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submitted by George Poulos on 08.12.2004

Faces beyond the Greek cafe


Neos Kosmos, (Melbourne)

Monday 21-6-2004

English Edition.

Faces beyond the Greek cafe

Between the late nineteenth century and the end of the 1940s Greeks became quite pronounced in Australia's food catering industry. Nevertheless, they did, and have continued to enter, a variety of other occupations. Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski reveal the traditional diversity of Greek-Australian occupational pursuits.

Whilst their prominence in small food retailing and catering businesses - oyster saloons, restaurants, cafes, milk bars and fish and chip shops - has been generously acknowledged, the presence of Greek-Australians in other occupations has generally been overlooked or treated with indifference.

The entrenched popular stereotype of Australia's Greeks as nothing more than a mere collection of fish-'n-chip shop owners or cafe proprietors, has unfortunately overwhelmed and hidden the faces of those Greek-Australians involved in a wide range of occupational pursuits. Rescuing this cloaked section of the Greek diaspora in Australia from obscurity shows the complex and broad entanglement of Greek-Australians within the Australian historical mosaic, almost from the genesis of European settlement.

From the arrival at Sydney Cove of seven Greek convicts aboard the 'Norfolk' in August 1829, Greeks have entered a diversity of occupations, though at times, and in particular regions, they have shown distinct work preferences, such as food catering. Greeks have, however, involved themselves in agricultural and pastoral pursuits, in mining, sea related industries, as itinerant workers, and in secondary industries, public life, professional fields, and artistic and sporting avenues.

Official respect in Britain for Greek agrarian expertise was such that in 1849 Britain's Secretary for War and the Colonies, Earl Grey, flirted with the notion that natives of the Ionian Islands in western Greece should migrate to Western Australia and instruct British settlers in Mediterranean agricultural methods. The earliest evidence of Greek agricultural activity on Australian soil is recorded in New South Wales by viticulturalist James Busby and Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell during the very early 1830s. Busby refers to a Greek islander maintaining the vineyard on John Macarthur's Camden property - presumably one of the Greek convicts - while Mitchell notes 'Greek pirates at work training vines to trellises' on Macarthur's Parramatta estate.

From the late 1860s to the 1890s, Greek gold miners at Hill End, Tambaroora and Gulgong in New South Wales and at Mosquito Flat, near Maryborough in Victoria, cultivated small fruit and vegetable gardens, principally for private domestic consumption, though some retailing of excess produce would presumably have occurred. Some later took up farming as their principal occupation. One, Natale D'Angri, became a nurseryman in Ballarat, Victoria, as well as a pioneer member of the Ballarat Horticultural Society, and even had a pumpkin weighing 136 pounds selected for display at the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London.

From the late nineteenth century Greeks, such as George Paxinos, Ioannis Zervoudakis and Emmanouil Apostolos in Melbourne and George Boziques in Adelaide could be also be found making a living as green grocers.
In the early 1920s Nikolaos Kolios, together with Peter and Alexander Zymaris and Aristotle George, introduced the 'cold dipping' process to the developing dried fruit industry of Mildura in Victoria's north-west. The technique assisted in procuring export quality dried sultanas. Post World War II Greek migrants joined those who had arrived in the region before the war, and today many of the 'blocks' are still owned and run by Greek-Australian families.

During the late 1930s, Greeks worked as fruit pickers in South Australia's Riverland district, and eventually became the growers of the area's citrus and stone fruits. Like Mildura, the growth of the Riverland's Greek population was strengthened by the mass migration of the 1950s and 1960s. Post-war Greek migrants also settled on market gardens near Port Pirie on the north-eastern coastline of South Australia's Spencer Gulf where some Greeks had established farms in the 1920s. Similarly, in Queensland, both pre- and post-war Greek migrants worked as sugar cane cutters (some eventually becoming cane farmers), as well as in the cotton growing industry of the state's Callide Valley. During the 1950s and 1960s tobacco farming around Mareeba in Queensland's north appears to have attracted Greeks. The south-west of Western Australia also witnessed their involvement in the cultivation of tobacco. Centred around Manjimup, the first commercial crops were grown by Peter Michelides during the 1930s.

Greek participation in pastoral economic activities, and other forms of animal husbandry, commenced with two convict-settlers, Andonis Manolis and Ghikas Boulgaris. Manolis undertook sheep shearing during the mid-1830s, while Boulgaris, after being pardoned, worked as an itinerant shepherd in southern New South Wales, and later settled on 'Nimmitabel' sheep station. Arriving in Sydney in 1853 flushed with gold fever, Michael Manusu became a wealthy grazier near Mudgee in the central-west of New South Wales. George North (Georgios Tramountanas), who arrived in Port Adelaide in 1842, also succeeded in acquiring grazing runs, as did Sir Nicholas Laurantus, who disembarked in Sydney in 1908. North's property, 'Newland Grange', was located on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, and Laurantus' properties, near Hay and Narrandera in south-western New South Wales. When combined in area, Laurantus' sheep runs where larger than the island of his birth - Kythera. Greek involvement in traditional pastoral avenues are still being maintained by individuals such as Louis Elias, on his cattle station, 'Yanina', near Rockhampton, Queensland, and the Casimaty family on their sheep run, 'Acton Views', at Seven Mile Beach, east of Hobart.

