Story of a Shepparton migrant shared in museum

By John Lewis

The story of a Shepparton woman who grew up on an orchard as the daughter of Albanian migrants is being told in a new Museums Victoria collection.

The Muslims in Australia Image Collection features 50 photographs of Muslim families from across the country.

Salie Bardi's account of growing up on her Qemal family's farm in east Shepparton during the 1960s is among 16 personal stories accompanying the historic images in the new collection at the Immigration Museum on Flinders St.

In her story published on the museum's website Mrs Bardi says her father, Hetem, was from Porodine near Korce in Albania. He migrated to Australia in the 1930s. Her mother, Sadet, migrated to Australia from the Macedonian town of Bitola in the 1950s.

Qemal family, Shepparton, 1968. Source: Museums Victoria / Courtesy: Salie Bardi.

She says they lived on their farm in east Shepparton, sharing the house with her uncle, while another uncle and his family lived next door.

"We basically lived as an extended family," Mrs Bardi says. 

"My mum was a housewife. She made clothes and food for us and she learned English from the newspapers, TV and radio. My father was a hardworking farmer. He grew tomatoes and put them into cases and sold to the Tom Piper Company. There was lots of green grass but sometimes dry seasons and floods. We pumped the water from the local river for irrigating father's farm of 156 acres. We had fruit trees — apples, peaches, apricots."

In her story for the collection Mrs Bardi says while working at the Shepparton News as an assistant proof reader during the early 1980s she was asked by a colleague to read an article about the arrival of Imam Eljam Bardi, at the Shepparton mosque.

The colleague encouraged her to meet the Imam, but Mrs Bardi says she wasn't religious.

"However, life is sometime full of surprises," she says.

"After only seven days, I got married to that Imam. We have three children — I became a wife and mum — all in one." 

Salie Bardi and Eljam Bardi, Shepparton, 1983.

The Muslims in Australia Image Collection is the result of a three-year collaboration between author and academic Dzavid Haveric and Museums Victoria.

Senior curator of migration and diversity Moya McFadzean said the photographs and stories will significantly enhance Museums Victoria's collections on Muslim Australians.

"Our collections can only be as rich as the stories they tell. Families from around Australia who shared their stories with Dzavid have agreed to deposit their precious family photos and stories in the museum’s collection, so we have the nucleus of a significant collection, as well as community relationships, that we can continue to develop," Dr McFadzean said.

She said the images can all be viewed on the Museums Victoria website.