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Mordialloc Carnival: The First Ten Years

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Boys footrace at Mordialloc Carnival c1930. Courtesy of Mordialloc & District Historical Society.

The Mordialloc Progress Association was responsible for the formation of a local Brass Band and, later, the Progress Association realised the necessity of having a suitable structure for the band to play in, so arranged a conference of representatives of the Association and the Band Committee to consider the matter.

At the Conference it was decided to call a meeting of those interested. This meeting was held at Mordialloc on 9th October, 1923, and the minutes record that “the object of the meeting was to discuss the advisability of taking steps to raise funds for the erection of a Band Rotunda.” It was resolved to run a carnival and aquatic sports to raise the necessary funds.

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Band Rotunda in Scullin Reserve 1998. Courtesy John Madge.

Probably none of those present dreamt that they were laying the foundations of a movement which would be the means of spending £40,000 in Mordialloc in 10 years and of setting an example which has been followed by numerous similar organizations throughout the State.

The First Carnival

Representatives of most of the public and sporting bodies in the town joined in the movement and the first carnival was conducted on A.N.A. Day, 1924, with Mr H. J. C. Phillips as chairman and Mr. C. J. Syle as Hon. Secretary. To their leadership and organising ability was greatly due the success of this original – and probably greatest – Mordialloc Carnival. Arrangements were made with a showman to supply plant and amusements and the committee manned the shows. The net profits amounted to £125/14/8, and the Council of the City of Mordialloc contributed an equal sum.

The desire to have a concrete rotunda and the fellowship which had developed among members of the committee, led to the decision to have a further Carnival to raise the necessary funds for the completion of the rotunda and “for improvements and beautification of the foreshore.”

Second Carnival

The next Carnival was held over the Christmas and New Year Holidays of 1924-25. A small dance palais was erected by the committee and, apart from this, arrangements were made on a similar basis, but on a larger scale, and resulted in gross takings amounting to £2840, with a net profit to the committee of over £1000. Mr. H. J. C. Phillips again acted as President, and Mr. C. J. Syle as Hon. Secretary. This further success led to the establishment of the Mordialloc Christmas Carnival as an annual event.

The imposing concrete Rotunda on the foreshore was erected and a scheme of improvements in the immediate vicinity was drawn up and submitted to the Council. Grading and filling near the Rotunda was also carried out.

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Commemorative stone in Mordialloc Rotunda.

Third Carnival

The Carnival was well established by the 1925-26 season and the enthusiastic helpers numbered nearly 100. Experience had been acquired by members of the committee and in those prosperous times money was spent freely. Under the presidency of the late Mr. Cliff Caudwell, the takings grew to £3592. Again arrangements were made with a showman to provide most of the necessary equipment.

Fourth Carnival

The fourth Carnival was run from Xmas Eve, 1926, to A.N.A. Day, 1927, and again splendid results were achieved, the takings amounting to £3017. Cr. D White was President, and by this time the necessity of having a permanent general secretary was felt, so Mr. W. Atkins was appointed to this position and has been re-elected each year since. The committee was, for the last time, wholly dependent on outside showmen for the major portion of its plant.

The proceeds of the latter two years were used in the construction of the boulevard and sea wall, from the Pier towards the Baths, and this was officially opened by the Mayoress (Mrs J. T. Denyer) on 19th June, 1927. The shore side of the boulevard was planted in lawns.

Fifth Carnival

Before the next season the committee purchased a large amusement device, known as the Whizzy-Whirl, and erected the commodious Dodge-‘em Palais. This plant was acquired with the object of earning greater proportions of the takings for the committee and of giving greater independence in dealing with showmen.

The Carnival was conducted from Xmas Eve, 1927, to Easter 1928, and resulted in the splendid total takings of £4803, out of which a net profit of £2270 was made. Cr. E. Brine was president and had a committee which manned over 30 separate sideshows. The boulevard was completed as far as the Baths.

Following on the improved results from owning its plant the committee decided to add to its assets and before the next carnival it purchased an elaborate merry-go-round.

Sixth Carnival

Cr. E Brine was again president for the sixth Carnival during the 1928-29 season, when the committee terminated its activities on A.N.A. Day with takings of £3448, and then lent the plant to the Mordialloc Boat Club, which carried on until Easter and devoted the proceeds to works at the Creek. This arrangement has been continued from year to year. The profits of the 1928-29 carnival were used in the construction of the pathway, and fences along the road leading from beach road to the Pier.

