Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Luisini, Ezio (1891–1964)

by E. Burrows and A. Strano

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Ezio Luisini (1891-1964), shopkeeper and winemaker, was born on 14 February 1891 at Ferentillo, Umbria, Italy, only child of Tobia Luisini, share-farmer, and his wife Arduina, née Rosati (d.1906), a domestic servant. Tobia emigrated to Western Australia in 1895. Ezio attended school at Ferentillo until grade five. In 1909 he joined his father, clearing bushland in the State's south-west. They worked together for a sawmill at Worsley before Ezio set up as a sub-contractor with his own team of workers. Fearing that he would be forced to enlist in the Australian or Italian armies, he hid in the outback, possibly near New Norcia, until World War I had ended. In 1918 he took a job with the State Saw Mill, Manjimup.

Following several attempts, dating from 1913, Luisini was naturalized in 1920. At St Patrick's Catholic Church, Fremantle, on 7 September 1921 he married a 17-year-old Italian, Antonietta Fanesi (d.1931); their only child, a daughter, was stillborn in 1922. Soon after, Luisini bought a wine saloon, with living quarters upstairs, at 215 William Street, Perth; the area came to be known as 'Little Italy' and he lived there for the rest of his life.

Luisini's business acumen helped him to assist Italian immigrants, especially those who had recently arrived: he answered their questions, gave them advice and offered favourable credit. He extended his premises next door, opened a mercery and stocked a wide range of goods, including equipment for rural work. In 1924 he bought 100 acres (40 ha) near Wanneroo, 12 miles (20 km) north-west of Perth. Four years later his pioneering vineyard paid dividends. On 29 January 1936 at St Brigid's Catholic Church, West Perth, he married 32-year-old Carmela ('Lina') Strano, a Calabrian; it was an 'arranged marriage' and they were to have no children. During World War II Luisini was interned at Kalgoorlie in April 1942 on the ground that he held fascist sympathies; he denied the allegation and was released in September. He eventually acquired more land and established a second vineyard which was flourishing by 1958. The Wanneroo council was to name a park after him.

'Mr Luisini', as he was known, was courteous and kindly. Sturdily built, intelligent and humorous, he was warm-hearted to children and those in genuine need, but was not easily duped. He avoided conspicuous spending, preferring shabby, comfortable clothes and a simple way of life. Labouring in his vineyards was his weekend recreation. His humility, frugality, simplicity and loyalty endeared him to members of the Italian community. Politicians valued his opinion. He gave large sums of money, anonymously, to worthy causes.

An obsession with making money was rooted in Luisini's childhood poverty. Although he was a self-made man, he was often sad, the deaths of his mother and first wife having deprived him of the love he sorely wanted. Survived by his wife, he died on 7 May 1964 at Subiaco and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. He bequeathed most of his estate, sworn for probate at £233,905, to two nephews of his first wife and left Carmela £35 a week for her maintenance; in 1965 she successfully challenged the terms of the will, and was awarded £10,000 as well as £50 maintenance per week. She outlived her husband by twenty-one years.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Strano, Luck Without Joy (Perth, 1986)
  • D. Gava, Italian Immigrants in Osborne-Wanneroo 1900-1950 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1978)
  • Wanneroo Times, 14, 16 Aug 1989, 22 Nov 1993
  • naturalisation file A435/1 item 45/4/5758, and internment file A367/1 item C26084 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

E. Burrows and A. Strano, 'Luisini, Ezio (1891–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/luisini-ezio-10869/text19293, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 February 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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