1965 – 1974 Fairfield Tailor’s Basting Machine

Era: Cultural background: Collection: Theme:Clothing Economics Folk Art Settlement

Bellow basting machine

Bellow basting machine.Courtesy Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery

Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, Smithfield, Australia.

Object name and number
Tailor’s basting machine, ID. No. 96.051; and Tailor’s overlocker, ID. No. 208.023.1-2.

Object description
Bellow basting machine, electric belt drive (motor is not attached), metal, green and black, Class 17/2 made by Bellow. Dimensions: L 370 x H 280 x W 160mm. Condition: In used condition and without the electric motor and belt drive. The machine is not in working order.

Overlocking machine, electric belt drive (motor and belt are not attached), metal, black and nickel plated, DC-1, made by Yamato Manufacturing Company. Dimensions: L 220 x H 240 x W 165mm. Condition: Parts of the machine are not replaceable, and it is not in working order.

Yamato Overlocking Machine

Yamato Overlocking Machine. Courtesy Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery

The machines were donated to the Museum by an Italian migrant, Antonio Pasqualini, who was trained as a tailor and operated his own business, known as Roma Tailoring, for 10 years at Shop 9, Main Street, The Mall, Fairfield from 1964-1974. These specialised machines and the sewing machines in the business were bought from distributors in Australia.

Roma Tailoring - Mr Pasqualini 1962

Roma Tailoring – Mr Pasqualini 1962. The lamp and the spool holder on the sewing table were also donated to the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery. Courtesy Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery Photograph Archive.

Between 1947 and 1971, Australia became involved in one of the most stimulating, challenging and irreversible experiments in social engineering in the world. The mutually convenient and converging needs of war-weary Europeans and Australia’s population and defence requirements became official government policy.” [1] In March 1951, Italy and Australia signed an Assisted Migration Agreement whereby both countries began financing the passage of Italian migrants.

Assisted migrants arriving in Australia from Italy undertook to work in occupations and locations as directed by the federal government for a period of mostly two years. Along with many other young migrant men, Antonio Pasqualini was assigned to Greta in the Hunter Valley. Greta Migrant Hostel became a supply source of young single men for employment in the large manufacturing industries at Newcastle and the mining industries in the Hunter Valley. Between 1947 and 1961, Newcastle’s population expanded by nearly 8% as a result.[2]. The compulsory requirement for assisted migrants to stay in designated locations was discontinued in 1953, allowing many single males the opportunity to explore the larger cities.

Antonio Pasqualini was born into a poor family in Castellalto, Teramo, Abruzzo in Italy in 1932. It was a poor village with no electricity or running water. In his early adult life, he lived in Roseto, 20km from Callalto on the Adriatic coast where he did his cutter-tailor apprenticeship before coming to Australia. At 23 years of age and with a dozen or so other young Italians, he left Genoa on the Aorelia on the 15th November, 1955 as an assisted migrant. He left Italy because there was no work in Roseto for tailors, and as he says now, ‘when you are young, you want adventure, and to discover’.[3]

Before coming to Australia, Antonio was called up for compulsory national service training for 15 months in the north, in Piacenza near Milano with young men from all over Italy. This was the first time that he had seen other parts of Italy as he had only a push-bike, no car. It was the beginning of the desire to see other parts of the world where there would be more opportunities and less hardship.

Arriving in Sydney on 18th December, 1955 as an Italian migrant, Mr Pasqualini recalls looking up under Sydney Harbour Bridge and thinking that this bridge must be really high because the ship was passing underneath.[4] From the Darling Harbour terminal, the young men travelled by train to Greta Migrant Centre in the Hunter Valley. The new arrivals were shown to wooden sheds with bunk beds with one sheet, a couple of blankets, some soap, and the key to the hut. Meals were in a big canteen and the bathrooms were separate.  His sole possessions in his suitcase were a couple of suits that he had made. One of the suits he brought with him was worn when he got married in 1962. Every weekend he and his Italian friends went to Singleton to the picture show and to the restaurant owned by Greeks, for steak and eggs. “It was a good life, you have no worries when you are young”[5].

