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The Dja Dja Wurrung, or Jaara in language, are the Traditional Owners of Country across Central Victoria. The lands include the watersheds of the Loddon and Avoca rivers in the Bendigo region, and extend just south of Daylesford. The Dja Dja Wurrung are part of the Kulin nation.

The Swiss Italian Festa acknowledges the Dja Dja Wurrung as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and celebrate, and we pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.


The early Swiss Italian settlers came from both sides of the Swiss Italian border, particularly the Italian-speaking Swiss cantons of Ticino and Grisons, and the northern Italian provinces of Piedmont and Lombardy.

They came in significant numbers to the towns of Hepburn Springs, Hepburn and Daylesford, and to surrounding townships such as Shepherd’s Flat, Yandoit, Guildford and Blampeid. These early Swiss Italian settlers came for the gold, but also to escape the poverty and political upheaval in their home regions.

Only a few found their fortune at the diggings, but many of the early Swiss Italians stayed on because this region reminded them so much of home. They played a key part in the preservation of the mineral springs and spas which are the region’s trademark, not to mention, the early vineyards, wineries, olive groves, bakeries and dairies, and brought many cultural and culinary traditions. Most notably, they established Australia’s first macaroni factory at Hepburn Springs, and created the bullboar sausage, using local ingredients but based on their homeland traditions.

Antonio Pagliaro spoke to The Local about the lives and times of these Swiss Italian villagers.

Many of the original Swiss Italian surnames survive in the region today, and their heritage is reflected in the names of properties – Bellinzona, Genoa, Parma House, Swiss Mountain Hotel and Bergamo, and street names like Crippa, Vanina, Borsa, Franzi, Righetti, Garibaldi and Morgantis.

Macaroni Factory

Photo Credit: George Weiss

Image from The Emigration of the Swiss Italians to the Australian Goldrush


The Daylesford and District Historical Society is a mine of information on the full history of the region, including the Swiss Italian migration history. You can even ask them to help research your Swiss Italian ancestors.

For a detailed local history of the Swiss Italians, read BULLBOAR, MACARONI & MINERAL WATER – Spa Country’s Swiss Italian Story, by Clare Gervasoni, and published by the Festa. You can purchase the book for $35 including postage. Email us for details here.

There is a new English translation by Antonio Pagliaro of the significant work by Giorgio Cheda titled THE EMIGRATION OF SWISS ITALIANS TO THE AUSTRALIAN GOLD RUSH VOLUMES 1 AND 2. The books were originally titled L’Emigrazione Ticinese in Australia, written in 1976. If you’d like to purchase this fascinating two-volume set, it is $75 and can be collected locally in Hepburn or posted for $15. The books will be available at the Festa in October and other Festa events throughout the year. Please get in contact with us  to arrange your copy.

All proceeds go towards the return of the Festa thanks to the generosity of the publisher, the Italian Australian Institute sponsored by Grollo Ruzzene Foundation.

Also, see Roslyn Maguire’s article – ‘Italians in evidence in 19th Century Australia’.