The Veneto Club – 50 years

In the photo above, volunteers are shown working on the construction site of the Veneto Club at Beverley c 1972.  L-R: Bepi Oberti, Silvano Girardi, Gino Torresan, Arturo Pagliaro, Aldo Snidero, Ferruccio Brazzaolotto, giovanni Bille,
Luigi Soldan, Romano Dametto.
Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.

Social life before the Veneto Club
After years of informal gatherings, plans were made to establish a Club so that members of the Veneto community in Adelaide could maintain customs, language, identity and relationships. From the early days of Veneto migration to Adelaide, Veneto men and women had socialised through attending weddings and other social events and gathering in each other’s homes. In the case of the Veneto market gardeners, they often gathered in packing sheds.

Party to celebrate the confirmation of Robert Berno and John Torresan, Berno packing shed, Kidman Park, 1959. Photo, courtesy the Berno family.

These occasions provided the Veneto migrants with opportunities to speak Veneto language and develop strong relationships that in many cases, replaced the extended family events they had left behind in Italy.

After the Second World War, the Australian Government migration policy increased the intake of southern European migrants.  Large numbers of veneti arrived in South Australia, many of whom were single men.

Young men worked hard to make a living and settle in Adelaide. At first, social life was limited because the men often worked six or seven days a week and there were not many opportunities for large groups to gather for social events. As time went on and families were growing up, social activities broadened and included women and children but were limited to a few public venues in Adelaide.

The vision of a Club for the Veneto community
Over the years, groups of Veneto men had met at the Fogolar Furlan Club at Felixstowe which had been established in 1958. Others met at the Shandon hotel on Tapleys Hill Road. In June 1971, a group of Veneto men expressed the strong desire to build a meeting place that could be a venue to host social occasions for Veneto people in Adelaide. The group developed a strategy to gather support for building a venue that would bring the Veneto community together in its own facilities that could incorporate social, cultural, sporting and educational activities.

Membership and acquiring land
The community demonstrated its support for forming a Club and building a venue and 178 men became foundation members paying $100 each. In June 1972 when the average male weekly income was $90.00, the membership fee was a significant contribution for working families.[1]

A site for the Veneto Club was finally found at Beverley after extensive searching. It was a five-acre piece of land which had been a clay pit for a local brickworks and had also become a dump. Within a year, guarantors, Franco Battistello, Leo Conci, Arturo Pagliaro and Gino Torresan, organised a bank loan – and the Veneto Club of South Australia became a landowner!

The lion of Veneto – a copy of the statue in St Mark’s Square, Venice. Photo by Madeleine Regan.

The first formal general meeting of members took place in October 1972 at the Oberdan Hall, Findon. Of a total membership of 300 at that time, 298 members attended and elected the first managing committee. Arturo Pagliaro was elected the President with two Vice Presidents, Franco Battistello and Gino Torresan and other officer holders were Franco Farina as Secretary and Rinaldo Stecca as Treasurer. Committee members were Ampelio Bendo, Carlo Boin, Mario Borghetto, Giorgo Busato, Leo Conci and Gino Innocente.

First Committee of the Veneto Club; Back: Leo Conci, Gino Innocente, Ampelio Bendo, Giorgio Busato, Mario Borghetto, Rinaldo Stecca, Carlo Boin. Front: Gino Torresan, Frank Farina, Arturo Pagliaro, Francesco Battistello. Photo courtesy, Veneto Club.

The hard work begins
Once the land was purchased, large numbers of volunteers levelled the land, set out footings and built a two-metre high brick fence before the foundations were laid. Volunteers  contributed their labour and equipment: operators of heavy earthmoving and compacting machinery, graders and tip trucks.

Laying of the Foundation stone
In July 1973 the foundation stone was laid by Premier Don Dunstan and it was a memorable occasion and the community could see the progress that had been made with the building.

Premier Don Dunstan makes a speech at the laying of the Foundation stone with Arturo Pagliaro, July 1973. Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.
The book describing the work of volunteers in constructing the Veneto Club over 84 weekends.

The Club is built by volunteers
During a period of 84 Sundays, hundreds of volunteers gave their labour  – they included steel fabricators, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, painters, concreters and other tradesmen. The Veneto Club published a book that described the wonderful achievement of the community in building the Club in 84 Sundays –  In 84 Domeniche Nasce il Veneto Club.

With the assistance of the many volunteers, the physical structures grew at Beverley. To support the men who were working hard on their trades, a group worked on organising meals: a butcher supplied free meat for barbeques, groups of women provided food and created a family atmosphere on weekends when so much labour was undertaken. Some social events were also planned in this period and a makeshift kitchen made it possible to cater for volunteers.  The community continued to support the initiative to build the Veneto Club by attending family fundraising events.

Bricklayers at work at the Club with a young onlooker! Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.
Enjoying a break on site – Sante Piovesan, Rinaldo Stecca, Lino Zenere, i fratelli Stocco, Silvano Girardi, Luigi Soldan. Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.

