Born in Rome in 1913, Claudio Alcorso was not a typical immigrant. Having studied at the University of Rome and the London School of Economics, he arrived in Australia with his brother Orlando in 1938. In Sydney he ran a successful fabric screen-printing business.
Although an anti-fascist, he was interned within a month of Italy’s entry into the war. Arrested on the afternoon of 4 July 1940, he was taken to the venereal diseases section of Long Bay Gaol, which had been converted to a transit depot for ‘enemy alien’ internees. He wondered whether the Australian military authorities held him in contempt as a traitor to his country.
After a stint in Long Bay he was sent to the camp at Hay, then to Loveday in South Australia. Appeals for his release were dismissed. Finally, a month after the Italian armistice, he was set free. While other Italians were typically drafted into the Aliens Civil Corps, Alcorso was permitted to resume his business activities in Sydney. Later he settled in Tasmania, where he pioneered the wine industry.
While he led a long and productive life after his internment, Alcorso remained scarred by the experience. Like many internees, he was deeply dismayed at the perversion of justice which occurred during war:
Three and a half years of unjust internment had left me embittered and resentful. After the war my new country amply redressed the injustice of the Army overruling the Tribunal’s recommendation for my release: I was given the opportunity to share in activities relating to Australia’s flowering and as a consequence my anger subsided. But there may be something to be learned from my wartime experience, namely the evil of racism and the need to ensure that the ruling of our courts of justice is supreme. Racism was a factor in the internment of Italians. … The other lesson is to safeguard the supremacy of our courts. We have good reason for believing that our judiciary is competent and honest and that it can be trusted. The Aliens’ Tribunal – which in the context of war emergency acted with special caution – unanimously recommended my release, yet its verdict was overruled by the Army. In different circumstances and new emergencies it could happen again.
Claudio Alcorso, The Wind You Say, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1993.
National Library of Australia: Biographical cuttings on Claudio Alcorso, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals. Bib ID 1710381
Peter Monteath, Captured Lives: Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps, Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2018.
 Claudio Alcorso, The Wind You Say, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1993, pp. 168-70.