Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days, Volume 11, 1995-2000

Kalgoorlie alchemy: xenophobia, patriotism and the 1916 anti-Greek riots

John Yiannakis

Yiannakis, John 1996, 'Kalgoorlie alchemy: xenophobia, patriotism and the 1916 anti-Greek riots', Early Days, vol. 11, part 2: 199-211.

When war broke out in Europe in August 1914, ‘there was precious little debate and near-unanimity about Australia’s participation in the war’. Apart from a few pacifists and radical socialists, most Anglo-Australians seemed to accept that Australia would be involved in the conflict as a matter of course. The majority of Anglo-Australians perceived the Great War as a threat to their security and genuinely felt that they were at risk. 1 These feelings and fears had various repercussions in Australia, including intensifying racism. For Western Australia’s Greek population the most dramatic manifestation of this wartime intolerance was xenophobic hysteria, vigilantism and rioting in Perth and the goldfields. The anti-Greek race riots of 1916 had profound effects on Greeks throughout the State. The riots caused an exodus of Greeks from the eastern goldfields, aroused diplomatic animosities between the Greek and Australian Governments, and further embittered relations between Greeks and Anglo-Australians. Yet, despite the severity of these incidents, the riots receive little attention in either Australian or Western Australian historiography. It would be fair to say that few West Australians are aware of the racial turmoil of the times. The 1934 race riots, aimed primarily at Italians but also embroiling ‘Slavs’ and Greeks, are better known to locals, and have been the subject of various historical investigations. 2 Similar scrutiny of the 1916 riots does not exist, even though they were as violent and significant as the 1934 riots. James Jupp, in Nations of Immigrants, implies that race riots in the twentieth century are only noteworthy when there has been a death. 3 This ‘tabloid like’ attitude may help to explain the cursory treatment given to the 1916 riots by some scholars. Andrew Markus, in Australian Race Relations, appears to agree with Jupp, as he devotes just one sentence to the events of 1916, while spending (appropriately) nearly a page on the riots of 1934, and a paragraph on the 1919 strife. 4 He does at least recognise the inter-relationship between these incidents.

Recently, M. Christie and H. Gilchrist have written about the happenings


of 1916 as part of other investigations. Christie, studying Greeks in Darwin, is concerned with the broader Australian picture, noting that the trouble in Kalgoorlie was not unique to that town or the State. However, his study is brief and general. In contrast, Gilchrist devotes much more space to the Western Australian riots in his work. 5 Detail and discussion are thorough, particularly the diplomatic furore that followed the attacks on Greek nationals and their property, but he steers clear of the xenophobia issue. The intensity of the ethnic animosities that fuelled the conflict are glossed over. Little consideration is given to how the riots exacerbated Greek disillusionment with the ‘Australian dream’, and how the unrest impacted on the home life and residency patterns of Greeks. A thorough history of the incident, its background and effects is still to be written.

By the late 1890s, when the Australian colonists, or at least their spokespersons, were contemplating forming themselves into a single nation, an estimated five to six hundred persons born in Greece had migrated to the shores of Australia The society into which they had arrived ‘dreaded the mixing of races’ and was obsessed with protecting racial purity. Such sentiments were well expressed by Western Australia’s Premier Sir John Forrest who, in 1897, concluded debate about his colony’s Immigration Restriction Bill by saying ‘we desire to restrict this country, so that it shall not be overrun with races whose sympathies, and manners, and customs, are not as ours’. In 1901,98 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population was believed to be Anglo-Celtic, still with strong allegiances to Britain; 77 per cent of the population were Australian-born; while 10 per cent were born in England and Wales, 5 per cent in Ireland and 3 per cent in Scotland. The largest non-British group of immigrants were the Germans, making up one per cent of the continent’s population. The Aboriginal population was not noted in any such estimates and not until 1967 was it counted in the censuses.

