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Pasqua Centofanti


Pasqua originated from Aurava near San Giorgio Della Rinchinbalda, Friuli region of northern Italy. Pasqua started her journey in Naples, Italy to Brisbane, Australia.

Pasqua, her mother, brother and three sisters went straight to Ingham where Pasqua's father was working. They lived at a cane cutters' barracks in Ingham.


I came to Australia in November 1936 with my family (not Dad - Dad was here much earlier than us). First he went to Canada - I think he went there twice. Every time he came home mum had a baby! After Canada he went to New Zealand seeking a better life. We were very poor. We lived in the Friuli region north of Venice. The village was Aurava and the nearest town San Giorgio Della Rinchinbalda. When Dad came home from New Zealand I was born and my brother came too although my father was not there for my brother's birth. I remember he was appalled at our living conditions - it was the Depression by then.

He decided to go back [to Australia this time] and work hard and to earn enough money to bring us out. In 1936 we went out - me, Mother, three sisters and a brother. We came to Brisbane and we travelled by train to Ingham. We didn't have a home to go to so we lived in the cane cutters' barracks. Dad was cook for one of the gangs. I was 10. My mum, because we had food to eat, she never complained at all. My sister had rheumatic fever and the rest of us broke out in boils.

In those times, until you learnt fluent English, they wouldn't put you in the grades you were supposed to be in at school; you were with the bubs. In the third year we went into third grade. About 1939/40 Dad told me to help my sister who had married a man with a winery who supplied the other Italians. She looked after three boarders, her husband and the coming baby. So I left school in the third year. By the end of the year my brother was in seventh grade. I was happy to leave because of the inferiority I felt at school.

Then the war broke out and in 1941/42 all the Italian men were interned. They linked us with the Japanese threat. They took them to South Australia and they were on the train for about a week in cattle carriages. It left the town devastated because there was no work. My mother was left again with all her kids except my two elder sisters who were married by then. My eldest sister went to live in Griffith for the fruit season. My brother-in-law had relations in Griffith. They interned a few people from Griffith but not to the extent of Ingham. In June 1942 we packed up and we went to Griffith so me and my brother could get work at the farms there. My other brother-in-law was naturalised (he had to, to get a licence for selling wine) but he went to Griffith too.

After a time they released the internees but sent them to work, some on the Nullarbor Plain building railway lines etc. I never forget that day we arrived [in Griffith]. The place was covered in fog and it was that cold. I only had a cardigan for warm clothing. My brother-in-law had rented a cottage and there was my two sisters, one with two kids and the other with one kid, two husbands (before they interned one), Mum, myself, my sister and brother. Dad was in Quorn in South Australia and he got us to go down to live there in Quorn. There was no work in that little town either.

First I went to Adelaide where my brother-in-law had relations (the one who was interned). But by that time I had a boyfriend, Aldo, from Griffith. He came down to visit and talked Dad into letting me return to Griffith. In 1945 we decided to get married and that was the time they released all the internees. I got married on 27th August and Dad arrived home the day before. We had a short honeymoon in Sydney. My husband's family were farmers. We stayed in Griffith until 1947 and Mum and Dad came to live with us.

Italians at that time were not allowed to have two farms. They saw a farm advertised in Stuart Town [but didn't like it]. Then they looked in the papers and saw this place for sale. It was a sheep farm. He bought it for 3000 pounds. It was 150 acres. In those days the Agriculture Department used to help farmers a great deal. It was the first farm in Orange that was planted [with fruit trees] in contours and they did all the surveying. It took him three years to plant it all up. In the meantime we planted potatoes, peas and carrots.

I'll never forget the day we came to live in Orange. It was June and bitterly cold. We weren't in the house for half an hour when the neighbours all came with kerosene lamps and blankets. We were the first Italian family (apart from the Ostinis, whose origins go back much further) to come to live in Orange. The neighbours kept on visiting us and invited us to visit them.

The first trees that went in were stone fruits, then we had apples and pears. We used to have the biggest orchard for cherries in the district.

After us D'Aquino came into town from Griffith. The first Italians we came across were Crasti - Joe Crasti is still here. John was working on the railway. They were living in a camp somewhere, I think. Later his brother Elio came. The third brother came out two-three years after - Silvio. We became very close to Elio. He got a farm near Millthorpe. My brother-in-law Andrea Cunial came here (he was married to my sister) from Queensland and they bought a farm at the Clergate turnoff. Andrea had three girls. From Griffith they went to Queensland and then to Orange about 1947.

Various relations came first to our place - a cousin, my uncle's brother. Our cousin stayed with us and four kids and they lived on rabbits. Then they went to Melbourne. All these people used to arrive in Orange at four o'clock in the morning and would all end up at my house. All these people worked for us. Bit by bit Aldo built up this place. He was the first man to have a tractor in Orange - we brought it from Griffith. It had steel wheels.

Clergate Hall was used for dances by Italians and Australians. My brother-in-law also had a hall for local functions such as weddings and dances.