GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: Arthur Auguste – The Kastellorizian

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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.


ARTHUR AUGUSTE – The Earliest known Kastellorizian in Western Australia

Kastellorizo island (also known as Megisti) is part of the Dodecanese group and the eastern most part of Greece. As eastern-Mediterranean traders, with tighter harbour control of ports and higher taxes by Turkish authorities, loss of access to wood for their vessels, and with their sailing fleet increasingly unable to match steam-driven ships, the economic sustenance of the Kastellorizians declined during the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries. Many Kastellorizians began to migrate to other lands, particularly the United States and Australia.

Arthur Auguste (Athanasios Avgoustis) was the initial link that drew his compatriots to Australia.

arthur auguste
Arthur Auguste (Athanasios Avgoustis) with his family outside their oyster saloon Barrack Street, Perth, WA, 1915. Left to right: Dorothy (Dorothea), Arthur, George, Mary (Maria), Eve (Evthokia), Anthony, Denny (Demetrios) and Panaula (née Panayoula Komninou). (Photo courtesy E. Mirmikidis)

 

Auguste is considered to have been the first Greek from the island of Kastellorizo to settle in Western Australia. It is also claimed that he subsequently influenced many of his compatriots to emigrate there – Kastellorizians became the dominant regional group of Greeks in Western Australia. Auguste fled Kastellorizo following a skirmish between a Turkish patrol vessel and a ‘caique’ on which he was a crew member. After a short period of employment with the Suez Canal Company in Egypt, he worked his way to Singapore, and then sailed for Broome around 1888. He initially worked in the port’s pearling industry, and following a brief period in Fremantle, left for Adelaide. He was naturalised in 1896 at Semaphore, a seaside Adelaide suburb where he worked as a seaman and fisherman. Soon after, he returned to Western Australia.

Utilising his knowledge of oysters gained from his pearling experiences, Auguste began oyster farming along the Swan River at East Fremantle, where he also established the Oyster Beds restaurant – this was the start of his occupation as a fish and oyster wholesaler and retailer. Later, Auguste opened an oyster saloon in Perth’s Barrack Street. The three-storied building also provided accommodation for newly arrived Greeks. Auguste gradually acquired other buildings, became a supplier of oysters to other oyster saloons proprietors, and was one of the first individuals to own a motor car in Perth.

In 1904, Auguste returned to Port Said to marry his fiancée, Panaula (Panayoula) Komninou. Well educated (she spoke Greek, French, Arabic and a little English) and well-to-do, when Panaula landed at Fremantle wearing her Paris-style clothes, her high expectations of Australian society and its Greeks were shattered: “What have I come to?… It isn’t even civilized”.

Even though Auguste had succeeded in becoming one of the most respected and wealthiest Greeks in Western Australia, Panaula maintained a deep, life-long regret for having forfeited the high-society life-style she had enjoyed amongst Egypt’s professional classes. Nevertheless, she and Arthur successfully raised nine children together: Eve (Evthokia), Mary (Maria), George, Dorothy (Dorothea), Anthony Denny (Demetrios), Helene, Evangelia and Nina (Athina).

 

 

 

 

 


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