Nicholas Gianis Veneris (Nicholas Hellen) migrated from Kythera at the age of fourteen in 1898, arriving in Bundaberg in the early 1900s. He bought his first café in Bourbong Street in 1903-1904. He sold it shortly afterwards to John Stavrianos Comino and moved to Mt Perry where he worked as a baker and sometime later as a cultivator of oysters. Following a near-death drowning on the Kulan River, Nicholas purchased a property with an established café and fruit orchard in Many Peaks, 90 kms south of Gladstone in the Boyne Valley in 1915-1916.
In time he was to become one of the first Greek immigrants to serve as a Councillor for the Calliope Shire Council.
Together with his brother Vince, Nicholas established a profitable farm at Many Peaks where many Greeks and Australians worked alongside each other including Aboriginal workers.
Denis Conomos in his book The Greeks in Queensland : a history from 1859-1945 states ‘few Greeks in Queensland enjoyed their leisure time as much as the families of the Hellen brothers on their farm at Many Peaks’ Vince’s wife Elenie recalls being ‘joined by family from nearby Bundaberg… and their families and the Greek workers on the farm would have parties on weekends when they sang and danced and played Greek games, especially games from Smyrna.
Source: The Greeks in Queensland: a history from 1859-1945 / Denis A. Conomos, 2002 Pg 105, 314
Exhibition – Meet me at the Paragon
State Library’s exhibition, Meet me at the Paragon explores how the creation of American-style cafes enabled Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to carve out a new life in a foreign land. The exhibition runs until 15 March 2020.