To help ensure that Australia remained both white and British, an immigration law was speedily passed by the new Federal Government during its first parliamentary session so as to keep out ‘undesirable aliens’. Alfred Deakin, a liberal politician and Australia’s second Prime Minister, believed that ‘unity of race [was an] absolute essential to the unity of Australia’. The White Australia Policy, as the Immigration Restriction Act came to be known, aimed primarily at prohibiting the entry of Asians and non-Europeans to Australia, while also making it difficult for non-British Europeans. ‘White Australia meant not only an immigration policy which excluded non-whites, but...’, in Deakin’s words, ‘the deportation or reduction of the number of aliens now in our midst’. 6 For early twentieth century Australia an ‘olive peril’ was almost as threatening as the yellow one. In the ensuing years, policy direction towards Greek arrivals would fluctuate. Restrictions and quotas would be imposed, only to be disregarded, and then observed stringently. Sometimes policy and


practice would differ because of economic considerations, at either a State or Federal level, or as a result of the attitudes of immigration officials. At Fremantle, for many years Peter Michelides, a prominent Greek community figure, was the official Immigration Department translator, responsible for helping impose the dictation test on new arrivals. When the Federal Cabinet of W.M. Hughes was made aware of this fact, at the very same time that his government wanted Greek migration halted, various ministers acknowledged the complexity of imposing restrictions. To replace Michelides, with his command of six languages, would have been difficult. 7

The introduction of the White Australia Policy was an attempt to create a British haven in Australia. To ensure that this Anglo-Celtic citadel was not placed under foreign siege, two Royal Commissions were initiated early this century to investigate the migrant presence in Western Australia. The relatively large number of ‘Southern Europeans’, notably Italians and Greeks, arriving in Western Australia at the turn of the century was a cause of major concern for many Anglo-Australians. 8 Census data contributed to the anxiety of Anglophiles, as the statistics reflected a large increase in ‘Greek-born residents’ in Western Australia. At the time of Federation in 1901, Western Australia was only behind New South Wales and Victoria in the size of its Greek population, and by 1911 its 335 ‘Greeks’ were only surpassed by the 822 living in New South Wales. It was feared that this ‘foreign presence’ would be detrimental to existing work practices and a threat to Australia’s racial purity. It was these general concerns, and the possibility of contract labour among Greeks and Italians, that had prompted the Royal Commissions. At this time contract labour was perceived to be an organised labour system whereby employers brought ‘Southern Europeans’ to Australia under agreement to work at less than standard wages.

The 1902 Royal Commission into Foreign Contract Labour tried to identify the work practices of ‘aliens’ as well as the regions and occupations where ‘foreigners were employed’. The Commission noted that Greeks were distributed throughout the State: for example, ten Greeks resided in the Murchison district, while there were seven in Albany. The report also observed that ‘Greeks almost entirely engaged in the fish trade and as eating house keepers. Wages paid appear to be equal to those paid to men in the same capacities in other restaurants’. The inquiry concluded that no organisations existed with the purpose of surreptitiously importing foreign labourers and that wages which ‘aliens’ received were comparable with those of others. Mention was also made of the importance of letters home to Europe as a possible cause of the influx of ‘foreigners’; that is, chain migration and contract labour was enticing Greeks and Italians to Western Australia. However, these two processes were not mutually exclusive. 9


Government and union officials were not pacified by the findings of the 1902 Royal Commission. Resentment and fear of 'foreigners’ ensured that another government investigation was conducted in 1904 into ‘The Immigration of Non-British Labour to Western Australia’. The area of particular concern on this occasion was gold mining. The inquiry found that, although Greek arrivals since 1901 had increased at a faster rate than Italian and Austrian (presumably ‘Yugoslav’) migrants, they posed no serious threat to mining because Greeks (predominantly Castellorizians) tended to enter shopkeeping and general labouring, notably as fruit dealers and fishermen. On the other hand, Italians and 'Yugoslavs’ were prepared to mine for gold. This tendency put these migrants in direct competition with locals. 10

The findings of this later investigation were not greatly different from the earlier one, yet some preconceived trends were confirmed, thus fortifying prejudice. Calls for the reduction of Italian arrivals to Western Australia were a predictable outcome of this Royal Commission, but these requests were never enforced in any consistent manner by the government. Because Greeks did not pose as great an economic threat to the unionists, particularly the miners, of this State, tolerance of them was marginally greater, at least up to the outbreak of World War One. Overall, however, ‘southern Europeans’ tended to be lumped together as ‘undesirable dagos’.

