Wool coat made by Carmela Palermo and worn by her when she migrated to Australia from Italy as a proxy bride in 1957. She continued to wear it in Australia and tended to make her own clothes as she was not taken with the local fashions. Carmela Palermo, nee Rocca, was born in 1940 in Sambiase, Calabria, Italy. She migrated to Australia as a proxy bride in 1957, flying via Rome and landing at Essendon Airport. She married neighbour Vicenzo Palermo who had migrated to Australia 5 years previously. They settled in a very underdeveloped Keilor. Carmela brought a glory box with her which followed by ship (two travelling trunks), and included linen, a dinner set, and a trousseau. The migration experience was a very difficult one for Carmela, with no family (although her husband had family in Australia) nor English language proficiency, she was extremely lonely and isolated. It took many years for her to settle, seek education and make Australia her home.

Physical Description

Woollen hand made coat, green and brown plaid with brown velvet collar, cuffs and pocket flaps. Single breasted with 2 brown buttons down the front. Inside lined in brown fabric.


Migration for marriage and in particular, the marriage 'by proxy' phenomenon, is a significant theme in the history of migration to Australia. Since the mid-nineteenth century Irish bride ships, women have been arriving in Australia over time as wives, brides and brides-to-be as part of chain migration, family reunion schemes and proactive government efforts to redress gender imbalances. This collection enables the exploration through material culture and memory the post-war proxy bride experience which dramatically impacted upon the lives of thousands of Italian, Greek, Maltese and other European women who travelled here in the 1950s and 1960s with high expectations of husbands, homes and families - expectations that frequently were not fulfilled.

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