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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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del Piano, James Andrew (Jim) (1916–1981)

by Mathew Trinca

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

James Andrew (Jim) del Piano (1916-1981), businessman and community leader, was born on 17 November 1916 at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, younger child of Italian-born parents Giovanni (`Jack’) del Piano, labourer, and his wife Maria, née Fazzina. He was named Giacomo, but was later known as James Andrew. Educated at primary schools at Widgiemooltha and Kalgoorlie, Jim completed his secondary education in Italy after his family moved to Castello dell’Acqua, Valtellina, in 1930. He worked as a clerk in Italy before returning to Australia with his widowed mother in 1935. Next year he enrolled in engineering at the University of Western Australia. Failing to complete his course, in 1940 he joined the works and services branch of the Commonwealth Department of Interior as an engineering draftsman. On 27 March 1942 he was interned, on equivocal evidence, because of alleged fascist sympathies; after spending time in Fremantle Prison, in Parkeston (Kalgoorlie) and Harvey camps, and at Loveday, South Australia, he was released on 6 January 1944.

Back in Perth, in 1946 del Piano established an immigration and shipping agency, representing Lloyd Triestino, and a real-estate business. His interests were to diversify in the 1960s into timber-milling and finance. On 11 September 1948 at St Brigid’s Catholic Church, West Perth, he married Armida Nizzola, an Italian-born schoolteacher. Committed to aiding and supporting Italian migrants, he was president (1947-65) of the Western Australian Italian Club, formerly La Casa D’Italia. During his tenure he saw the membership increase from just fifty to more than three thousand. He served on the executive of several other organisations, notably as president of the Azzurri Soccer Club (1950-52, 1956-57) and of the Italian Australian Businessmen’s Association (1967-69), and as vice-president (1969-72) of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He also helped to establish a kindergarten at North Perth and an aged-care centre and hospital for Italian migrants in Wanneroo Shire. Although he was assertively Australian, he remained proud of his Italian heritage and advocated policies of integration rather than assimilation. He was awarded the Italian Star of Solidarity, second class (1955), and appointed officer (1969) and commander (1978) of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

As well as his work for Italian migrants, del Piano had a remarkable record of service to the community at large. Made a justice of the peace in 1963, he sat (1967-77) on the Perth City Council and was deputy-mayor in 1974-75. He was inaugural deputy-chairman (1970-75) and chairman (1975-81) of the Keep Australia Beautiful Council (Western Australia); he was also vice-chairman (1975-77) of the organisation’s national body. In 1979 he was appointed OBE. Survived by his wife and their son, he died of cancer on 13 July 1981 at Subiaco and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Keep Australia Beautiful Council (Western Australia), Annual Report, 1981-82, p 3
  • Daily News (Perth), 8 Aug 1967, p 12
  • West Australian, 15 July 1981, p 13
  • Western Australia Italian Club, Bulletin, Sept 1981, p 38
  • series A367, item C79928, series A463, item 1964/2410, series MP1103/1, item W15213, and series A1838, item 1535/18/46 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mathew Trinca, 'del Piano, James Andrew (Jim) (1916–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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