As noted, the Hughes Cabinet had attempted to restrict Greek immigration, albeit because of the uncertainty of the Greek Government’s attitude towards the two opposing sides during the Great War. In early February 1918 the Secretary of Home and Territories was advised that 132 Greeks from the remote Aegean island of Castellorizo, then a French protectorate, were ‘at Port Said waiting for embarkation to Perth’. Though Greece had finally entered the war on the side of Britain and her allies, passage had been refused by shipping companies “who awaited Commonwealth authority’. After some deliberation, Cabinet decided at a meeting on 24 May 1918 to ‘stop the landing of Greek immigrants, and refused to exempt those on water’. Furthermore, ‘the test’ would be applied in a ‘language that is likely to be effective for the purpose of the Act’.11 Shipping companies and the British Embassy in Athens were to be notified of this decision. An exception to this rule would be made for the wives, children and the relatives of persons already in Australia. Hence, Castellorizians continued to come to Western Australia, as they tended to be brought out by relatives already established in the State. Though the restrictions were lifted in 1920, their imposition does reflect the suspicion with which Greeks were viewed because of their alleged racial undesirability.

Further evidence of the disdain with which Greeks were treated by locals during and after the Great War is found in the behaviour of some Anglo-Australians who would refuse to pay Greek proprietors for food and beverages consumed, or who would threaten to damage property if


the owner persisted with his demands. The overturning of tables and assaulting of shopkeepers was not uncommon.

As a precursor to the anti-Greek riots in Kalgoorlie in December 1916, two months earlier the Greeks of Perth were victims of patriotic and xenophobic violence. On Friday, 27 October, soldiers and civilians went on a rampage through the city, destroying and looting the property of Greek shopkeepers. At about 8.15 p.m. a crowd assembled on the Beaufort Street bridge, having made their way from Stirling Street. The West Australian alleged that the gathering was made up of a ‘handful of soldiers, accompanied by a lot of civilian youths’, 12 but police records have the composition of the group as quite different According to Officer Lewis, ‘100 soldiers in uniform [began] tipping over the Greek barrows in the city’. 13 Much of the trouble began at the city markets, but it was not long before the mob headed towards the city centre. Brandishing looted crayfish, they marched into William Street singing Tipperary’ and ‘Australia Will Be There’. With a Union Jack at its head, the crowd streamed up Murray Street and with a hail of crayfish shattered the windows of the restaurant of K.G. Manolas. The mob had now swollen in number, making control impossible for the few constables on duty. The procession attacked and wrecked various stores in Hay, William and Wellington streets. A group of rioters surged down St George’s Terrace, where they broke the windows of Perth’s afternoon newspaper, the Daily News. This action was apparently perpetrated in response to a cartoon that appeared in the paper reflecting poorly on Prime Minister Hughes and Australian soldiers. 14

Police Occurrences for that evening record a complaint at 9.30 p.m. from P. Michelides, who claimed that soldiers and civilians had smashed Athanasios Manolas’s London Cafe in William Street Michelides asked for police protection so as to prevent stealing from the shop. Twenty-five minutes later some of the mob badly damaged the shop of Andrew Carras, on the corner of Milligan and Hay streets at the western end of the city. Carras, too, requested the police to watch his premises to prevent looting. Police action, however, appears to have been negligible until 10.25 p.m. The wrecking and pillaging of Greek business premises did not warrant, it seems, immediate protection, yet when staff of the Daily News telephoned through a message informing the police of damage to their office and requesting that an officer be positioned to watch over the building, no less than a sergeant was sent to attend to the scene. 15 Thereafter, the Light Horse guard picket from Claremont arrived and charged the crowd. Fist fights broke out between soldiers, police and civilians until order was restored. About thirty soldiers were taken off to a detention camp; three others were arrested by the police, along with three civilians charged with looting. 16 The presence of soldiers in the disturbances not only made the job of the police more difficult, but their participation seems to have been as provocators and leaders, intensifying the anti-foreign sentiment within the crowd.


