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Beyond the Rolling Wave. A Thematic History of Greek Settlement in New South Wales.

Author: Craig Turnbull and Chris Valiotis
When Published: 2001
Publisher: UNSW
Available: As PDF file
Description:Valuable Research Paper



Professor Ian Tyrrell, 2001

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Appendix and Bibliography, Beyond the Rolling Wave


Acknowledgements i
List of Tables and Figures iii
Introduction 1
Townships 1
Convicts 5
Pastoralism 8
Mining 10
Migration 11
Commerce 18
Labour 23
Religion 25
Education 30
Social Institutions 33
Welfare 35
Leisure 36
Sport 37
Communication 39
Events 41
Conclusion 42
Endnotes 44
Appendix I
Bibliography and guide to future research 50

An indicative list of items demonstrating selected themes 57

Recommendations for the identification and
assessment of potential heritage items 62

This project could not have been completed without the help of many people who kindly donated their time for interviews, editing, and providing leads for research.

A number of people at the University of New South Wales were very helpful. Professor Ian Tyrrell, Head of the School of History and Director of the *Centre for Community History (*tragically now, (2004), abandoned [GCP]), offered good advice on research strategies, and oversaw completion of the final draft. A multitude of contacts within the Greek community were provided by Paul Nicolaou, Director of Public Affairs and Development. Paul also coordinated the initial promotion of the project, and has supported it generously in time and in helping to raise money. The School of History’s Nicholas Doumanis read the final draft and clarified some important sections of the history. Maria Varvaressos, lecturer in the School of Education supported the project by providing reliable information on education and the history of Greek schooling in Australia, and Nina Mistilis, senior lecturer in the School of Marketing kindly allowed us to read the manuscript of her contribution to the 2001 encyclopedia of the Australian people edited by James Jupp.

The indefatigable Hugh Gilchrist generously shared his vast knowledge of Greek-Australian history, and donated a number of photographs from his personal collection. Photographs were also provided by Randwick Councillor John Procopiadis.

Other research support was offered by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, where Dimitri Kepreotes suggested a number of leads during an interview and granted
access to the Archdiocese’s library at edfern. Anna Ioannidis of the Hellenic Historical and Cultural Centre at Lakemba provided useful research material, as did Alex Catharios of SBS radio’s Greek language and programming unit. Thanks also to the NSW Order of AHEPA, the Greek Education Association of NSW, the Pan Pontian United Association of NSW, the Symian Association of NSW, the Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of the Illawarra Community, the Greek Community of Albury Wodonga and District, the Greek Community of Newcastle, the Greek Welfare Centre, the Greek RSL Sub-branch, Sydney, and the Hellenic Advancement Council, all of whom responded to our community history questionnaire.

The staff at the New South Wales Heritage Office also lent their support to the project. Murray Brown provided enthusiastic aid and helpful material on the research and writing of heritage history, while Bruce Baskerville revised drafts and offered helpful feedback.
Additional comment on the content of the manuscript was kindly offered by Joan Messaris, George Messaris, and Angelo Hatsatouris. The manuscript was greatly improved by the editorial skills of Joan in particular.
Finally, Michael Diamond very generously gave advice and information on the position of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its history.

The following story represents only a partial account of Greek settlement in New South Wales. It essentially provides an introduction to the history of Greek settlement, and in this sense remains a ‘work in progress’. We would welcome any additional information or stories offered by readers for inclusion in future versions.


The experience of Greek-Australians is an integral part of the history of New South Wales. Since first arriving in the late 1810s, Greeks have made significant contributions to the cultural diversity and prosperity of New South Wales. Today, descendants of the earliest arrivals, immigrants, and their Australian-born children inhabit vital communities throughout the state, the inheritors of a vigorous Greek culture secured through the determined efforts of their forebears.

Greek culture survived in colonial New South Wales despite the many obstacles encountered by the first immigrants, some of whom, for example, felt compelled to anglicise their names to deflect the xenophobic hostility of numerically dominant Anglo settlers.

A number of themes are central to the history of Greek settlement in New South Wales, particularly religion, migration, commerce, education, and the formation of a diverse array of social institutions.

Focussing upon these and other themes, the following story provides an outline of Greek history in New South Wales from the late 1810's to the present, including specific references to sites, places, landscapes, and objects that reflect this history.

Craig Turnbull and Chris Valiotis


In recent times Greek-Australians are known for inhabiting urban areas around the country’s principal metropolitan centres, including Sydney, where they initially gathered in certain inner-city neighbourhoods. As early as the late 1910s a Greek-Australian presence was recorded in an extensive number of Sydney communities, with Redfern, Newtown, Paddington, Balmain, and Manly all having significant collections of Greeks. Other ‘suburbs’ with a slight Greek presence at this early stage were Double Bay,Woollahra, Waverly, Coogee, Kensington, Long Bay, Campsie, North Sydney, Mosman, Annandale, Petersham, Parramatta, Kogarah, Gladesville, and Hornsby.

