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The history of the Mildura Club DaVinci started with a Dream

Easter of 1958 a number of newly arrived Italian migrants decided to put on the Passion of Christ or “Opera Sacra”.  In doing so, various members of the young Italian Community showed their ability to act, choreograph and put on the show.

As the show was ready for the opening night the catholic priests in the district a young Fr Monahan and Fr Gregorio from Broken Hill were invited to attend. The opera sacra was held in the Yugoslav hall and proved a hit for the community.

After the show the opera director Beniamino Cirillo and Guiseppe Roccisano discussed the night with Fr Monahan and Fr Gregorio and shared their dream to have a social club for the Italian community. Both of the priests were supportive of the idea. Fr Gregorio suggested they start with something modest and build upon it.

With a dream in their heart and encouragement from Fr Monahan and Fr Gregorio they set about the task to make the dream come true.

Joe and Ben approached members of the Italian community who had been in Mildura for some time and shared their dream. They received support and in 1958 the first committee of the Mildura Club DaVinci was formed consisting of:President: Guiseppe Roccisano ;             
Vice president: Stefano Panuccio
Treasurer: Domenico Piscioneri
Secretary: Mario Bertone

Mildura Club DaVinci Committee members included
Angelo Buffone,  Domenico Cavallaro, Beniminno Cirillo, Roger David, Cosimo Dichiera, Guiseppe Dichiera, Vincenzo Dimasi, Guiseppe Dimasi, Club_DaVinci_History3aVincenzo Leonadis, Pietro Mazza, Antonio Marciano, Guiseppe Moro,  Fillipo Mammone and Antonio Surace.

The committee set about on a number of tasks to develop a constitution for the club, raise funds, purchase land, erect the building, furbish the building and appoint caterers.

The witting of the constitution fell to Ben Cirillo with help from Fr Gregorio.   He put together a document consisting of 26 point or articole that was approved at a general meeting. The first three points read:

No 1. The Da vinci Club was founded as a social club to keep alive the friendly spirit among Italians and our hosts

No 2. All political discussions are forbidden. Meetings conferences and functions pertaining to the above will not be tolerated

No 3. All members shall act as gentlemen and avoid any discussions or acts that would be detrimental to the club or its members

The constitution was accepted in July 1958 and the committee proceeded to the next stage.

Raising money

The Sunraysia area was divided amongst the committee and other interested members. All the Italians in the district were approached and given the opportunity to join.

The fee of 30 pound was set. The basic wage at the time was around 12 pound per week. This equates to approximately $2000 in today’s figures.

230 pledges were made.  Of these, 158 fully paid and became foundation members.

Land was purchased on 24th November 1958 for 1190 pounds by Donald Piscioneri, Guiseppe Roccisano and Filippo Mammone, as trustees for the club.

With the land purchased the plans were drawn up and the building went to tender and the contract was awarded to SJ Weir for 4500 pound.

The Building

As the building went up payments had to be made.   Had all the people who made a pledge payed up it would have raised around 7000 pound however many declined to pay the second and third installment and there was a significant shortfall in 1960 as the club neared completion.

But funds were short - Angelo Buffone and Cosimo Dichiera stepped forward and loaned the club 1500 pound each.

The club opened its doors to the first function - the engagement of Joe Caia and Mary Leonardis on 17th April 1960 - the charge was 2 pounds for adults and 1 pound for children. This was followed by the first wedding of Pietro and Nicolina Mazza.

In 1962 the opera sacra was held in the club - a fitting function as the catalyst to the building.

The Early Years
Club_DaVinci_History4aThe early days were difficult for the committee as funds were short and profits were low.  The committee held many social functions to try and raise money to meet the debt.

On many occasions the committee would supply table clothes, cutlery and glasses and their services free of charge to help the club.

Some of the memories include:

  • Cooking offsite and using the wood fired oven at Cosimo and Carmela Dimasi’s property at Benetook ave to cook chickens then transporting them to the club to be served - giving a new name to meals on wheels
  • Ravioli being cooked outside in large boilers using gas burnersClub_DaVinci_History6a
  • The toilets out the back proved to be a challenge to many a bride and her bridesmaids especially when it rained and boards were put down to make a walkway to them
  • Tressle tables in long rows with steel chairs and bunks to sit on
  • No reserved seating
  • Kids along the back unsupervised often throwing bread rolls at one another
  • The standard plate consisting of half a chicken
  • Large bottles of beer on the table that were often collected by members to be be filled with home made sauce
  • The reputation of the Robinvale drinkers
  • The streamers around the brides that were often so tight they could not break loose
  • The throwing of the sugared almonds and the children scurrying to get them
  • The variety of bands playing at the weddings
  • The moving of the tables and reorganizing of the dance area once the meal was over
  • The single girls under mums watchful eye
  • The weddings at the club were often the social outings and places where many couples met courted and married

Mildura Club DaVinci Accomplishments

  • 1960 club built and opened
  • 1967 the first extension only 7 years from when club was built
  • 1975 The façade, the toilets, the foyer and Roccisano room were added
  • 1978 the widening of the club
  • 1980 upgrade to the kitchen
  • 1988 the carpark at back
  • 1989 Reconstituted under the Incorporated clubs Act became Mildura Club Da Vinci Inc.
  • 1990 Bocce Club Cover
  • 1991 Round tables, new carpet and curtains
  • 1997 Refurbishment of foyer and Roccisano Room
  • 2008 Refurbishment toilets
  • 2011 Refurbishment of main hall

The Ladies Committee

 Formed on 26th July 1976. The committee was very active in organizing social functions from 1976 to 1995. The first social function was a picnic dance.  The band "The Ultratones" cost $150. The fee was $2 for adults and $1 for children. The supper for the night consisted of cabana, cheese, salted peanuts, salada crackers and tea and coffee.  The function returned a healthy profit of $118.55.

The ladies took it upon themselves to run many social events and fundraisers over the years. In 1976 they raised $1714 for the Italian earthquake appeal.

The funds from the fundraising went back into the club. The committee bought the hand dryers and they purchased the orange chairs to replace the metal ones.  They bought curtains and were an important part of making sure the club lifted its standard in its appearance and presentation and their last contribution was the chandeliers over the dance floor.

There are also two other people whose contribution to the club has not been matched and must be mentioned. They are Joe Roccisano and Steve Panuccio. Both members were on the committee from the day it was formed until they passed away. Both held office on the executive. Joe Rocissano was president for 5 years and treasurer for 17 years and club secretary, he was also the head cook and catering manager for many years.  Steve Panuccio was president for 34 years, of which 32 were consecutive. They both acted as club trustees along with 7 other people who put their personal assets on the line if anything went wrong.

During their terms of office they set down a good foundation for the next generation to build upon.