The Greek shopkeepers returned to find wrecked windows and fittings, and that stock, be it fruit or confectionery, had been stolen, as had pieces of shop furniture. Not every Greek shop in the city was damaged, but the riots struck hard at the livelihood of many of the proprietors, and at their morale. Greek shopkeepers had been intimidated by the soldiers and civilians who charged their premises. Many of the soldiers had been drunk, but their actions demonstrated the intensifying animosity towards Greeks in Australia because of King Constantine’s supposed sympathies towards the Germans. The fear of Greek disloyalty increased the strong anti-foreign sentiment that prevailed throughout the country. Civilians who resented Greeks for their business practices, their customs and appearance, could now ‘give it to ’em’ under the guise of patriotism.

Judicial punishment bywhat Greeks perceived were sympathetic courts was trivial. One civilian was fined two pounds ten shillings, and another one pound, for creating a disturbance. Two soldiers were fined one pound each for possession of suspected stolen chocolates. 17 Yet, total damages were estimated to be one thousand pounds. Nor did those directly affected receive any joy from their insurance companies, which disclaimed any obligation to compensate the victims for damages to property because it was caused by civil rioting. Perth Greeks were left embittered. Hard work did not guarantee acceptance from Anglo-Australians, and prosperity did not ensure an immigrant happiness in Australia.

Six weeks later a more serious outbreak of violence occurred in the goldfields. The towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder had a deep-seated and smouldering resentment towards foreigners, particularly those who dared enter mining. Ironically, in these towns Greeks were usually not one of the ethnic groups which competed with Anglo-Australians for jobs in mines. As in Perth, xenophobia became entwined with patriotism and resulted in large-scale rioting.

The Greek King was continuing to advocate a neutral status for Greece during the war, but the Australian press saw him as pro-German. The King had been educated in Germany and his Hohenzollern wife, Queen Sophie, was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Journalists and editors conveniently chose to ignore the fact that the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, was pro-Entente and in conflict with the King. 18 Hence, the press pursued a sharply antagonistic policy towards King Constantine, constantly repeating the war-time slogan ‘who is not with us is against us!’. 19 Such jingoism merely gave encouragement to the goldfields anti-foreign element. Hostility erupted into violence shortly after a clash at Athens when a small Franco-British force, sent ashore to intimidate the King and to get from him various concessions to which he had earlier agreed but was now reneging, was fired upon, 20 suffering a number of deaths. 21

Just one day prior to the Kalgoorlie riots, the West Australian of 8 December had condemned Constantine with a headline banner reading


‘Greek Treachery'. Many Anglo-Australians were Incensed with ‘Constantine’s pro-Germanism’, and in Kalgoorlie a mob of them set about wrecking and looting a number of Greek shops and houses, as well as trying to run individuals out of town. Michael Mangos, who had arrived in Kalgoorlie aged twelve in 1908, remembered vividly the 1916 riots, recalling that ‘Australians went mad, smashed all the shops in Kalgoorlie ... every window. They smashed my [ recently acquired ] shop... I was frightened to stay in the shop. [I] went to my uncle’s house’. 22

According to the Kalgoorlie Miner of 11 December, ‘a few score individuals met... and formed their plans for marching along Hannan Street and smashing up restaurants and confectionery and fruit shops conducted by persons of Greek nationality’. 23 The yelling and sound of smashing glass [that followed] was terrifying’, recalled Jessie Magriplis, a young girl in Kalgoorlie at the time. ‘We hid under the kitchen table while some of the mob looted my father’s shop.’ 24 Her father, Panos Pitsikas, was one of the Greeks who ran a business on Hannan Street. He and other hapless proprietors found themselves on the receiving end of a violent outburst from locals who forced their way into their premises and, like a tornado, turned everything into a shambles. 26

The Olympic Restaurant and S. Black’s cafe were the first to be attacked. Then, reinforced by several hundred sympathisers, the mob made their way along the northern side of Hannan Street and pillaged the Post Office Fruit and Confectionery shop owned by the Metaxas brothers, the restaurant of Paizes and Zervos, and a fruit shop located in the recessed wall of Montgomery Brothers building, the shutters of which were battered down with an axe. Con Zervos’s well-stocked confectionery shop was not only rifled, but furniture and fittings were ripped out, and was later described as a ‘scene of indescribable confusion’.

