Doltone House founder honoured for contribution to multicultural society

The founder of the Doltone House group of function centres has been inducted into the Multicultural Honour Roll in NSW.

Biaggio Signorelli, who died 10 years ago, was honoured at the Premier’s Harmony Day for his contribution to Australia’s multicultural society.

More than 1000 guests joined Premier Gladys Berejiklian for the annual dinner on Harmony Day.

Mr Signorelli was 19 when he arrived in Sydney in 1954 with only a suitcase from a small Sicilian town. 

His first job was unloading fruit and vegetables at the Darling Harbour docks and he then worked in a fruit shop at Willoughby before buying a greengrocer business at Lakemba in 1962.

During the 1970s, Mr Signorelli delivered fruit to  the Blakehurst home of Jim Fleming, from the Flemings supermarket family, who developed the Jewel Food Stores chain. 

Mr Fleming encouraged Mr Signorelli to start a business locally, which led in 1988 to him opening Mother Nature’s Fruit World a complex of eight food shops on the corner of Princes Highway and James Street, Blakehurst.

While it was successful, Mr Signorelli foresaw that food retail would be taken over by the supermarket giants, and told his son Paul the future lay in hospitality.

In 1993, Mr Signorelle sold the business and, with Paul, bought Doltone House at Sylvania Waters in 1994.

Doltone House had been built in 1969 by Dolly and Tony Stubbs, who were retiring after 25 years.

The Signorelli family enjoyed success with Doltone House and soon expanded by opening further function centres at Jones Bay Wharf and Darling Island Wharf, Pyrmont.

Today, there are six venues in the group, with another due to open in 18 months at the derelict Deepwater Motor Boat Club site on the Georges River at Panania.

Biaggio Signorelli and his wife Filippa (Fina) made their home in Blakehurst, where she still lives, as do the couple’s children, Paul, Anna and Nina and their families.

Paul Signorelli, the group executive chairman, said the “catalyst” for the honour bestowed on their father was his support for about 300 charities, medical projects and  large and small community groups.

”Dad passed his values on to his children and, today, we continue that support at the same level,” he said.

The family also established the Biaggio Signorelli Asbestos Foundation, which aims to increase awareness about the dangers of asbestos, early detection and ultimately help to find a cure for mesothelioma. 

Mr Signorelli died in 2008 at 70 from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related, cancer, which he contracted in his early years in Australia while working a second job at night in a factory making transformers for TV sets.

Copper coils in the sets were lined with asbestos to reduce heat.

Paul Signorelli said, a tenth anniversary tribute dinner to his father, which Ms Berejiklian would attend, would be held in May with the aim of raising $1 million for the foundation.

He said the family was extremely proud of the honour given to his father, but it was not something that was just relevant to the past.

“We are not a family that seeks accolades,” he said. “It’s a statement to the next generation to be good, to be caring and help others.”

In 2010, a bronze statue titled Life from a Suitcase was unveiled by then Governor Dame Marie Bashir in Mr Signorelli’s honour at Jones Bay Wharf, where he first set foot in Australia.