Less prominent areas of animal husbandry that have attracted Greek commercial enterprise, centre primarily on goats, pigs and poultry. John Doscas, a Spartan who arrived in Melbourne in 1889, was responsible for introducing the breeding of Saarnen goats into Western Australia. While the Antypas family have pursued goat breeding on their property 'Cefalonia', near Legana in Tasmania, pig farming has replaced fishing as a popular occupation amongst Greeks in Port Lincoln, South Australia. At Howard Springs east of Darwin, the Syrimi family, originally from Cyprus, has constructed a large scale poultry farm. Similarly, the Kacavelis family has engaged large scale poultry farming in Mossman, north Queensland. Both commercial establishments are a far cry from the urban backyard chicken pen common to many pre- and post-war Greek migrants.

Since the Australian gold rushes, many Greek-Australians have been involved in mining. While most Greek gold miners of the 1850s to 1890s were concentrated on the Victorian and New South Wales fields, during the early part of this century, Greek miners laboured down shafts in Broken Hill, New South Wales, and at Kalgoorlie and Marble Bar in Western Australia. Later, others obtained jobs at Queensland's Mount Isa mines, or in Tasmania's north-west mining centres, and more recently, on Groote Eylandt, off the eastern coast of Arnhem Land. From at least the 1950s, Greek miners worked the opal fields of Coober Pedy in South Australia, their presence seen in the names given to the surrounding fields: 'Zorba', 'New Zorba', 'Greek Gully' and 'Olympia'.

The sea has offered Greek-Australians employment opportunities in a variety of spheres. Many, like Samuel Donnes (Antonatos) and John Peters, both of whom arrived in Sydney during the 1830s, became mariners on coastal or river vessels, while others remained in port as wharf labourers. By 1916, there were thirty-three Greeks reported to be working on New South Wales coastal shipping alone. As early as the 1910s, Greek fisherman at Bunbury, Cossack and Port Hedland on the Western Australian coast, were harvesting the sea for a living, an occupation which, since the Depression, has also been undertaken by Greeks at Thevenard, near Ceduna, on the west coast of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. During the 1930s and early 1940s in Tasmania, a Kytherian Greek, Gregory Casimaty, acquired trawling vessels, employed Greek fishermen to run them, and ventured into the crayfishing industry. In the process, Danish seine fishing techniques were introduced into Australian waters. Based in Fremantle, Western Australia, by the early 1980s, a Kastellorizian Greek, Michael G. Kailis (of M. G. Kailis [Gulf] Fisheries), was operating prawning trawlers from Exmouth Gulf to the Gulf of Carpentaria. While South Australia has produced another two major players in Australia's fishing industry - Raptis and Angelakis - Kailis' cousin, also known as Michael Kailis, dominates Perth's Metropolitan Fish Markets. Greek enterprises enjoy the same position at the Sydney Fish Markets: Manettas Ltd, Poulos Brothers and De Costi Seafood.

Early Greek settlers opened oyster farms at Hawkesbury River (just north of Sydney), Great Keppel Island, (off Queensland's mid-east coast), and Bicton (near Fremantle), and Greek pearlers were to be found along Australian's northern coast at Port Hedland, Broome, Darwin and Thursday Island before the 1920s. While Kalymnian sponge divers were brought out during the 1950s to dive for pearl shell in seas off the continent's north-west coast, one enterprising and single-minded Greek, Con Denis George, experimented with the production of cultured pearls, an avenue later pursed by other Greeks such as Nicholas Paspaley (Paspalis) of Darwin and Western Australian's prawn fishing magnate, Michael G. Kailis. Mary Dakas, Nicholas Paspaley's sister, established herself as Broome's only Greek female pearler/lugger owner in 1949, and successfully operated luggers out of Broome and Port Hedland for most of the 1950s.

Secondary industry has been another prominent source of employment for Greeks Australians, particularly post-war settlers, as industrial unions had previously resisted the employment of foreign labour. During the 1910s, however, the largest single employer of Port Pirie's Greeks was overwhelmingly the town's smelting plant. Of the 109 Greeks residing within the town and its immediate environs in 1916, just over 87 per cent were classified as a 'smelter'. Furthermore, the plant was the largest employer of Greeks in the state at the time.

While the Michelides family founded a tobacco and cigarette manufacturing plant in Perth early this century, another pioneer Greek family, the Haritos', established a salt production works in Darwin in 1919. The salt works primarily supplied Vestey's Meatworks, which itself, employed a considerable number of Greeks. Numerous frozen food production businesses have arisen through the commercial acumen of Greek migrants, and car production plants and factory process work, such as bottling and packaging of completed products, are all too familiar to many post-war arrivals. Engineering plants and even ship building are other fields of secondary industry into which Greeks have moved, either as employers or employees. In 1939, the inventiveness of one Tasmanian Greek, George Haros, witnessed the development and manufacturing of a local cafe icon: the 'Haros Boiler'.

