Community culture – Greece

Words: Nigel Adlam

Several Greek migrants ended up in Darwin in the same way as many other people – by accident.

Sixty Cypriots left their island home in 1948 bound for Melbourne, where there was already a flourishing Greek-Australian community.

The plane landed in Darwin to refuel and the migrants got off to stretch their legs.

But through a bureaucratic mix-up, several were not allowed back on the aircraft.

They didn’t have enough money to pay to get to Melbourne – and so stayed in Darwin and quickly arranged for their families back home to join them.

In some ways, it’s a classic Territory story – many people have intended to stay in Darwin for just a few weeks, quickly fallen in love with the lifestyle and settled.

Cypriots were the largest group of Greek-Australians in Darwin in 1952, but were soon overtaken by people from the island of Kalymnos.

Greeks also came to Darwin from other islands, such as Kastellorizon.

About 7000 people in the Northern Territory are of Greek heritage; most live in Darwin.

Their contribution to Territory life – economically, socially and politically – is enormous.

Many of the NT’s leading business people are Greek-Australians – they excel particularly in property development.

The founder of Paspaley Pearls, the largest pearl company in the world, was born in Greece.

Greek food is commonplace in Darwin and the Greek Glenti is one of the highlights of Darwin’s festival calendar.

Greeks began arriving in the NT in the 1850s.

The Haritos family this year celebrated 100 years in the Territory.

The “pioneer” was Eustratios Haritos, who was shot in the head and left for dead atop of a pile of rotting corpses while fighting for independence from the Turkish Ottomans.

He was saved when his uncle, a sergeant with the Greek army, rode past the death trenches and had his relative’s barely recognisable body transported to a Russian hospital.

Three years later, Eustratios arrived in Darwin — alone and with a steel plate in his skull.

His grandson Anthony says: “Just the fact that he survived is amazing.” TT