Acknowledgement is made for the enormous research carried out by Jenny Keast for her publication "Valley of Solitude" from which information has been used in this family history.

Tony Mazzardis was named after his Grandfather, who lived at Codogne, Province of Treviso. Antonio Mazzardis senior was a policeman in the south of Italy and also at Messina, Sicily. For six months he was a royal guard in Rome. On inheriting the family farm, he left the police force and married Regina Codognetto at Codogne. The only way to obtain land in those days was by inheritance as there was rarely any for sale and the cost would have been beyond the pocket of most people. Times were very hard around the turn of the century and as the family grew to six daughters and a son things became grim.

In 1901, Antonio decided to try Argentine, as so many were at that time, hoping to make some many. He worked on the huge cattle ranches but found life in the Argentine to be lawless and disorderly, so he returned to Italy and continued to farm his land.

The family had a very hard time during World War 1. They were very close to the front. The river Piave was close to Codogne and there were many battles before the allies were able to halt the German and Austrian advance. Antonio was a very upright and orderly man who, even in wartime, would not commit a dishonest act and could not bring himself to harm anyone or steal the things his family needed to survive. Although the Austrian and German troops were often worse off than the civilian population Vincent, Antonio’s son, did not mind in the least if he stole their food in order to feed the family. As the stormtroopers came into Italy they destroyed a lot of food. As in most agricultural areas, the farmers stored food and wine in the cellars. The troops would raid the cellars, drink the wine and when drunk, upended the barrels, drowning the cellar and spoiling the food. However, the family survived and Vincent found work.

When he was about sixteen years old, Vincent decided to emigrate to the U.S.A. He was sponsored by his Uncle, Joseph Vazzoller, the husband of his father’s oldest sister, Angelina, who had been in the U.S.A. for some time. However, his uncle had made what he felt was enough money and returned to Italy before Vincent could leave. Vincent then had to find a trade and so became apprenticed to Luigi Altinier, as a wheelwright and carpenter. It was here that he met his future wife, Genoeffa Altinier.

Vincent worked for Luigi for a few years and then, in 1921, in order to make more money, he took work as a carpenter on the French-German border in Alsace-Lorraine. He managed to save enough money to marry Genoeffa, buy a piece of land and have enough set aside to allow him to travel to Australia in 1926.

Tony, their eldest son, was about a year old when Vincent left the farm in the care of Genoeffa and his father, Antonio. Tony Mazzardis can remember the farm as being planted in the traditional way. First there were rows of mulberry trees, these were grown to provide leaves for the silkworms. Silk was an important industry in the area and farmers sold the silk cocoons to the factory by the kilo. The trees were underplanted with vines or maize or wheat. Lucerne was grown and stored in the barns for winter feed for cattle. The wheat was threshed by a traveling steam driven thresher that set up business in the village square. When flour was needed by the family, wheat was taken to the mill to be ground. Most farmers made wine and any excess was sold. Many families owned a cow to produce milk and cheese. Antonio also had a donkey to pull his cart. The ploughing was done mainly by contractors using bullock teams, mechanical tractors were not used until very much later.

When Vincent arrived in Western Australia in 1926, his first job was in the south-west of the State, cutting timber for sleepers, but as he was a carpenter by trade he soon found work with the group settlement scheme at Greenbushes. As the depression crept nearer, 1928-29, jobs became scarce and only union members were being employed at the settlement. Vincent had not been in Australia long enough to be naturalised so was unable to join a union and this cost him his job and he returned to Perth.

Many Italians were growing vegetables in the swampy land around the lakes at Osborne Park and Vincent found work with Peter Formiatti who grew vegetables and tomatoes and also had a large poultry shed. Formiatti also owned land at Wanneroo where he grew tomatoes. Irrigation was just beginning to be used in Western Australia and it allowed vegetables to be grown on the sandy areas. Until then all vegetables were grown in the swampy ground and planting depended on the rise and fall of the water table. Formiatti grew his tomatoes at Sun Valley, near Lake Gnangara. After working for a while Vinvent decided to take these methods back to Italy and try to make his land more productive. He hoped to grow enough to sell in the nearby cities. When he returned to Italy he found Fascism to be very strong. He could see turmoil in the future so he decided to return to Australia, taking the family with him. The Mazzardis family had always lived a strict traditional life and had no wish to be involved with any political ideology, in fact, Tony can recall his mother going to his school and telling the headmaster that as the family were going to Australia she did not wish her son to be indoctrinated into Mussolini’s Youth or the Fascist Party. It took great courage to speak out in such a manner, especially as she was such a quiet person.

When Vincent was ready to travel, Genoeffa developed a non-malignant tumour and became too ill to travel. Her illness highlighted the social injustice of the time as treatment was not forthcoming without prior payment. Luckily, between them, Vincent and Antonio were unable to pay for her medical treatment. Vincent arrived back in Western Australia, alone, in 1930 and returned to work for Formiatti. He helped build poultry sheds for the expanding egg export market.

As the new irrigation systems were becoming more generally used, new land was being opened up at Wanneroo and Vincent moved to Gnangara Road, on leased land, to grow vegetables. Gnangara Road was, then, only about a mile long, from Wanneroo to the lake area and was made of convict cut jarrah blocks. Most transport was by horse and cart but motorised vehicle brave enough to try the roads would only travel in the direction of the deep wheel ruts.


