One of most important tasks of the Dictionary is to document the histories of Sydney’s many different cultural communities, and we’ve made a good start.
The most recent community articles, on the Maori and the Russians, have just been released, and while the words and connections are all there, we are still working on the images and multimedia for these.
Among the first articles commissioned were pieces on the Germans in Sydney, by Jurgen Tampke, and the Italians in Sydney, by Gianfranco Cresciani. Our web statistics indicate that these have been very popular with readers.
Gianfranco’s account of the Italians in Sydney tells the story of the waves of adventurers, political refugees, missionaries and skilled tradesmen who emigrated to Sydney from the Italian peninsula before Italy was unified. Comrades and supporters of the revolutionary Garibaldi were prominent among them, and many settled around Hunters Hill.
By the late nineteenth century, Sydney’s small Italian community was established, with newspapers, clubs and restaurants, and focused in East Sydney.
Between World War I and World War II a larger Italian community began to mirror the political changes at home, and several groups supporting the Italian Fascist government emerged. Anti-fascist activities by militant Italians in Sydney led to the banning of their newspaper, Il Risveglio.
World War II led to the internment of many of Sydney’s Italians as enemy aliens, regardless of the anti-fascist stance of many of them, including those who had come to Australia because of their opposition to Italy’s government. It was a difficult and damaging experience for many.
Sydney’s Germans are a lesser-known community, although they have a very long history in this place. The colony’s first governor, Captain Arthur Phillip was the son of a German teacher from Frankfurt, and by the 1830s German merchants, winegrowers, shepherds and scientists had made their presence felt. Sydney’s brewing industry benefited from the expertise of Edmund Resch and his brother, whose beer became the taste of Sydney for many years.
The rivalries and wars of the first half of the twentieth century complicated the lives of German-born Sydneysiders, who faced internment and rejection during both World Wars. Many of the German speakers who arrived between the wars were Jewish Germans and Austrians, escaping the Nazi racial laws. The Dictionary’s article on Jews in Sydney also details some of their great contributions to the city.
Postwar, many Germans emigrated to Sydney, building flourishing set of community organisations and making a considerable contribution to the city’s cultural life.
The number of Dictionary articles on communities continues to grow, and now includes Brazilians, Cambodians, Chinese, Croatians, Dutch, East Timorese, Egyptians, English, French, Germans, Indonesians, Italians, Jews, Koreans, Lao, Latvians, Lebanese, Malaysians, Maltese, Maori, Mauritians, New Zealanders, Russians, Scots, Tibetans and Vietnamese, with plenty more to come.