To try and arrest any one individual, the Kalgoorlie Miner reported, required the employment of four or five policemen and special constables, who had to dodge missiles, blows and kicks from the unpleasant crowd. The mob then took the tramcar to Boulder where they attacked other Greek property, including the Sydney Fruit Shop, the Strand Grill Room, the Boulder Oyster Saloon, the Central Fruit Market and the London Fruit Mart.

A 2,000 strong crowd smashed windows of shops occupied by Greeks. Plain-clothed and uniformed police were unable to prevent the destruction of property and looting of premises. Twenty two arrests were I made, mainly youths and also two soldiers. A variety of charges were laid including wilfully damaging property, unlawful possession of goods and disorderly conduct. 26

On the morning of the riots a prominent Greek, John Doscas, was quoted in the West Australian trying to explain events in Athens and


clarify the position of the local Greek populace. Doscas expressed the view that he was outraged at the happenings in Athens and the attacks on Prime Minister Venizelos and his colleagues by the King’s supporters. 27 Doscas was trying to make the point that he was a Venizelist, as was, he suggested, most of Perth’s Greek community, and thus pro-British, but this notion was lost on many of the paper’s readers.

While the report from Athens on casualties suffered by Allied troops may have triggered the Kalgoorlie riots, their root cause was a mix of factors. These included reports of increasing casualties among Australian troops abroad, near-blind patriotism at home, and long-standing negative attitudes towards immigrants from southern Europe. Even so, the Athens incident appears to be the main reason why, on 12 December 1916, just two days after the Kalgoorlie riots, the Chief of Staff of the Australian Military Forces wrote to the Commander of the 5th Military District (Western Australia):

In view of the possibility of Greeks coming into a state of war with the Allies, Greek citizens in Australia may become enemy subjects. 28 They should therefore be carefully watched, but not necessarily interned, except in urgent cases where serious danger is anticipated from any individual However, internment should occur within the fifth Military District and not resemble NSW concentration camps. 29

Peter Michelides was quick to respond to any suggestion that cast doubt upon the loyalty of Greece-born Australians. On the same day that the Chief of Staff issued his instructions, Michelides sent a cable message to Venizelos, head of the Provisional Government of Greece established at Salonica in early October 1916, expressing the cordial sympathy of the Greek community with his pro-Allied policies. Recent occurrences in Athens, he wrote, meant that “we may be regarded by the people here as enemies’. To protect local Greeks, Michelides asked Venizelos to negotiate with the British Government ‘regarding our fate’. Venizelos replied that he was making representations to London from which he expected good results. Meantime, he suggested Michelides submit his grievances to the Govenor-General of Australia. Eleven days after the goldfields disturbances, Peter Michelides telegraphed the Governor-General, impressing on Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson the same view as Doscas, that

Greeks in Australia... a great majority from [the] Aegean islands, are supporting Mr Venizelos’ patriotic movement, and all [are] in sympathy with the causes of the Allies, [but] being treated here as actual enemies... Great majority of us are naturalized here and many of us have resided in Australia for more than 20 years’.

He went on to say that the press had misunderstood the position of the Greeks and had implied that they were treacherous and that the Greek


presence in Australia should not be tolerated. The result had been that in Kalgoorlie fifteen shops were wrecked, while in Boulder another six were ruined. Michelides concluded his telegram by expressing his fear that a similar fate awaited the Greeks of Perth. 30

The concerns that Peter Michelides expressed to both Venizelos and the Governor-General had been complicated by the resignation of H.P. Downing, Honorary Consul for Greece in Western Australia since 1905, on 11 December. 31 In a letter to the Australian Prime Minister, Downing earnestly requested that the Government adequately protect the persons and property of local Greeks, the majority of whom were from the Greek islands, supported Venizelos and were ‘absolutely loyal’ to the Allied cause. Soon after this, Downing accepted a personal request from Venizelos to ‘undertake the consular duties on behalf of [Venizelos’s] Government'. 32

