Italian migration to the Northern Beaches of Sydney between the 1920s to 1970s, seen mainly through the eyes of women.

L’immigrazione italiana nelle Spiagge del Nord di Sydney
tra gli anni 1920 e 1970, principalmente dal punto di vista delle donne.

The book can be purchased through Powerhouse Publishing.
» Buy the book


Sempre Con Te (Always with you) was born in 2004 from a desire to document the Italian migration of ordinary Calabrian women who had lived humble lives, to the Northern Beaches of Sydney. I wanted to create an exhibition of the collected stories to share this valuable information with the public before it was lost.

In the early planning stages, myself, my daughter Emilia, Gina Polito and Silvana Nero began to brainstorm the project. We soon discovered that the peninsula’s libraries only contained one book with a small section of recorded local Italian migration. As we are all daughters of migrants and belong to this community, we believed it was important to document our local history not only for our own heritage but for future generations as well. Every meeting meant the project grew larger and larger. I then decided to approach Linda Nellor from the Heritage Section of Co.As.It. for her help, which she gave without hesitation.

What originally started as an exploration of the period of separation between the women and men of this community, soon grew into a collection of 9 stories and a photo essay of the whole Italian migration to the area. These photos, whilst documenting the history of the community, all revolved around the female as the centre. They showed where the women lived, shopped, prayed and entertained. The period covered was from the 1920s to the 1970s. The exhibition as a whole represented the lives of the men in the new country before the women arrived, the departure and journey of the women, the reunion of the families and life in Australia. Music and moving image were included and collected objects of Italian origin were also exhibited. Emilia, along with Erron Field, were mainly responsible for the immense amount of creative work involved. A great number of volunteers in the community contributed greatly with time and money. There are far too many names to mention here, so they are credited at the end of this book. They include interviewers, writers, translators, editors, builders etc. After countless hours of work, including lots of weekends and many fundraising events, the exhibition finally opened at the ArtRoom Gallery in Manly and remained open for one month. It was a great success with 400 guests for our opening night and around 3000 visitors for the duration of the exhibition. Articles featured in La Fiamma, Manly Daily, and In Contatto and Ednews bulletins. The exhibition was also shown at the Pittwater Library for 2 weeks at a later date.

From the exhibition Sempre Con Te, this book evolved giving us a more permanent record of our project. We wanted to give our respect and honor to these beautiful women who may have never otherwise been acknowledged and may perhaps have been forgotten with time.

Sadly, as we go to print 2 ladies in the stories have passed away and one suffers from dementia.

A chance meeting with Emilia and Stephen Thompson meant that this project was able to be linked with the Powerhouse Museum’s Migration Heritage Centre.

This book would have not been published if it had not been for all the hard work Emilia has put into it as well as all the support I received from Gina Polito and Silvana Nero who worked alongside me from the beginning to the end.

We hope this inspires other migrant communities to follow in our footsteps. Please enjoy, appreciate and remember fondly as we remain Sempre Con Te (Always With You)

Silvana Toia.