Whenever I walk through Sydney Hyde Park, past the Archibald Fountain, along Art Gallery Road, and up to the steps of the Art Gallery of NSW, I remember our six-year-old son, Joel, asking why the names of the Ninja Turtles were displayed at the top of the facade. He’d just had a six-year-old Teenage Mutant Ninja birthday party with green costume and a turtle birthday cake. It was difficult to explain that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello were the names of very famous Italian Renaissance artists.
A recently published book by two researchers into the role of Greek families in the cultural history of Australia, got me thinking back to my childhood in the Clarence Valley of the forties and fifties. Effie Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski have been researching this topic for decades. They now work at the Macquarie University in Sydney.
In the early 20th century, many migrants from Greece emigrated to Australia, often to escape war and its aftermath, and to find economic salvation. Some of the milk bar and café owners who came to Grafton, my place of birth, were from the island of Kythera, lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. Their descendants back home, called Australia “Big Kythera”, and even today, the islanders often speak English with an Aussie twang.
Magnetic Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef. Just outside our unit is a marked underwater reef that one can follow, either with a snorkel or by renting a flat board, to view the coral. The island is shaped like an equilateral triangle. Each side of the triangle is 11 kilometres in length. The edges are scalloped by numerous inlets or bays, with sandy beaches where you can swim during the “safe” season.
Magnetic Island is a suburb of Townsville, which is only a 20 minute, 8 kilometre ferry ride away. A very independent and environmentally aware population of 2,000, resides on the island. The council has erected a large solar panel, which enables the island to supply 40% of their electricity needs, given that they are blessed with over 300 days of fine weather. It’s part of the “dry tropics” with rain falling only in summer. The guide who drove a group of us around the island has brought up his young family here and is passionate about it.
From the Hall of Fame at the North Sydney Pool:
“The North Sydney Pool was, in its heyday, one of the most advanced olympic facilities in the world”.
“It was designed by the architectural firm Rudder and Grout in a style of art deco that has been termed “stripped classical”. A great deal of attention was paid to detailing: the choice of tiles, the polychromatic brick work, and the plaster decorations. The most obvious references to classical form were in the stylised column capitals and the original pool tiles, which evoked the Roman bath house.”
WHERE IS VACY?
Vacy is in the Dungog Shire, not far from Paterson in the Lower Hunter Valley. It’s a 197 km drive north and then north-west from Sydney. Or you can catch the train to Maitland and be picked up by a family member from there.
Country living is much cheaper than renting or buying in the city. This young family spent their first few years renting in picturesque Paterson. Then they decided to build a house in nearby Vacy. How to do it? All you need is a two-acre block of land in the bush. And a kit home ready to install. In this case, one with many bedrooms. Five children and a dog came along as well. Help from a live-in granny was essential, also. She has her own unit at one end of the building.