After 3 months in the Greta camp, Antonio Pasqualini was offered a job at Ravensworth, in the coal mining area of the Hunter Valley, replacing old sleepers on the railway line. Although he came here as a tailor, he had to take any job as he could not speak English. There was no permanent accommodation at Ravensworth, so the railway gangs slept in tents. The owner of the only store there kindly supplied them with credit to buy food until their first pay. After a year working on the railway, he went to Newcastle to work at BHP with another Italian for three years as an electrician’s assistant.

With little social support provided by government agencies for single male migrants, it was inevitable that the large Italian community in Fairfield in the 1960s would become a magnet for young Pasqualini. It was in a butcher’s shop in Fairfield that Antonio Pasqualini met his Italian mate from the railway days in Ravensworth, in the Hunter Valley. He had not seen him for over four years. It was through an invitation to his friend’s home that he met his friend’s sister, who became his wife.

In 1960 Pasqualini finally found work as a tailor and cutter with Anthony Squires at St Mary’s, and worked there for four years. From working in the clothing industry, he met some friends who were also Italian tailors. In 1964, the three Italians jointly decided to open Roma Tailoring in Shop 9, Main Street Mall, Fairfield, as they all lived in Fairfield. However there was not enough work for three persons in the business, so Pasqualini went back to work at Anthony Squires. Things did not work out with his friends who stayed on at Roma Tailoring, so he acquired the business to operate for himself for the next 10 years.

The demand for formal men’s tailoring in Fairfield in 1974 decreased and Roma Tailoring business inevitably closed. With migration from South East Asia concentrating in Fairfield and Cabramatta, different tailoring and outfitting needs were required, and undertaken by outworkers in homes and garages.

To make a living, Antonio returned to work as a tailor and cutter at Silvatex Suits in Greenfield, and at two other places before Glenford Clothing closed down in 1981 and Huntingtons in 1983. Two later jobs in tailoring at Dina Tailoring in Fairfield in 1983, and Hepworth Industrial Wear in Parramatta in 1985 did not last, and with retrenchment, it became obvious to Antonio that the garment industry was not a stable industry.

Tailoring and cutting skills assisted Antonio Pasqualini in gaining more secure employment with the Department of Corrective Services, Silverwater in 1985. Here he was a supervisor in the Cutting Room for 12 years, cutting material for uniforms, bed sheets, and surgery gowns for the hospital, shirts and trousers for the inmates, and the training of inmates to cut material in layers (e.g. 200 layers at one time) with electric cutters.

“Today you will not find many tailors who can do all the jobs of a tailor as many just specialise in one job. I still repair my own clothes but don’t do anymore tailoring. If I had stayed in Italy, I would not have had many opportunities to work. In Australia, I was always able to get work.”[6]

The textiles machines are of historic significance as evidence of the transfer of haberdashery and tailoring of clothing from the Italian village to the Australia suburbs. The Roma Tailoring business formerly owned by Antonio Pasqualini and located in the Mall, Fairfield from 1964-1974, reflects the impact that cultural transitions of various migrant groups have had on the business centres of Fairfield and Cabramatta. At that time, Italian cafés, coffee shops and delicatessens would also have been part of the streetscape. Village life was imported and implanted, with the role of the tailor being central to outfitting the Italian community for the many formal, family, religious, other occasions that were publicly celebrated, most likely at Club Marconi, which was established in 1959.

Antonio Pasqualini’s life story is also an example of how European professional skills were transferred, through his work as a supervisor and trainer at the Silverwater correctional facility.


Burnley, Ian H2001, The Impact of Migration on Australia – A Demographic Approach. Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Cresciani, Gianfranco 2003, The Italians in Australia. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Gapps, Stephen 2008, Fairfield: evolution of a migrant city. Fairfield City Museum & Gallery.


[1] Cresciani, G., p. 125.

[2] Burnley, Ian, p. 115

[3] Oral history interview recorded with Mr Pasqualini, 18/11/08, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery.

[4] Oral history interview 18/11/08

[5] Oral History interview recorded with Mr Pasqualini, 18/11/08, Fairfield City Museum & Gallery

[6] Oral History interview recorded with Mr Pasqualini, 18/11/08, Fairfield City Museum & Gallery

Written by Helen Tierney
Fairfield City Museum and Gallery
August 2008 © 2008
Edited by Stephen Thompson
NSW Migration Heritage Centre
May 2009

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The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission.

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Regional Services at the Powerhouse Museum is supported by Movable Heritage, NSW funding from the NSW Ministry for the Arts.