Project Description

Maria Caterina PELLE (nee Cammera) was born in 1920 in Borlino in southern Italy. Maria was the eldest of three born before their father left for Australia in 1927. Her brothers were Dominic and Phillip; and then Johnny – her youngest brother born in Australia after parents were reunited 13 years later.

Her village was very hot in summer and cold in winter with snow on the mountains in the distance. Maria recalls a happy village life, though times were hard, with lots of family around. They had a small piece of land on which vegetables were grown and her father found some work away from home.

Maria had virtually no schooling. Her mother had a bad heart so Maria had to help with domestic chores. Her father went to Australia to get work and planned to send money home to his family. Friends helped to pay his fare and the balance was borrowed. Her father worked in the country and sent a small amount of money home. Maria’s mother kept the family going by working on the land, and farming wheat and olives with her own father.

Maria was very fond of her maternal grandmother & grandfather. They were wonderful people and she missed them when finally the family joined their husband and father in April 1940. They lived in a shed at the Jindong 160 acre farm, grew potatoes, milked cows and had plenty of chickens.

Johnny was born prematurely in 1940 and, because of her mother’s weak heart, Maria shared the care of her baby brother. Maria’s husband-to-be, Francesco Pelle (Frank), came to Australia from the same town a year before her. They married in 1943 in Busselton and bought their farm in 1947 but could not afford a home on it until 1952, by which time they had two daughters, Maria (born 1946) and Josie (born 1949).

When her mother died of heart problems, Maria’s father remarried and returned to Italy and Johnny bought the farm. Maria and Frank were unwell for a number of years but cared for by their close-knit family.