Hypodermic syringe and needles

Source: Migration Museum, Adelaide, South Australia

This glass syringe and needles belonged to Angelamaria Caiazza, who emigrated to South Australia from Campolattoro, Benevento in 1962 to join her husband, Ambrogio, who made the journey six years earlier.

Angelemaria had four children in Italy and her two youngest accompanied her on the journey. At the time she was anaemic and arthritic, and used the syringe and needles to inject a recommended medical drug into her knees. She brought the syringe and needles because she didn’t think similar equipment would be available in Australia. Migrants’ expectations about Australia’s society and culture were often at odds with the image of a modern, developed nation that the Australian authorities portrayed.

It is rare to find personal medical equipment that belonged to ordinary people, especially post-war migrants, in Australian museum collections. Most are discarded by their owners when they are no longer useful.

Thanks to Angelamaria’s daughter in law, her syringe and needles were donated to the Migration Museum in Adelaide where they are now part of the collections documenting Australia’s migration history. Objects like these remind us that people bring with them ideas, beliefs and practices around health in order to maintain their wellbeing in an unfamiliar place.