Greeks’ Pivotal Role in Australian Pearling

Pearl Cultivation

Greek-Australians have been engaged in pearling since the late 1880s, at first in the pearl shell industry and later in pearl cultivation.

Athanasios (Arthur) August was among the first Greeks to become involved in the pearling industry, in the town of Broome. Macquarie University historian Leonard J. Janiszewski told ABC Kimberley Local Radio about August: “He came out seeking a new life from a tiny island known as Kastellorizo. And many of the Greeks that came out during the early period, that’s prior to the 1940s, did come from that tiny island.”

However, the Greek who laid the foundations of one of the greatest pearling enterprises in Australia was Theodosis Paspalis, a Greek merchant who arrived in the country in 1919 to settle in Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region. His sons, Michael and Nicholas Paspaley, and his daughter Mary worked hard in the field after their father’s death, managing to turn the family company into a real legacy.

Denis George was an another Greek-Australian who was distinguished in the pearl market making use of the work of William Saville-Kent, a marine biologist who was an expert in cultivating pearls in Western Australia during the 1890s.

“Denis George was doing some work in various libraries throughout Sydney, primarily the State Library of New South Wales, and he had rediscovered Saville-Kent’s work,” Janiszewski said.

Another success story was “written” by Micael Kailis and his Broome Pearls, a company that was training Australian pearl technicians in the 1970s.