The prosperous 1950’s with the construction of the Morwell Power Station, Briquette Works and other major, large industrial projects attracted many migrants in search of jobs to the Latrobe Valley.
Apart from British, the greatest numbers of these were Italians. The majority were either single men or men with families who came out alone first with the objective of saving enough to bring the rest of their family to Australia.
Even when the construction jobs dwindled, many of these men decided that the Latrobe Valley was a good place in which to settle and raise a family. Due to language barriers, social integration with mainstream Australians was often difficult, so for social purposes they tended to stay with fellow Italians.
Early in 1960, a small group of Italians and Australians, led by Luigi Sola of Traralgon, saw the necessity of establishing an association principally to cater for the social and cultural needs of the growing Italian population of the area, as well as helping the integration process with the community at large.
A number of meetings were held, ideas were shared and eventually a team of trustees came together and the way was paved towards the foundation of an Italian Social Club.
The trustees were: Luigi Sola, James Kennedy, Frank Bonacci, Rino Frescura, Kel O’Mullane, Peter Meneghetti, Salvatore Agostino & Keith Gripps from Traralgon; and Larry Marello & Mario Marino from Morwell. History will recognise these men as the official founders of the club.
That year was a year of great commitment. There were many problems to be resolved, many ideas to be shared, many dreams to be realised and many objectives to be met.
As a result of the work of the trustees and steering committee, the first ever assembly of the Italian community of the Latrobe Valley was held on the 4th November, 1960 at the Morwell RSL Hall.
Records of the meeting show that 400 Italians and other interested people attended. The meeting was chaired by Armando Pistrin of Morwell. Amongst the dignitaries present were the Italian Consul General for Victoria & Tasmania, Dr. Carrarra-Arcagno and the then leader of the Country Party, Sir Herbert Hyland. It was there that the motion of forming an Italian Australian Social Club (the word “Sporting” was added later) was passed and thus the club was born.
The inauguration, the adoption of a constitution and the election of the officials didn’t occur until the following year, 1961. Luigi Sola who had inspired the establishment of the club was elected first President.
Although the idea of the Club was conceived in Traralgon, it made sense to set up headquarters in Morwell. This was due to the geographically more central location and the fact that there were more Italians in Morwell.
The land on the Princes Highway was purchased in 1962 and a shed, which previously housed SEC workers, was purchased and transported to the site as the first club house. In order to raise funds to purchase the land, members bought debentures at five pounds each. According to the records, the first debenture was purchased by Giovanni Bau of Traralgon.
The Club grew rapidly as a social and sporting facility and almost from the outset a Soccer team was formed and entered in the Latrobe Valley Soccer League. The team was initially called IASSCOG, an acronym that stood for the official name of the club. Two years later the name was changed to “Falcons”, but still operated under the auspices of the new Italian Australian Club. As that side of the club also grew rapidly, it was necessary to form a committee solely to look after the soccer side, but still working as one club. Eventually the Falcons became an identity of its own and several years later formed its own independent club with both organizations working harmoniously together as “Sister” clubs.
The Club today is all that its founders dreamed it to be, a multi purpose social, sporting & cultural complex, catering for everyone. Although Italians basically founded it for their own needs, the Club today epitomises Australia’s multiculturalism. It has embraced all members of the community and its membership truly represents Australia’s cultural diversity.