According to the police report, an estimated seven to nine thousand pounds worth of damage occurred in Kalgoorlie. 33 Over the next few weeks, however, there were to be numerous contradictory assessments made about the value of the properties destroyed. Downing lodged compensation claims on behalf of eighteen Kalgoorlie Greeks and six from Perth. 34 It was argued that the authorities had failed to provide the protection to which the local Greek residents were entitled. A commission of inquiry was set up, but in the end the State Government disclaimed all responsibility. While Federal and State authorities tried to shift the blame, the Greek Government became involved, calling for compensation from both levels. 35

The Commonwealth Government’s position on the matter had been set early in the piece. One week after the riots, an official from the Department of Defence informed the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department that, because Australia was not at war with Greece, the matter was not one of ‘hostile aliens’ but rather ‘purely a State matter of police’, a view which the Prime Minister then conveyed to the Acting Consul-General for Greece. 36 However, the Acting Premier of Western Australia, H. B. Lefroy, disclaimed State responsibility. On 5 January 1917 he wrote to the Prime Minister saying that, while the State police had done everything possible to restore order in Kalgoorlie and Boulder, it had been ascertained that ‘soldiers [were] the ringleaders in almost every case of disorder of this nature’. He not only suggested that the Defence Department take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence, but also questioned the Acting Consul-General’s claim that the riots had caused great distress among Greek shopowners, and cited a report from the police that there were no known cases of distress, ‘nor has any application been made for relief by any of them’. 37

However, claims for compensation by Greek shopowners were not long in coming, and thereafter became a major issue of contention. On 20 February, the Consul-General for Greece in Melbourne wrote to the


Prime Minister enclosing a letter written by Perth solicitors Downing and Downing, on behalf of Thomas Metaxas, owner of the Post Office Fruit Cafe in Kalgoorlie. The letter described how Mataxas’s shop had suffered Very great damage’ as the result of a raid by a mob of soldiers and civilians. Downing had advised Metaxas to go to Melbourne and place before the Consul-General a claim for 2,210 pounds. The Prime Minister’s support was sought, wrote Downing, because the Western Australian Government had already refused claims for compensation in relation to the October riots in Perth, on the grounds that ‘the Commonwealth Government was the proper authority to deal with the matter’. 38

Predictably, the Prime Minister’s office referred Metaxas’s claim to military authorities in Perth, who informed the Prime Minister that the persons concerned in the riots were ‘chiefly citizens’. The gatherings were in no sense military, only one or two soldiers had participated and only civilians had been prosecuted. Therefore, the Minister for Defence considered that his Department was in no way responsible for the damage, and consequently would take no further action. The report was conveyed on 30 March 1917 to the Consul-General for Greece in Melbourne.39

The limited involvement by soldiers was not, however, the position taken by a deputation of Kalgoorlie citizens, led by the Mayor, who had met with the Minister for Works and Railways on 10 January. One member argued that soldiers had not only taken part in the riots, but that men in khaki were seen directing the raiders and were observed throwing out goods from shops to the crowd. However, the Minister was not convinced. Local residents had a ‘big hand’ in the disturbance, he noted, and he could not see how the Commonwealth Government should be called upon to bear the expense. 40

Soon thereafter, the Commonwealth Registrar for Works in Western Australia was asked to assess the validity of claims of shopkeepers for damage done in 1916 during riots at Perth, Kalgoorlie and Boulder. Those who made claims were required to lodge statements and inventories of damage. Many claimants empowered Michelides to negotiate on their behalf, but when the Registrar reduced total claims of 11,525 pounds to 5,413 pounds, several shopkeepers expressed their disappointment. 41 The affair dragged on for another ten years, but still there was no admission of State responsibility or any compensation. 42 As far as can be ascertained, the Greek shopkeepers who were victims of the 1916 riots were never compensated by anybody for damage to their shops.

