GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: The Descendants of 19th century arrivals– PART 2

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Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek Australians’  national project
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.

Greeks have been migrating to, and settling in Australia, since the very early 19th century. The descendants of these early settlers offer personal perspectives into generational notions of Australian identity, diasporic Hellenic identity, and cultural hybridity. Here we present Part 2,  featuring descendants of 19th century Greek arrivals.



1a len jannese
Len Ross Jannese, artist. Bunbury, WA, 1987 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)


Len Ross Jannese, Artist

Len’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Ioakeim (James) Zannis, was born on the eastern Aegean island of Samos in 1830 and arrived in Australia some time before 1858 – in that year he married Margaret Watts Rainford at Ballarat, Victoria.  Margaret had been born in Newcastle, New South Wales.  Len considers that with the Australian gold rushes at their height, Ioakeim “probably jumped ship” in order to go to the diggings at Ballarat.  At the time of his marriage, Ioakeim’s occupation is recorded as a ‘digger’.  Ioakeim and Margaret had twelve children, and Len is the great-grandson of their first-born son, Demetre (Peter).  During this generation the surname was eventually anglicised to Jannese (also recorded as Jenese, Janes and Janis).  Demetre married Eleanor Francis Atkinson in 1882 and they had seven children.  Of these Thomas Jannese, was to be Len’s paternal grandfather.


Len began researching his family’s background, “because I knew nothing about me... no one seemed to care or were interested [in the family’s history]”.  Yet for Len, family identity and origins were usually  “a normal thing that people are conditioned with”.  Len “discovered it [part of the family’s background] was Greek”, and for him this “was more interesting” than he had initially hoped.  Although culturally, his family’s Greek background has been abandoned, Len now perceives himself with the understanding that “genetically it is part of my heritage”.


1b Demetre Jannese
Demetre (Peter) Janes (Zannis/Jannese) and his wife Eleanor Francis (nee Atkinson) . Place unknown, probably late nineteen century. Photo courtesy L. R. Jannese, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives


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Edith and Ian Murray with their daughter Mary Anne. Kapunda, SA, 1986 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)


Edith and Ian Murray with their daughter Mary Anne

Edith’s grandfather was Jeremiah Perry (Yerasimos Apozogy), who was born in the mid-1830s on the Ionian island of Paxos and migrated to Australia around 1855.  Working as a miner on Victoria’s Ballarat and Bendigo goldfields, in 1860, Jeremiah married Eliza(beth) Victoria Cole at Castlemaine.  They had seven children.  Edith’s mother, Irene (Irelanthea), who was born in 1884, was their last child.  By 1862 Jeremiah and Eliza had moved to New South Wales, initially to Forbes, and soon after to Parkes.  Acquiring property at Billabong Creek, just outside Parkes, Jeremiah operated a puddling plant and also occupied himself with grape cultivation. In 1874 he appears to have been working as a blacksmith.  Naturalised in 1876, by the mid-1890s, the Perry family went into partnership with Edward McGee milling flour – the mill was also used to saw timber and had an associated piggery.  In 1898 Jeremiah became mill manager.  He died at Parkes in 1901.

Whilst Edith and Mary Anne developed a strong historical interest in their Greek background, no Hellenic cultural legacies have been passed on.

Edith: “Grandfather died when mum was seventeen, so I never knew him.  The only Greeks I knew in Parkes were the Fisher’s [Argyropoulos was their original Greek name].”

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Jeremiah Perry (Yerasimos Apozogy), portrait in oils, 1873. Portrait courtesy E. Murray, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives


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Lewis Zilles, Ballarat, Vic., 1987 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)


Lewis Zilles 

Born in 1904, Lewis is the grandson of Jeremiah Metaxa (Gerasimos Metaxas), a Greek from the Ionian island of Kefalonia (Cephalonia).  Jeremiah arrived in Victoria during the Australian gold rushes of the mid-nineteenth century.


“He [Jeremiah] came out as captain of a Greek sailing vessel and he was, in his day, the was the leader of the Greek community in Ballarat.  The story that I have is that when this Greek vessel sailed into Melbourne, the gold rush was on and they all left – crew, everybody, left for the gold rush... He married an English girl.  She was sixteen.  Her name was Hannah [Hannah Maria Perkins]... Grandfather didn’t mine gold.  He wasn’t interested in that.  He bought himself a horse and wagon.  He sold clothing to the miners – utensils, whatever they wanted... He went all round the district.  He went to Clunes, Linton, Creswick, Buninyong.  You name it, anywhere within horse and cart distance he went.  He was doing all right... My mother told me they [Ballarat’s early Greek community] all addressed him as ‘captain’... They [Jeremiah and his family] lived just around the corner in Talbot Street.  They built a house there... it is still there.  My father, he bought the allotment next door – he had a house built there... My mother [Hannah Zilles, née Metaxa] never spoke any Greek – just, I suppose, they [all of Jeremiah’s children] understood Greek.  Grandfather, he spoke a peculiar type of English.  I can remember him very vaguely.  I can remember an occasion where he gave us pennies to pull the weeds out of his garden.  He pulled weeds out and found two shilling pieces.  When we pulled weeds out, we only found pennies... I’m the last of my family [my generation], all gone, all nine of us.”


Jeremiah Metaxa (Gerasimos Metaxas) with his wife Hannah and family members outside their home,  Ballarat, Vic., 1904. (Photo courtesy L. Wicking and L. Zilles, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives)


Jeremiah Metaxa is seated on the left and Hannah Maria is standing next to him. Their son, John Nicholas, and his wife Clara Hannah (née Hyland), are standing behind Mrs Hyland who is holding John and Clara’s daughter, Violet.


Photos:  Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski

© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives


Effy Alexakis

Leonard Janiszewski

Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, along with historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have been travelling around Australia photographing and collecting stories. They have also photographed Greek-Australians in Greece and documented some amazing histories. The images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving insights, about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories provide personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archive encompasses photography, both historical and contemporary, taped interviews and literary materials.

They have published 3 books and numerous articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been widely exhibited throughout Australia and in Greece.

VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT:  Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia | Facebook

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor