Italian internees, Australia 1942…

Internees and tent at Western CreekItalian internees at the ‘secret’ Western Creek internment camp in 1942. My grandfather, Annibale (far right, standing) was 18 years old and working as a farmhand at Applethorpe when he was interned.

Those familiar with Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar will know that despite much searching I have to date been unable to uncover any document that officially shows this internment camp existed. This is despite much anecdotal evidence gathered from internees, a guard and residents of the nearby Queensland town of Millmerran. As well as photographs taken inside the camp (see tent to left) and a tiny newspaper article that appeared in The Western Star and Roma Advertiser in 1942.


Filed under books + writing

8 responses to “Italian internees, Australia 1942…

  1. Similar things happened in Canada. 600 Italian Canadians were sent to internment camps, but there is little public awareness of this. The Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) published a book in 2012 called ‘Beyond the Barbed Wire-essays on the internment of Italian Canadians’ and I just started reading it yesterday. How weird that we were on the same topic! Ciao, Cristina

    • Hi Cristina, yes, sadly this occurred in several countries as well as Australia. Unfortunately, official figures are unable to be determined due to a number of temporary camps aside from the official ones but it seems the internment was particularly rife here. The numbers range between approx. 5,550 and more than 8,000, which roughly equates to 15-20% of the Italian migrant population of about 40,000 in Australia at the time. Like you are finding in Canada, here there also remains a lack of public knowledge about this. I wanted to share that this happened, particularly as it touched our family in that both my grandfather and great-grandfather were interned. Zoe x

  2. Robert Mackenzie

    Zoe I have just read your book and as far as I know the cooking area as you described at Western Creek is still there I will try and get out there to check soon . I had always heard the area referred to as the barracks but no one had been able to tell me why now I know.

    • Hello Robert, I would be very curious to find out if this is the same one. It seems that such cooking areas were also used on some large scale properties in the past. Please let me know if you find it and the exact location that you visited to see it. Many thanks, Zoe

  3. Hi Zoe
    I am reading Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar and am reading about the Western Creek camp and your quest to find more information out about this camp. Have you found out much more?
    I am researching Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland ( and have had to deal with a few unclear references about Italian POWs working for the Forestry Dept near Monto and also in the Glasshouse Mtns or those POWs who build bridges on the Defence Road. I also have people tell me: old Mr Piva from Home Hill was a prisoner of war growing vegetables at the POW Camp on the Burdekin but old Mr Piva was a Qld resident, of Italian origin who became an internee and was sent to Loveday SA.
    Every Italian who was in a camp, seems to be put into the one basket but their origins and reasons for being detained and/or working in the ‘camps’ were for there different reasons and with different backgrounds.
    There is much confusion about the terms Italian prisoners of war, Italian internees and Italian aliens and in the memories of Queensland, THE ITALIANS are grouped as one. I think I might have a few leads for you as to your grandfather’s status. Kind regards Joanne Tapiolas Townsville

  4. Cec. Gibson - Millmerran

    Hi Zoe, I have read your book recently and I have written two letters to you, one c/o HarperCollins a week ago and one I posted today to the Harper Collins C/- your PO Box No. The Lions Club and the Museum would like to have some type of a Historical Marker or Monument erected near the site. I have visited the site twice and am waiting on the Shire Council to contact me. I would be very pleased to make contact with you.

    • Hi Cec, lovely to hear from you. I’m yet to receive your letters c/- HarperCollins (there’s likely some delays with the pandemic situation in their being forwarded onto me) however I’ll look out for them. I would be very interested in talking to you about your proposal and will make further contact with you most likely via your email address. Thank you very much for getting in touch with me. Best wishes, Zoe

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