Photographer: Taryn Ellis

Source: Museum Victoria

Do you eat particular foods for health? Do you take them with you when you travel?

This doll was given to Maria Attardi in 1963 by a relative who was visiting her in Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. Maria had broken her arm and spent three weeks in the hospital. She called the doll ‘Rabbit’.

Maria, her mother and two younger brothers immigrated to Melbourne from Valguarnera in Sicily in 1961, to join her father who had arrived on an assisted passage a year earlier.

Their migration story is one of return and re-return, and on both trips ‘Rabbit’ played an important role. In 1967, Maria’s mother returned to Italy with the children with the aim of staying, and she stuffed the doll with Australian seeds to give to relatives. 11 months later, seeing no future for them in Italy, the family remigrated to Melbourne, this time bringing hidden Italian seeds to grow tomatoes, beans, lettuces and other beneficial greens.

Australia’s strict quarantine laws made it difficult for migrants to bring familiar foods from home. Maria’s doll is evidence of the determination and ingenuity it took many migrants to maintain these connections. It also helps us to imagine the experiences of those who migrate (and remigrate) as children.