|Country of Origin||Greece|
|Date of Birth||8/10/1950|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1955|
|Submitted by||Anthony Papaconstuntinos|
My parents decided that very little opportunity existed on the little but beautiful island of Kalymnos in the post-war period and if the children were to be given a start in life it would need to be elsewhere. My parents borrowed the necessary amount of money from my uncle to enable the family to travel to Sydney Australia in 1955. The family consisted of mum, Themalina, dad Spiro, my elder brother Nick, my little sister Maria and myself. What a challenge it must have been, to come half way around the world to a country they knew little about with three children under six years of age and not being able to speak the language; how daunting that must have been, but necessary as far as my parents were concerned. We all are extremely thankful and totally grateful that they had the vision, drive and dedication to undertake such a mammoth journey.
The journey would have commenced from Kalymnos on a ferry to the mainland port of Piraeus then onto the immigration passenger ship SS SKAUGUM a Norwegian flag vessel that was regularly used by the Australian Government to carry immigrants during the post war period. The voyage to Australia was not very memorable, I can recall being very seasick for most of the journey because we were accommodated in the lower levels of the ship, water line if you like. I recall looking out of the porthole and watching Albatross and other sea birds gliding and soaring, riding the wind currents. The area we were in was not very well ventilated and the pungent smell of body odour and the lingering smell of vomit lent to being even sicker most of the time. I can recall the festivities organised by the ships crew to celebrate the crossing of the International date line. That was a real fun day and a real treat that was the topic of conversation for some time after the event, generating outbursts of contagious laughter when ever it was raised. I still have the certificate issued to me by the ships master all those years ago, 10th August 1955.
Arriving in Sydney Harbour at the break of dawn was the greatest sight I had seen in my five years on this planet. I could not believe that there ever was a more beautiful place than my place of birth. Sydney Harbour was teaming with small craft from ferries, tugboats, barges cargo ships, sailing ships and yachts. The port was coming alive, awakening from her nightly slumber. Steam engines, cargo winches, locomotives, the whistling and hissing the tooting of the ferry whistles made for all the hustle and bustle that Kalymnos Harbour lacked, it was more laid back and serene compared to Sydney harbour which was alive and vibrant – a living breathing harbour. When the ship berthed we were bustled along into what can only be described as cattle runs. Zigging and Zagging until we reached the customs and immigration people who wanted all the paperwork to be completed and processed as rapidly as possible which was difficult as my parents and many many others could not speak the language. We eventually got through and were then hustled and bustled onto buses to Villawood Hostel where we we accommodated for some months. Dad could not find work in Sydney and we were relocated to Bonegilla hostel in Victoria but we again returned to Villawood for a little while before yet again being relocated to Fairy Meadow Hostel down on the Illawarra south coast. Dad finally got a job with BHP Steel where he stayed until he retired. The family grew by two more brothers being born in the Wollongong Hospital, George followed by little Con. In conclusion I would just add that our parents have since passed away but I and my brothers and sister are eternally grateful too them for having the guts to embark on such a journey at so young an age with three youngsters. All the children are now well settled in this wonderful country as adults with families of our own and have assimilated into the Australian way of life without ever forgetting our heritage and culture. We are very very honoured to be amongst all those other brave migrants who also chose to come to this great country and we are particularly proud to call ourselves Australians.
I have since my first marriage to Margaret Ann Connery (to whom we had three children, Jamie, Anthony and Jeniffer), married again to Robyne Cherryl Armstrong. As a young merchant seafarer I enjoyed travelling and learned much about how other people live.I went onto becoming an official of the then Seamans Union of Australia Victoria Branch later to be the Assistant National Secretary and in 1992 became the National Secretary of the union which became the Maritime Union of Australia ( MUA) in 1993.