When Sandra Semola nee Zampin was interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ project in 2017, she remembered that her husband, Arturo, was involved preparing the land for the building and her father enjoyed watching the progress also:

Well, when they bought the land, it was a pug-hole. And you know, they needed someone there, say to “Give me the shovel.” And Dad used to give the shovel. Or, “Can you do this? And that’s what he used to do. Well, he did other things but he enjoyed going over there with the men and doing things. My husband was there – he used to dig swimming pools and the dirt used to go to the dump so instead of putting the dirt in the dump, he used to take it to the Veneto Club to fill in the pug-hole. We used to have tractors and trucks there. And Dad used to go over there and supervise. [laughter]

(Sandra Semola nee Zampin OH 872/44, 27 April 2017, p 27)

Workers take a break on site: Silvano Girardi, Emilio Doz, Edoardo Polli, unknown, Rinaldo Stecca, Sante Piovesan, Eugenio Macente, Bruno Facchin. Photo courtesy, Veneto Club.

The official opening
On 26 May 1974, the community participated in the official opening of the Veneto Club at a ball held in the Club with over 500 guests who celebrated and expressed pride in the achievement.

The Veneto region flag depicting the seven provinces. it-venb

The celebrations honoured the vision of the men who had gathered over time to plan and develop the steps towards the establishment of a community space where veneti and others were welcome. The Veneto Club housed a building of 3,500 square metres which consisted of an office, a large function hall, a bar and kitchen facilities. (Many women volunteered their time to work in the kitchen for several years.) There was parking for 350 cars, soccer grounds, netball and basketball courts, a bocce court with eight lanes and two lanes for borella games. The venue made it possible for the Club to host social, cultural and sporting activities which brought the community together and provided enjoyment for hundreds of Veneto Australians and their children. At last, there was a venue that the Veneto community could call their own!

49th Anniversary – past and present Veneto Club Committee members, June 2023. Phtoo, courtesy Veneto Club.

Anniversary Dinner
The Veneto Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary at a grand event in Adelaide on 25th May 2024. 600 guests will enjoy the opportunity to socialise and remember the establishment of the Club and the vision, hard work and achievement of the first members.

Madeleine Regan
5 May 2024

[1] Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, Australia, Average Weekly Earnings, June Quarter, 172.$File/63020_JUN1972.pdf

4 thoughts on “The Veneto Club – 50 years”

  1. Hello Madeleine, Once again this wonderful article brings back fond memories. As you correctly reported, it was in 1971 that this group of Veneti layed down the foundation idea of creating a Veneto Club in Adelaide. I remember this quite vividly. Looking at the photo of the first committee I can recognize 5 or 6 people that I knew very well. In particular, I see Mario Borghetto and Frank Farina who were the sons in law of my Santoli Antonietta and Aldo Baldan. Mario married Fosca Baldan and Frank married Gabriella Baldan. At that time, they lived in two houses on 18 and 20 Elizabeth Street, Flinders Park. As you may recall, it is precisely in these houses that I lived my two years in Adelaide on my own to finish secondary school. I can remember some of the first get-togethers of Veneti at these homes of Frank and Mario discussing their plans for the Veneto Club. I think I once saw the site that was something like an abandoned dump, and I remember hearing the oppotunity in buying this land at a lower price because of the necessity of reclamation before it could become a building site. But the land reclamation was not a problem as the Veneti volonteers would quickly sort it out with their hard work. As you know I returned to Italy in December 1971, so I was not there for the inauguration. However I have attended lunches and dinners there quite a few times during my visits to Adelaide. I wish all the best for the coming 50th anniversary.
    It is also nice to see that photo of Roberto’s confirmatoion party in our shed. Your excellent Veneti Market Gardeners project has given great meaning and order to memories that otherwise would be lost. Grazie amica mia.

    1. Thank you, Remo. It was great to receive your comments on the blog about the history of the Veneto Club. It is interesting that you remember the discussions about the plans for establishing the Veneto Club in Adelaide through your connections with the Baldan families. I’m pleased that you recognised some of the men in the photos – it must bring back memories. There is a lot of excitement in the community about the 50th anniversary of the Club.

      Thanks again

  2. Good morning Madeleine
    Wow….Back in time…
    So many memories!!
    My late husband Luigi (a Marchegiano)became a member in the very early days after being nominated by Carlo Boin.
    In addition to me being Secretary of the Soccer Sub-Committee, I too was a kitchen volunteer for quite some time.
    I do have the Book of 84 weekends on building of the Club.
    Many thanks and Warm Regards
    Angela Romaldi

    1. Thank you Angela for your feedback. You have a very long association with, and involvement in, the Veneto Club. I can understand that you would have lots of memories because of your different roles in the Club over many years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected, please contact site owner for access