An irony surrounding the military-initiated anti-Greek riots was that at least five Castellorizian Greeks from Western Australia enlisted with the A.I.F. during World War One. Jack Michael, Con Passaris, Stavros Kakulas, Michael Gunellas and Vasili Zimbulis all served overseas and saw combat 43 and Gunellas and Michael are known to have been gassed on the Western Front. 44

Well before the politicians and bureaucrats began procrastinating over


liability and playing down the seriousness of the riots, many Greek families from the goldfields had chosen to move either to Perth or to the eastern capitals. In fact, within ten days of the incident, the majority of the Kalgoorlie and Boulder Greeks packed their remaining belongings and left, abandoning their shops, and leaving unemployed staff and unpaid debts. Peter Michelides later described their plight:

All of them came to Perth as penniless refugees to appeal to their countrymen to succour them and provide shelter for their wives and children until they obtained work. Many were furnished by their Perth compatriots with sufficient funds to enable them to proceed to the Eastern States to look for employment, whilst others left Australia altogether. In all the lists submitted [for recompense], the amounts represent actual damage, and no account whatever has been taken of goodwill, which in nearly every case far exceeds the material loss. 45

This population shift was significant, not only because it accentuated Perth’s importance as the State’s major Greek centre, but it reinforced the emerging residential pattern and networks developing within the city.

The impact of the riots on the Greek presence in the town is verified by postal and statistical information. Wise’s Western Australian Postal Directory records that in 1910 eight Greek families resided in Hannan Street, but by 1923—-seven years after the disturbances—only two Greek families lived on Kalgoorlie’s main thoroughfare. In June 1916 there were at least forty-eight adult Greek males in the goldfields region, but by 1921, according to the census for that year, there were only seven. Many Greeks, like Panos Pitsikas who left Kalgoorlie for Perth early in 1917, moved because of the fear of a recurrence of the rioting, and the bitterness with which the incident had stained their memories. They sought locations where there were many other Greeks, who could offer them a more secure, comforting and less threatening environment Michael Mangos travelled beyond Perth in search of such an environment, eventually settling in Melbourne.

For many of the Greek refugees from the goldfields, however, Perth’s Greek community offered some sanctuary and had the increasing semblance of permanency. The metropolitan area already had a regional fraternity representing the bulk of the city’s Greek population, a few recreational clubs to cater for Greek males, and a resident Greek Orthodox priest, Germanos Illiou. Yet the events of 1916 which impacted so greatly on members of the State’s population are not widely known. The anti-foreign sentiment that pervaded the State blended with the patriotism fuelled by the Great War into a powerful cocktail that harmed the reputation of Western Australia and some of its people.



1. G. Fischer, 'Negative Integration and an Australian Road to Modernity: Interpreting the Australian Homefront Experience in World War One’, in Australian Historical Studies, No. 104 (April 1995), pp. 458-9.

2. For example, R. Gerritsen, ‘The 1934 Kalgoorlie Riots’, in University Studies in History, Vol. 3 (1960), pp. 42-56; J.M. Volet, 'Night of Terror in Kalgoorlie and Boulder’, in Early Days, Vol. 9, Pt 4 (1986), pp. 108-19; G. Casey & T. Mayman, The Mile that Midas Touched (Adelaide, 1964).

3. J. Jupp & G. Freeman (eds), Nations of Immigrants (Melbourne, 1992), p. 141.

4. A Markus, Australian Race Relations (St Leonard’s, 1994), pp. 150-1.

5. H. Gilchrist, Australians and Greeks, Vol. 2 (Forthcoming).

6. J. Rickard, Australia: A Cultural History (London, 1988), pp. 116-17.

7. Greeks from Castellorizo: Admission to the Commonwealth 1917-19, 28 May 1918, Australian Archives, Canberra (hereafter AAC): Al/1/19/5153.

8. C. M. Woodhouse suggests that ‘the only practicable definition of a Greek is that he/she is somebody who thinks he/she is a Greek’. He goes on to say that in general terms there does exist some common ground for being Greek. This ‘includes language, consciousness of history, almost inevitably religion, but not necessarily place of birth’. Though not a conclusive definition of a Greek, and overlooking the processes that helped to nationalise the Greek masses, Woodhouse’s formula does have some merit. In so far as the Greeks of Australia are concerned, M. Tsounis defined a Greek as ‘anyone who is of Greek extraction and acknowledges their ancestry. [Such a] definition includes first, second and third generation Greeks born outside of Greece’s national boundaries, and the offspring of mixed marriages.’

9. Royal Commission on Foreign Contract Labour in WA, Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 2,1902, pp. 873-926.