In the immediate post-World War Two period, Greek-Australians continued settling in Marrickville, Enmore, Newtown and Redfern, where both men and women worked in nearby industries. Soon after, many members of the first and second generations moved to the ‘middling suburbs’ of Dulwich Hill, Canterbury and Botany, while subsequent migrations have witnessed further movement of Greek- Australians into ‘second settlement’ areas, including Randwick, Maroubra, Rockdale, Sutherland, and Hurstville.

Information collected during the 1996 Federal Census showed the five Local Government Areas of New South Wales with the heaviest concentration of ‘Greece-born’ to be Canterbury, Marrickville, Rockdale, Botany, and Kogarah (Table 1).


Local Government Area (LGA) % Greece-born in LGA Population
Total Number of Greeceborn
in LGA Population

Canterbury 5.3 6,947
Marrickville 5.0 3,771
Rockdale 4.2 3,578
Botany 3.6 1,242
Kogarah 3.1 1,478

The gradual migration from inner-city working class areas to outer suburbs began in the 1970s, and has resulted in many Greek-Australians being absorbed into the ‘anonymity of suburbia’.

One historian of Greek-Australians wryly noted how the formation of new ethnic neighbourhoods had been supplanted by a symbolic ethnicity, expressed through ‘painting the facades of their homes white and adorning their balconies with classical-style columns’. Those who remained in older communities, such as Marrickville, continued to exert an influence on the local community while developing cordial relations with new arrivals. For example, a Greek journalist reported there was some ‘separateness’ between Greeks and newly arrived Vietnamese in Marrickville during the late 1980s, though there was a measure of tolerance between the two communities.

The contemporary association of Greek-Australians with inner-city neighbourhoods and the wider metropolitan area belies the longer history of Greeks in New South Wales. By 1971 when the gradual migration from the inner city to the suburbs commenced, only 7 per cent of Greek-Australians lived outside of Australia’s metropolitan areas, yet only 20 years earlier as many as 43 per cent of the population resided in rural Australia. This national trend in distribution was mirrored in New South Wales.

In the period prior to World War Two, many Greek-Australians lived in towns throughout rural New South Wales, being employed in and often owning small businesses. In contrast, post-war immigrants from Greece, like those from other southern European countries, typically found employment as unskilled or semi-skilled workers in the growing manufacturing, industrial, and construction sectors of the economy.

It was in rural New South Wales where Greek-Australians prior to World War Two were successful in pursuing social opportunities, and there are many stories of individuals who achieved public notoriety in a variety of endeavours.

During the 1900s and 1910s, for example, Theo Minoukhos became a noted amateur wrestler who also played rugby union and rugby league for Dubbo. In towns such as Parkes, home of Angelos Pholeros, Greece’s controversial first consular appointment in New South Wales in 1891, Greek-Australians prospered in commercial and industrial enterprises.

One of the first prominent settlers in the central west was Konstantinos Argyropoulos, who became a profitable landowner in Parkes. Arriving in Sydney in 1854, Argyropoulos, like many of the early rural settlers, soon changed his name and headed for goldfields in the Araluen Valley where he struck good gold. Constantine Fisher, as he was now known, journeyed ‘home’ to Izmir with his wife Mary Robinson before returning back to Sydney and later Parkes, where he purchased a block of land on the fringe of town. Fisher soon obtained more land until he managed 36 hectares, and with the help of his family, including four sons, cleared the land, planted crops, kept a herd of cows and built a modest wooden house.

Three of Fisher’s sons married Australian women, with Constantine Fisher junior serving successfully as an alderman of the Municipality of Parkes for 34 years, and Mayor for one year.

Greek communities continue to prosper in present day rural New South Wales, including in Albury, where around 250 people are members of a local community organisation established in 1943.

Despite experiencing considerable economic success, early settlers in rural New South Wales often encountered hostility among town populations dominated by western European settlers.

Gerasimos Apozogi was another successful Greek-Australian in Parkes during the late nineteenth century, working as a vigneron and a blacksmith until he obtained part-ownership of a local flour mill, eventually becoming the mill’s manager. Yet like Konstantinos Argyropoulos and many other early immigrants, Apozogi was compelled to anglicise his name to circumvent the enmity of the local British
settlers. The owner of the Olympia Café – one of the most renowned Greek establishments in rural New South Wales – experienced considerable hardship after settling in Murrurrundi. George Gabriel was born in Kytherain 1907 and immigrated to Australia in 1924 where he joined his brothers Victor and Peter, who had arrived earlier in 1912. Gabriel remembered his early experience of Australia as involving conflict, sometimes violent, between ‘dagos and Kangaroos’, leaving him with feelings of bitterness. Until he died in the early 1990s Gabriel lived in semi-retirement, only opening the Olympia on rare occasions. In 1998 the Olympia was listed for future purchase by the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority, and had been subject to damage by vandals.

In many ways the Olympia is symbolic of the fate of rural New South Wales’ Greek heritage, despite the ongoing presence of local community organisations in some towns. Indeed, it is in metropolitan areas such as Sydney where the retention of language, national institutions, and a ‘sense of community’ endures.

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