'Greek Town' 1915-1916

The Vestey Meatworks under construction, Bullocky Point, Darwin, n.d. c.1915

Darwin was a multicultural town but ethnicity determined where you lived and worked. The Anglo-Europeans were administrators, judiciary and civil service and occupied Smith Street.

In 1911, at the time the Commonwealth took on the administration of the Northern Territory, about half the Darwin townsfolk were Chinese. They lived in Cavenagh Street, called ‘Chinatown’ which was the centre of commercial activities.

Aboriginal people lived out of town at the Kahlin Compound next to Myilly Point and – there was a curfew which curtailed the hours they could spend in Darwin.

There was also a Greek community in Darwin. Greek men came to the Territory to build the Vesteys Meatworks, the remains of which can still be seen at Darwin High School on Bullocky Point. John Magriplis recalled how it began:

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  I was born in an island called Kastellorizon, and we came over when I was about two years of age, towards the end of 1916… My mother, and the two – brother and sister. Yes, the three of us – four of us altogether including the mother…

The fathers used to arrive first. They’d get their fares made up, and then they come over to Australia, Darwin, and when they’d got enough funds and enough money they’d send for the families. That’s how they – there was about fourteen or fifteen Greek families at the place we used to call Salonika… they were building Vestey’s. Then they all transferred or moved, near the Esplanade, opposite the old Darwin Hospital. The very old one…

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 802 and NTRS 219, TP 890, John Magriplis]

Stratos Haritos arrived in Darwin in 1915 to work on the Maranboy tin mines, the railway, the wharf and other various odd jobs including carpentry. He married Eleni Harmanis in 1917 and set up a saltworks, at Racecourse Creek in Ludmilla with John Sphakanakis and Dick Colivas to supply salt for Vesteys meat works. His son recalled:

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 My name is George Haritos. I was born in Darwin at a place they used to call it ‘Greek Town’, in those days. When the Greeks first came out in about 1915 they all built camps there of any material they could find; mostly the structure was saplings, and I’ve even seen kerosene tins flattened out as walls. I was born on the 14th of April 1920 and it was a home birth in those days, the women didn’t go to hospitals. There was an old Chinese lady used to get called in, and she was a midwife; a very nice old lady. And that’s how I was born… Yes Mrs Tye. About where the Travelodge [The Esplanade, western end] is at the moment. I vaguely remember it. I don’t remember our place there because we shifted out to the saltworks when I was too young to remember. And my father had built a house there and moved us out there; there were only two of us, my sister and I then. And I was there ‘til I was 6 year old. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t speak a word of English up till then, till he moved into McMinn Street, Darwin, so we could go to school, and that’s where I started to learn English.

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 662 and NTRS 219, TP 767, George Haritos]
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