This was the second interview I did in Devonport and I had heard a bit of Piera's story in advance that I thought it had some features that hadn't appeared in other stories I've done so far. Piera left Libya when she was 9 years old, and up to now I've generally preferred stories from people who have left as adults, as I often want to ask them to compare life in their home with here and all that. But in his case, there seemed to be lots of other things to talk about that would be of interest.
First of all, there aren't a lot of Libyan-born people around Tasmania, and it's a country that has generally made headlines for negative reasons and yet it's a country many people are ignorant of. Secondly, was the reasons for PIera and her family left Libya and came to Australia tapped into an interesting era of history in both Libya and Australia. PIera's parents were not part of the Arabic Muslim majority in Libya, in fact they were Catholics of Italian and Maltese descent and so stood out as fairer than the majority of the population.
The Italian colonial legacy, like most European colonising powers, left no doubt some bitterness and hostility to those Libyans of European appearance and heritage and even as a child Piera mentions being aware of this atmosphere around her and so it was understandable why her father would decide to relocate the family to a more settled and stable country.
For more about Italian Libya : Italian Libya - Wikipedia
They arrived in Australia in 1961, and as non-white migrants had to pay their own way. It can be easy to forget that the White Australia Policy, though watered-down somewhat by then, still existed with living memory for many. And thought the family had left one land because of their vulnerability as a minority, Piera discovered as a child that she was, because of her darker complexion, a minority of a different kind in her new home and she speaks of having to ask her parents the meaning of racist terms she'd been called.
But Piera's story is not just fascinating for the whole settlement and adjustment as new migrants with no English. This is just one chapter. Another fascinating chapter is the reason for moving to Tasmania, which is a bit similar to a few others that I've heard, which was a kind of "tree change". In her case though, it wasn't her idea or wish at the time, rather it was her husband at the time's idea and he was able to purchase land and build a house in the small town of Wilmot, nearby Lake Barrington in Tasmania's north west.
As with others I've spoken to, moving to Tasmania stimulated a love of the natural environment and bushwalking in Piera, though from what she said, some of the habits of the more "alternative" locals took some getting used to, especially the nudity.
As a bit of a post-addendum to this, after the interview, I met two Libyans in Hobart, one who I knew as one of my students perhaps 10 years ago. They both told me that the only Libyans they'd ever met in Tasmania where each other. Piera also said that she'd never met any Libyans in Tasmania in the whole time she's lived here ( around 40 years I think), so I'm not trying to facilitate a way to put them in contact - fingers crossed !