Tony and his mother, Genoeffa, joined Vincent at Wanneroo in 1932. Tony began school at Wanneroo in the company of the leach children who lived nearby. The Leach family were a great help to the Mazzardis family when they arrived and all through the depression. Tony says he became terribly confused at school. He was the only Italian from the north of the country, the others coming from the south. He found it much easier to understand English than the southern dialect and he was scared stiff of the southerners.

Tony had grown up mainly in the company of his grandfather, Antonio, who had told him some scary tales, probably much exaggerated, about his time in the south as a policeman. That he had been able to survive the twelve years he had spent there was thought to be a great achievement. Many times the “writing was on the wall” that “policeman’s flesh would be cheap next week!” His overcoat was punctured by knives many times but that was as close as they could get. Having heard all the tales Tony was worried at first but soon made friends with the “ruffians”. Later, when he went to school at Pickering Brook, he was again confused. His teacher was very “pro British” and impressed upon the class the importance of Britian in world affairs and showed Britian’s vast colonial holdings on the map, marked in red. In Italy he had been told the same story only then it was the importance of Italy and the powers of Mussolini.

Tony soon settled into school life and had several escapades involving dynamite – he set a charge, large enough to blow up half of Pickering Brook, under a tree stump and huge pieces of tree were scattered over the school yard, one piece going through the wall of the schoolroom. Almost as dangerous as the time he and Syd Russell tried parachuting off the school roof with umbrellas.

When he lived in Wanneroo, Tony remembers the arrival of an English migrant family. They lived near him on the Gnangara Road. He felt extremely sorry for the two boys who had to walk through the scrub, to catch the school bus, dressed in collar, tie, shoes and socks. The poor boys had to sit down several times on the way home to recover from the heat. The school bus that picked the children up from the corner of Wanneroo Road and Gnangara Road was not much more than a truck and was very uncomfortable. The Wanneroo Road was just being paved at the time, 1933, the wooden blocks were being ripped up and limestone and bitumen laid.

Vincent and his newly arrived brother-in-law Tony Altinier, joined forces to lease a piece of land in Pinjar Road, near the lake, from Antonio Crisafulli, where they grew tomatoes. Both Vincent and Tony Altinier had gained experience of tomato growing in the loam at Osborne Park. It was very hard work in the gardens on loam as it was heavy to turn, especially in winter. There was very little mechanical help so everything had to be done by hand. The men treasured their English steel spades, the only ones that would cut through the soil.

Vincent and Tony Altinier continued in partnership for a while and saved to buy their own land. When they took produce to market they met Italians who had settled in other areas. One such Italian was Primo Urbinatti who was establishing an orchard at Pickering Brook. This was of great interest to Vincent who, after visiting the area, decided to buy land and become an orchardist. Vincent and Tony Altinier bought adjoining blocks on Bracken Road, Pickering Brook. The blocks had originally been owned by a returned soldier who had wanted to start a dairy farm but when it became obvious that it was not a viable proposition he had walked off the land. Tony and Vincent bought the blocks, in 1933, from the Agricultural Bank at a very reasonable interest rate. The block had returned to scrub when Vincent bought it and had to be cleared again, by hand or by horse power. Later, a lot of very hard pulling was done by an English steam driven engine owned by Archie Anderson. The family grew vegetables until the orchard was established. As fruit growing was relatively new to the area a lot of problems had to be overcome, especially with pests, soil types and so on. As knowledge was gained, either by the Department of Agriculture or by the orchardists, it was passed on and the area became viable for fruit growing.

Tony Mazzardis says that not all who bought land made a success of it, whether they were Italian or Australian made no difference. Some were just not cut out to be on the land. This was shown by the number of returned soldiers who had walked off their land, regardless of the money problems they may have had. The Italians who came to work in horticulture already knew many facets of the jobs, they may not have been able to read or write but give them a pair of secateurs and they knew what to do. Many Italian women could hardly write their name but they were marvelous cooks and some could weave and spin. They knew the basic truth that what you get from life depends on what you put into it.

Following the Second World War the family grew and the orchard prospered. Tony wishes to acknowledge the Australians who have given help and support to his family and other Italians, people such as the Owens, the Prices of Illawarra and so many others. The country has a great debt to pay to the early settlers who left everything to come here. Their sacrifice was greater than any migrant has known since. Even the settlers who did not leave their names in the history books made a contribution by just staying here.

Vincent Mazzardis died in 1975 and his wife, Genoeffa, in 1985. The property is now run by Tony, Louis, Morris and Angela.

Family Information

Antonio Mazzardis married Regina Codognetto.
Children; Angelina, Rachel, Regina, Vincent.

Luigi Altinier married Angela Bazzo.
Children; Giovanni Batista, Genoeffa, Pietro, Dora, Robert, Antonio.

Vincent Mazzardis married Genoeffa Altinier.
Children; Tony, Lois, Regina (Queenie), Vincent, Morris, Angela.

Vincent’s sisters, Rachel and Regina, came to Western Australia with Antonio and Regina in 1938. Regina died on board ship and is buried in Abbysinia.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

References:                 Article:      Valley of Solitude by Jenny Keast

                                        Image:     1      Jenny Keast