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.
The Freeleagus family were a highly respected and influential part of Brisbane’s early Greek community. Their broad legacy persisted throughout the twentieth century.
Three months before Federation in 1901, Alexander’s father arrived in Australia from the island of Kythera with his eldest brother, Peter. Christy was the fifth of ten brothers. All would eventually migrate to Australia. In 1903, Christy, Peter, and a third brother, Anthony, who had joined them, established two food-catering businesses in Brisbane – a fish shop at 217 George Street and a café, which they called the Paris Café, at 223 George Street. The Paris Café became one of the leading food-catering establishments in early twentieth century Brisbane. As more brothers arrived, the family enterprise grew, accumulating over time, seven shops, a major wholesale food company – Fresh Food and Ice Ltd – and a large commercial freehold property in Brisbane’s centre.
In 1909, the brothers established the City Café at the corner of Edward and Adelaide Streets in Brisbane; it had previously been Comino’s Central Café and Oyster Palace. The newly acquired café prospered, but in the late 1920s the brothers had the building demolished and replaced with a multistorey complex that featured a purpose-built café. They called the City Café’s replacement, the Astoria. It provided seating for 250 customers, extensive pastry and confectionery displays, a bakehouse, an ice cream room, and a soda bar. In terms of modern, fashionable elegance and public appeal, it had few rivals. The success of the Freeleagus brothers not only ensured material wellbeing for themselves and their immediate families, but also provided employment for numerous newly arrived fellow Greeks – predominately Kytherians – who were looking for café or café-related work, as a means of getting a start in Australia.
In 1919, Christy Freeleagus was appointed Honorary Greek Consul in Queensland; for a period of timed he also served as Consul-General and as Dean of the Consular Corps. Christy continued to be a representative of the Greek government until his death in 1957. But Christy’s community involvement was not simply limited to his diplomatic positions: he became a Justice of the Peace, a Freemason, he represented Queensland in lawn bowls, was a founding member of both the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland and Brisbane’s Greek Orthodox Community, he was a member of various choral societies, and a leading voice in the Chamber of Commerce.
Alexander succeeded his father as Greece’s consular representative in Queensland in 1957. As a prominent corporate lawyer with close ties to the Greek community Alexander keenly promoted both multiculturalism and Hellenism. In 1982 he was appointed as the head attaché for Brisbane’s Commonwealth Games and in 1988 became Greece’s Commissioner General for the city’s hosting of ‘World Expo’ during that year. Amongst his numerous awards are a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and AO (Officer of the Order of Australia). When Alexander passed away in 2005, he was the longest serving Consul in Australia, and Greece’s longest serving Consul, internationally. Well over 1,500 people, including political, legal and diplomatic identities, attended his funeral. Alexander once stated, “I do what I do because of family – because of their values and determination to succeed”.
Photos: Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski
© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives
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.
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