Aug 23, 2022

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When Rosario ‘Ronnie’ Dalli sailed into Melbourne with his 17-year-old wife Rose in 1972, he had two brothers waiting for him with a special gift: a job laying asphalt for the City Engineer’s Department.

Fifty years on, the “gift of my life” – as Ronnie likes to call it – has created a legacy that encompasses three sons, 11 grandchildren, and the respect and gratitude of literally hundreds of Citywide employees.

Today, Ronnie’s half-century was commemorated by colleagues at the Henderson Street depot he supervises, alongside his co-worker and best mate, George Spiteri, who is celebrating his own incredible 55 years with the company open in new window icon. Their story is one of hard work and sacrifice – and a dedication that rarely finds its equal in today’s world of part-time gigs and transient loyalties.

“These days, the majority of people transit through their lives relying on Google Maps, but for George and Ronnie, every street in this city is marked by professional memories and milestones,” says Matt Williams  open in new window icon, who manages Citywide’s Inner Melbourne operations.

“The foundations of our city were laid by people like Ronnie and George – and it’s so special for our company to have people like them with such deep history and strong recollections of the city we all love.”

Bedfords and bassinets

Early in his career at Henderson Street, Ronnie got his truck licence and the old timers remember him coming into the depot with his son Jason in a bassinet in the Bedford, picking up his work schedule, and driving to the crèche to drop Jason off.

Today, at a sprightly 71, Ronnie is still renowned for his punctuality, turning up at 5.30am each morning for a coffee with George and their Maltese colleague, Manny Giordimaina – a “newbie” with just 19 years at Citywide. The “three amigos”, as Ronnie likes to call them, have served 124 years with the company between them.

“Ronnie and George are living legends at Citywide,” says Matt Williams. “They love to share the history of this place, and their memories are so real and so fascinating, it’s hard not to get sucked up into it all. They’re both incredibly decent, hardworking men who represent the very best qualities of a gentleman.”

Ronnie’s influence extends far beyond his workplace, to his extended family in Victoria – and back to his beloved birthplace in Malta.

“Dad’s the most loved uncle in our family back home,” says his second son, Simon. “And when you consider he’s one of 11 siblings and we have nearly 50 first cousins on his side, that’s saying something!

“But seriously, Dad’s very sociable, he’s a big lover of life – and people always congregate around him. During the holidays, there are about seven families who go away together in a massive convoy of caravans. Since COVID, everyone’s bought a caravan – but my parents were ahead of their time when they got theirs!”

A family work ethic

Like Simon, a roof plumber, Ronnie’s other sons are firmly ensconced in trades: Jason running his own maintenance company, and Ashley operating an excavator. “Dad’s always worked hard and taught us a good work ethic,” says Simon. “The work ethic is in the Dalli name.”

Indeed, during his early years in Melbourne, Ronnie would follow up his eight-hour shift at the council with a three-hour cleaning job at Tullamarine. “I was very happy in both jobs,” he says simply.

After working in “hard labour” laying asphalt and bluestone, Ronnie drove a truck and a bobcat, eventually becoming the yardsman at Henderson Street. Although famous for his gentle ways and warm nature, he’s equally renowned for running a watertight operation.

“Everyone loves me because I get along with everyone, you know?” laughs Ronnie. “Henderson Street is a special place – there’s a lot of respect between everyone. Our manager Allyce [Reid] open in new window icon, she’s a beautiful lady, we all have great respect for her; and Joe [Soldatos] is wonderful to work with. Anyone has any issues they can come and tell me and I’ll always try to help them… I’ll never say, ‘that’s not my job’.

“They say I have a spring in my bum because I’m always going – I never stop. I’m not planning to retire while the body is letting me do what I love to do!”

Ronnie’s three brothers, who all worked for the City Engineer’s Department, opted for retirement when the council created Citywide in 1995. But not Ronnie. “I said, ‘I’m on a new ship now, and if it sinks I’ll go with it.’ But thank God, we’re still floating!”

So, the big question – which Ronnie admits he’s fed up being asked – is always: when are you going to retire? “If you take a week off work, you enjoy it so much more than if you’re retired,” he says philosophically.

“When I retire, we’ll take the caravan and we’ll go travelling. But I’m not retiring yet! Sometimes it’s not about the money – it’s about the people and keeping you happy. My work has always kept me very happy.”

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Media Contact:
Simon Mossman - Group Corporate Communications 
M 0427 307 216

(Photos courtesy Ronnie Dalli, City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection)