By David Schout
On meeting John Dall’Amico at the Kelvin Club, one thing becomes immediately clear when chatting in the club’s cosy surrounds; he’s very involved.
“I’m a glutton for committees,” he laughs. And he’s not lying.
Mr Dall’Amico is a past president of the private members’ club, along with being the current president of CBD group Residents 3000 and supporters coterie The Lion Hunters.
A proud advocate of Melbourne, it’s hard to not conclude that Mr Dall’Amico’s mark on the city is a positive one.
“I guess I enjoy the aspects of creating a sense of unity and bringing people together. Connecting the dots, especially in the city,” he said.
Reflecting on becoming a member at the Kelvin Club – in Melbourne Place off Russell St – some years ago, the opportunity to mix with other CBD inhabitants became a drawcard.
The club previously had many members from all over Melbourne, some who worked in the city but lived in the suburbs.
This changed as those workers retired, and visiting the club became slightly less convenient.
A shift has since occurred in recent years: “The residents have infiltrated,” Mr Dall’Amico said with a smile.
“It’s gone from being a club with members all over Melbourne, to being more of a family. That’s come about by having more residents here.”
He says the club’s other significant appeal came in being a space for both men and women, something that can’t be said of some other CBD-based member clubs.
The club voted to allow women members in 1995, but when Mr Dall’Amico became president in 2014 he felt they needed to go further.
“We still weren’t really pushing women to be on the committee,” he said.
The “many successful women in the city” remained “under-represented” at the club, according to Mr Dall’Amico.
After he become president, three women were nominated and elected onto the committee, something he remains proud of.
The club’s current vice-president Professor Su Baker – featured in last month’s CBD News after being awarded an AM in the general Order of Australia – is now widely tipped to next month become the club’s first ever female president in its 153-year history.
“It’s got the endorsement of so many people”, he said.
The positivity he adopts at the Kelvin Club is matched by the manner in which he presides over Residents 3000, a group he has been involved with for the past decade.
Looking back on his time with the group – with has grown from single-figures to 50-plus – Mr Dall’Amico was initially careful not to adopt a default negative stance on the city, as other resident groups may do within their municipalities.
He reiterated that this wasn’t to ignore the city’s flaws, rather to foster a strong group culture and constructive relationships with key bodies.
“We’ve gone from initially being critical to being more objective about things,” he explained.
“If you don’t start with a positive foundation then to me, everything will collapse. You can’t build on negativity. It creates anger, hatred and people become despondent.”
He relayed an anecdote about meeting with several City of Melbourne employees some time ago, where he recalled a sense of staff apprehension about the impending get-together.
So, he decided to break the ice early.
“’It’s pretty simple why I’m here,'” he said at the time. “’I’m here to see how I can help you’. That just changed the whole mood.”
“It was about laying a positive foundation. I could’ve gone in and said ‘look there’s a lot of problems. There’s issues with this, problems with that’. And they’d say ‘well, we know all that’.”
Experience tells Mr Dall’Amico these amiable relationships achieve far more.
“There’ll always be differences in opinions, but I always say leave your ego at the door and we’ll work through it rather than shouting and screaming, and we’ll all be on the same page.”
A guiding philosophy in his involvement with both Residents 3000 and the Kelvin Club is community and lending a hand when he can.
“There’s always an opportunity for helping others, and you don’t know when that’s going to come. You don’t go looking for it. But there’s a knock on the door or a tap on the shoulder, and you go for it.”
By David Schout