By this time the activities of the general committee, its sub-committees and the trustees were becoming very extensive and interwoven, so a constitution was drawn up to define the duties and powers of each section and its officers. This task was undertaken by Messrs. E. L. McLean and R. R. Nicholson and Dr. R. M. Shaw, and the constitution has proved a great help in the conduct of the business of subsequent committees.

Seventh Carnival

Despite the financial stringency the committee of 1929-30, under the presidency of Mr. H. J. C. Phillips, built a larger jazz palais, as the old building had been found inadequate to accommodate the patrons of the previous year. A successful season was again experienced and the benefit of the assets more greatly appreciated. A profit of £2333 out of takings of £4319, resulted, and the sheet-piling of the creek bank, from the Pier to the Bridge, was carried out. The Creek was also dredged to a uniform depth, making it a more popular harbor for fishing boats and pleasure craft.

Eighth Carnival

The necessity of suitably housing the merry-go-round was realised and undertaken before the opening of the 1930-31 Carnival, when Cr. D. White was again elected president. The committee now numbered well over 100 active voluntary workers, who added another success by raising £3922. The net profits were £1784.

A valuable area of land between the Pier road and the creek was reclaimed and several attractive concrete shelter sheds erected near the Band Rotunda.

Ninth Carnival

As the committee had a considerable amount of plant it refrained from launching out in any large building scheme or purchase of plant, with the result that the 1931-32 season, under Mr. W. Green as President, took the gross amount of £3296, and had a net profit of £1513. The new works included the construction of a concrete pathway with seating and lighting from the Bridge along the Carnival grounds, a further pathway across the reserve near the tennis courts, and part of the sheet-piling of the island in the creek.

The works had by this time become extensive and covered a much greater area than was originally anticipated. So that there would not be any overlapping by the Carnival Committee, the Council and the Government Departments, a scheme of beautification and improvements, covering the whole area of the foreshore and creek bank, was prepared. This was submitted to and approved by the Council so, in future, all works in the area will form part of this scheme and each section will be a step forward the objective of the complete improvements.

Tenth Carnival

A fine new office with a room for members of the committee, was constructed by the tenth Carnival of 1932-33 and arrangements were made to purchase the Dodge-‘em cars. Mr. R. N. Hogg was the President. The return to general prosperity was felt in the improved takings, which amounted to £3709.

The committee undertook a further section of sheet-piling on the south bank of the creek, put down a grass running track for the use of picnics, levelled and graded the large parking area and the playground, and made provision for the extensive planting of trees and hedges.

The committee for 1933-34 has prepared a splendid array of attractions for the coming season, under the presidency of Mr. A. W. Hill and with the definite return to better times it looks forward to adding still another success to its already remarkable achievement.

Each year the committee has provided the necessary funds for maintenance of its plant and the works which it has carried out. This has resulted in all the improvements being kept in first-class order without any liability on the Council or ratepayers.

The committee’s wisdom and business ability is further displayed by the fact that to provide for any unexpected exigency it has built up a reserve fund, which now totals close to £1000. The assets are handed over to and controlled by trustees, who have also rendered splendid service.

One of the most pleasing features is the sustained spirit of good fellowship and civic pride displayed by the committee, which has now been working for 10 years without any serious hitch or unpleasantness.

Close co-operation with the Council has permitted the improvements to be carried out to the satisfaction of both bodies, and great assistance has been rendered by Government departments. The committee has been considerably helped by the support it has received form all councillors and from Hon. F. Groves, M.L.A.

Mordialloc has set itself out to create the most attractive seaside resort and to provide the best possible facilities for visitors. That it has found public favor is shown by the huge number of visitors that are attracted each year. On last New Year’s Day, over 70,000 people were at Mordialloc’s popular beach. Year by year increasing numbers of picnics come by rail and road. The publicity given to the Carnival has made the district well k known throughout Victoria and its fame is spreading far beyond the limits of this State.

Apart from seeing the Mordialloc foreshore vastly improved, the committee ha the satisfaction of seeing its example followed by numerous similar bodies in other districts.

From a small beginning remarkable results have already been achieved. The Mordialloc Carnival Committee still goes on!

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Committee of the Mordialloc Carnival c1940. Courtesy of Mordialloc & District Historical Society.


  1. First printed in Souvenir: Official Opening of the New City Hall, Mentone, 1934.

Article Cat. Did You Know?
Article Ref. 197

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