10. Greek numbers in 1904 were up 64% on 1901 figures; Austrian (presumably Yugoslav) residents had increased by 37% and Italians 31%. Royal Commission into the Immigration of Non-British Labour to WA, Votes and Proceedings of WA Parliament, 1904, pp. 13-102.

11. Greeks from Castellorizo, op. cit, 2 February and 28 May 1918.

12. West Australian, 28 October 1916, p. 7.

13. Police Occurrences for Perth Station 1916, 27 October 1916, Public Records Office of WA (hereafter PRO): Acc 716/17.

14. West Australian, 28 October 1916, p. 7.

15. Police Occurrences, op. cit

16. West Australian, 28 October 1916, p. 7.

17. West Australian, 30 October 1916, p. 6.

18. In September 1916 Venizelos left Athens, challenging the King’s authority by calling on the Greek people to support Serbia and the western Allies, and then establishing a well-supported ‘provisional government’ in Salonica.

19. A Splivalo, The Home Fires (Fremantle, 1982), p. 54.

20. For example, control over the railway north from Athens and the surrender of some arms and war materials.

21. The Allied force was driven back to its ships with several hundred casualties. An Allied naval blockade of Piraeus followed, while in Athens violent confrontations erupted between pro-King forces and supporters of Venizelos.

22. Interview with M. Mangos, Melbourne, 29 January 1988.

23. Kalgoorlie Miner, 11 November 1916, p. 3.

24. Interview with Mrs J. Magriplis, 14 September 1985.

25. A Splivalo, op. cit

26. Report by Inspector Donovan, Kalgoorlie and Boulder Riots: Damage to Greek Shops, WA Police File, PRO: Acc 6695/1916.


27. West Australian, 9 December 1916, p. 7.

28. The War Precautions Act, introduced by the Australian Government in October 1914, allowed for such treatment of any Australian resident who came to be identified as an ‘enemy of the state’ or as an ‘enemy alien’. Initially, the definition of an ‘enemy alien’ was a foreign national of a country at war with England who was a reservist or of military age. At the end of 1914, then during 1915 and 1916, the regulation governing enemy aliens was extended to include disloyal naturalised subjects, those locally born but of enemy descent, and ‘all aliens, whether enemy or not’. G. Fischer, op. cit, p. 469.

29. Correspondence, AAC: 14/1/0; 4/12/4, Box 23.

30. Telegram, Michelides to Governor-General, 20 December 1916, AAC: A571/1, Item 22/12080.

31. Downing to Prime Minister, 11 December 1916, AAC: PM 16/3909/8.

32. Argus, 23 December 1916.

33. Inspector Donovan, op. cit

34. See, for example, Anti-Greek Riots, Treasury Dept of WA PRO: A167/1, Item WA21/1042.

35. Inspector Donovan, op. cit

36. 18 December 1916, AAC: PM 16/3909/13.

37. H.B. Lefroy to Prime Minister, 5 January 1917, AAC: PM 17/3540/3.

38. Downing and Downing to Prime Minister, 18 January 1917; Consul for Greece to Prime Minister, 20 February 1917, AAC: PM 17/3540/5.

39. W. M. Hughes to Consul for Greece, 13 March 1917, Acc 17/3540/12; Act Secretary for Defence to Prime Minister’s Dept 10 March 1917, Acc AIF110/1/216 & 27 March 1917, AIF 110/1/223; Prime Minister to Consul for Greece, 30 March 1917, Acc 17/3540/13, all AAC.

40. Report on Kalgoorlie Deputation to Minister for Works & Railways, 10 January 1917, AAC: Acc 17/3540/10.

41. Commissioner of Police to Commonwealth Works Registrar, 30 April 1918, PRO: Police File 6695/1916.

42. For further discussion about this incident, and Greek migration to and settlement in WA pre-1947, see forthcoming publication by R.T. Appleyard and J.N. Yiannakis.

43. Further research into Greeks in the AI.F. during the two world wars has been completed by the Australian Hellenic Society, Sydney.

44. Interview with Mr and Mrs M. Michael, 30 June 1990.

45. Michelides to 5th Military District Headquarters, 7 August 1917, AAC: Acc A/571/1.

Garry Gillard | New: 16 September, 2020 | Now: 7 June, 2022