Many Greek arrivals often initially accepted itinerant employment. Such work included: scrub clearing; timber cutting; construction gangs on railways, dams and the laying of water pipelines; crocodile, buffalo and kangaroo shooting; crop harvesting and fruit picking; hawking; and in the 1920s one Greek even acquired the job of delivering mail on camel and horseback in Western Australia's desolate Meekatharra district.

Even from an early stage Greeks succeeded in elevating themselves into public life and professional fields. From 1878 to 1880, Christie Totolos served as alderman on the Hill End Borough Council in New South Wales, while Con Fisher (Constantine Argyropoulos) and Angelos Pholeros served on the Parkes Municipal Council, also in New South Wales. Pholeros was initially elected in 1888 and retired in 1893 while Fisher, who was first elected in 1899, served for thirty-five years, and achieved the position of Mayor in 1912. John Doscas was a long-standing member of Cottesloe Municipal Council in Perth from its inception in 1907. He also served a term as Mayor. In Queensland, Nicholas Hellen, originally from Kythera, became a Councillor on the Calliope Shire Council in 1922, serving until 1924 and again in 1933.

Dr Spyridon Candiottis, and Dr John Pericles (Ioannis Periklis Rodokanakis), both medical graduates from European universities, practised respectively in Queensland and New South Wales during the second half of the nineteenth century. In Victoria, Dr Constantine Krizos (Kyriazopoulos), who had studied medicine at Athens University, had established a practice in Melbourne by 1909. Antony J.J. Lucas (Lekatsas) from Ithaca achieved enormous commercial success as a restaurant and property entrepreneur in Melbourne during the early part of this century. Antony's younger brother, Marinos, became a theatrical entrepreneur, theatre designer and builder in Launceston, Tasmania. In Sydney, George Lucas Adamson (Adamopoulos), a chemistry graduate from Athens University, established the 'George L. Adamson & Co. Chemical Laboratories' during the late 1920s. He was also technical consultant with the 'Australian Absorbent Cotton Wool Products Ltd'. Over the years, numerous Greeks have followed similar paths into public life and various professional fields.

While many contemporary Greek Australians - Mark Philippoussis, Charlie Yankos, Michael Diamond, Yiannis Kouros, Anthony Koutoufides, Alex Dimitriades, Ana Kokkinos, Lex Marinos, Zoe and Gia Carides, Mary Coustas, Fotini Epanomitis, Christos Tsiolkas, Dimitris Tsaloumas, and George Miller for example - have attained a high national profile in a broad range of either sporting or artistic occupations, their predecessors did also.
George Samios, born in Kythera in 1917, was selected six times to represent Australia in wrestling between 1948 and 1968. Stavroula Catherine Likiard (Likiardopolous) held the Victorian and Australian Springboard and Tower Diving Championships for a number of years during the 1940s. Michael Diamond (not to be confused with the shooter) was selected in the 1956 Australian Olympic fencing team and in 1962 he became Australian Selection Open Champion in the sport. At the Perth Commonwealth Games of that year, he won a silver medal. Peter Demos represented Australia in basketball during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

In 1935, George Payzis, originally from Ithaca, won the Sydney Eisteddfod. Nick Leenos (Nicholas Lianos) was a performer on the Tivoli Theatre circuit during the 1920s, as was Jimmy Kolivas, alias 'Rudy Rico', during the second half of the 1930s. Leenos also achieved some popular success as a singer with the record release of his song, 'Goodbye My Love', and appearances on Sydney radio stations 2BL and 2GB. The flautist and composer, John Lemmone (Lamoni), whose Greek father was born on the island of Cephalonia, was accompanist and later manager to Dame Nellie Melba. Each embraced an insistent desire to participate in Australia's artistic or sporting development.

In recognising some of the many Greek-Australian faces beyond those associated with the popularly celebrated 'Greek cafes', the traditional diversity of this ethnic group's occupational pursuits is revealed. Furthermore, it becomes clearly evident, that from their earliest days of settlement, Greek Australians have been an integral part of the development of mainstream Australia.

H. Gilchrist; C. Meader; D. N. Andronicus; J. Ridgway; J. Busby; T. L. Mitchell, L. Harvey; B. D'Angri; M. P. Tsounis; K. Voullaire; K. Watt; S. Marshall; E. Purcell; J. Michaelides; C. Whitaker; H. Williams; J. Clarke; G. Casimaty; A. Tucceri; H. Edwards; H. Hodge; R. T. Tindall; R. Erickson; R. Smith; E. Masselos; J. D. Comino; M. Krizos; E. Cameron; N. Black; T. Lee; A. Lambert; G. F. Hunt; K. A. Kelly; S. Georgakis; M. Lemmon; and the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.

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