A grizzled, greying migrant, who was holidaying in Sicily after twenty years in Australia, attended a civic reception for participants in a seminar on Australian literature held in Piazza Armerina last January. His wife and three children were in Moonee Ponds. He was obviously pleased to speak with the Australians present as if they somehow confirmed his experience in a far-off land.
His experience and that of thousands like him provide the human basis for the expanding Italian interest in Australian literature. Many Italian students of Australian literature began their education there or at least have relatives with first-hand knowledge of Australia.
Of course, the growth in Australian studies is also the result of professors seeking new subjects which will attract more students and funding but the human link provides a richer background than solely academic interest.