Liverpool. On one occasion he shared a lorry ride with a loquacious Gunther Bahnemann en route to the Tribunal.

This youthful version of a modem Münchhausen was still rattling away on his monologue when we arrived at the Supreme Court

is Barcs’ parting reflection on Bahnemann, whose surname is erroneously recorded as Bohman.

Barcs was released in February 1942 and in July was called up for service in the Citizens’ Military Forces. During the interim he went back to the Telegraph radio room, while also slotting in scripts for the A.B.C.. He was called up for the newly created 3rd Australian Employment Company, a non-combat unit largely composed of refugee aliens. Barcs’ description of this little documented unit adds to the history of the vital war-work it and other A.E.C.s carried out on the homefront. As a uniformed transport worker in the suburbs, Barcs fruitlessly pursued employment opportunities to aid the war effort commensurate with his qualifications. In contrast, his fellow compatriot in khaki, the painter Desiderius Orban, whose papers the Library acquired in 1986, seemed resigned to his lot and unperturbed by his manual duties. After a little over two years service, Barcs was discharged on medical grounds and re-entered civilian society to resume his journalistic career.

Almost 50 years later another Hungarian Australian, the then Premier of N.S.W., Nick Greiner, officially launched The Italians in N.S.W. Project at the State Library. During the course of the proceedings, he officially acknowledged the responsibility of public institutions to be more responsive to the cultural diversity of society. For the Library this has meant a more proactive role in documenting the contribution of ethnic communities in N.S.W. A decade on from the Italian initiative, the Library has undertaken co-operative arrangements with the Chinese, Greek and Ukrainian communities. More recently, a collecting project of German language original materials has commenced and, in one instance, has yielded the reminiscences of a German woman internee in Victoria. This previously obscure source now joins the Library’s other multicultural documents relating to the war on the homefront. Together these records provide a compelling case for their listing in more culturally inclusive bibliographies of Australian history.

Jim Andrighetti


1 St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1992.

2 The story behind the discovery of the Italia Libera records is a providential one. Saviane had been one of a small band of Italians working for a goldmining syndicate in New Guinea when he was brought back to Australia to be interned. In late 1942 he became founding secretary of Italia Libera (N.S.W. Branch) which drew on anti-Fascists of every stripe. After the war he returned to New Guinea for a short stint, but not before he could secure safe custody of his files. He entrusted them to a friend who unbeknownst to Tom had passed them on to a colleague in Surry Hills. Tom had feared that a conservative change in government at the federal level might create an unsympathetic post-war climate for the former predominantly left-liberal membership of the Branch. As the unfolding history of the Cold War in Australia tvas to prove, Tom’s paranoia had not been misplaced. He eventually lost contact with the custodians and the records, only to be reunited with the documents when I made contact with him in 1993. By that time Tom, an octogenarian republican, was as fearless in his denunciation of Fascism as he had been half a century earlier. Tom Saviane died in Sydney in January 1999.

3 Canberra: Australian University Press, 1980.

4 Pymble, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson, 1993.

5 Compiled by Father Giuseppe La Rosa. Sydney: Pellegrini & Co. Pty. Ltd., 1943.

6 Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1995.

7 Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1946.

8 Gordon, New South Wales: W.J. Miles, 1936.

9 London/Melbourne: Jarrolds, 1961.

10 Murchison, Victoria: The Author, 1948.

11 Adelaide: Rigby, 1965.

12 Sydney: Wildcat Press, 1980

13 North Ryde, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson 1988.



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