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New Italy Heritage Status a Huge Achievement for the North Coast Italian Community and Southern Cross University Researchers

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Published
15 August 2002
The declaration of State Heritage significance, by NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge yesterday, for the historic New Italy Museum and School site on the Pacific Highway south of Ballina (NSW), was the culmination of much work behind the scenes by Southern Cross University researchers.

Jane Gardiner and Maria Cotter, two Cultural Heritage Management specialists in the University's School of Environmental Science and Management, were commissioned to complete a conservation management plan for the site by the NSW Heritage Office.

Ms Gardiner and Ms Cotter said they nominated the site for heritage status on behalf of the New Italy community due to its unique migrant, archaeological and social heritage value to the State of New South Wales.

"Still to be found in the seemingly harsh scrub of New Italy are archaeological remains including stone-lined wells, drainage channels, fruit trees, and the remains of mud-brick dwellings," Ms Cotter said.

"These remains attest to the hard work, endurance and community spirit brought to this country by a small, but courageous group of displaced Italian migrants who arrived in Australia in 1881 in desperate circumstances."

Ms Gardiner said that having barely survived the ill-fated Marquis de Rays' expedition to Port Breton, within a few short years of arriving in Australia, through diligence and perseverance, the Italian community at New Italy was being hailed as a model of settlement for Australia.

"Moreover, these pioneers achieved a level of prosperity at New Italy that enabled them, and their descendants, to move beyond even that - to make significant economic and social contributions to the wider north coast community," she said.

"The School was the secular hub of the settlement during its pioneering phase."

Ms Cotter said the New Italy Museum Complex also achieves State Heritage Significance through its rare ability to convey the harsh realities of the daily lives of these individual Italian pioneers and their strength in family connections. 

"This is conveyed particularly through an invaluable collection of historical photographs, moveable heritage items and family documents," she said.

"Moreover, this ability to provide physical and emotional links both to a difficult pioneering past and a reflective but celebratory present, enables the story of New Italy to be accessible to a wide public audience.

"The Museum Complex has become an invaluable educative tool in the context of the history of Australian migrant experience."

The Southern Cross University researchers attended the celebrations with the community at New Italy yesterday when the NSW Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Dr Refshauge officially declared that as "one of the most important landmarks in Australia's Italian history", New Italy had been listed on the State Heritage Register.

Dr Refshauge also announced a $5000 contribution from the NSW Government to assist the Italo-Australian community in the development of historic tours trails and signs at New Italy.

Also attending the function was the NSW Minister for Regional Development and Member for Clarence, Mr Harry Woods; the Italian Consul General, Mr Stefano Queirolo Palmas; and officials from the State Heritage Office.

They were joined by members of the New Italy Museum Complex Committee, The New Italy School Reserve Trust, descendants of the early pioneers and current residents of the settlement.

For more information on Southern Cross University's School of Environmental Science and Management, visit the University's website: scu.edu.au/environment-science-engineering/

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