Greek immigrant honoured for role in shaping coastal hamlet’s fishing industry

Greek immigrant honoured for role in shaping coastal hamlet’s fishing industry

When Konstantinos Paleologoudias left Greece as a fresh-faced 18-year-old fitter and turner in the 1950s he began an adventure that would help shape two small towns 14,000 kilometres away on South Australia’s west coast.

Konstantinos, also known as Kon Paul, established a fish processing factory at Port Kenny and while the size of the prawn boat fleet in Venus Bay has fluctuated, the three remaining licensed boats are all owned by the Paleologoudias family.

More than 70 years since Kon emigrated, his feats have been recognised in Venus Bay, with the naming of a large sculpture of a pelican, Pauly.

The 3-metre-high pelican keeps watch over the water, looking across the jetty and fishing boats towards Port Kenny on the northern edge of the bay, where Kon made his home.

Terry Paleologoudias and Nicole Elliott with Pauly the Pelican, named in honour of Terry’s family.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

The small town of Venus Bay swells every long weekend and holiday period as holiday shack owners, farmers and tourists flock to enjoy its tranquil waters and fishing spots.

The calm waters contrast with the rugged 30-metre cliffs and crashing waves where the bay meets the open ocean, Kon’s son Terry Paleologoudias said.

“It’s quite a spectacular place really,” he said.

At a recent naming ceremony for the sculpture, Kon and his second eldest son Nick, who both died in 2019, were recognised for their roles in local history.

The Bosanquet is one of three remaining Paleologoudias prawn trawlers in Venus Bay.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

A family fishing legacy

Kon Paleologoudias moved to Australia in the 1950s in search of a better life.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

Before he moved to the Eyre Peninsula, Kon worked at a number of jobs around the state, including rabbit trapping and boiler making.

Then, in the early 1960s he joined his younger brother Harry in Thevenard in his fish processing business.

A few years later, Kon purchased land in Port Kenny where he built a fish factory that he called Kon Paul and Sons and he entered the prawn industry by buying his first trawler, the Cavalier.

“Dad must have seen there were fishermen here working out of Port Kenny,” Terry said.

“He started his own factory and started buying local whiting, garfish, shark.”

The family didn’t ever officially change their surname, but asked people to call them Paul “because it was easier”, Terry explained.

By this time Kon and his wife Margarita had their eldest sons John and Nick — they later welcomed twins Terry and Fiona in 1970.

After opening the factory, Kon bought his first trawler, the Cavalier, and his prawn fishing licence.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

“[They were] doing it pretty hard with no electricity and running water,” Fiona Paleologoudias said.

“Mum remembers carting the sea water to the factory to wash the fish until they got a well, and then they had plenty of water.”

Terry said he and his siblings grew up in the factory as his parents worked.

“My twin sister and I spent days on end in our dual pram in that fish factory smelling like whiting and seafood while my mum worked there as well,” he said.

John and Nick growing up in Port Kenny.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

Fiona said her mother recalls Kon would wake up at 4am to fillet the fish ready for Margaret to start packing at 7am. She could pack 5kg of fish fillets in two minutes.

Kon Paleologoudias relaxing in the wheelhouse.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

During a drought period of prawning in Venus Bay, Kon would wake up at 3am and drive his truck to [fishing port] Wallaroo to buy prawns and back to Port Kenny to process them – a 1,050km round trip.

“Although he now had a licence, unfortunately there were no prawns for the next few years, and the boat stayed tied up at the jetty until they started getting prawns again,” Fiona said.

Fishing in the blood

Three generations of fishers: Nick, his father Kon, and his son Steve.(Supplied: Palealogoudias family)

While the Paleologoudias family’s fish processing factory has now closed, the three remaining trawlers that call Venus Bay jetty home — Limnos, Bosanquet and Lincoln Lady — are all operated by members of the family.

“[They’re] out on their own, but all with the same memory and honour,” Fiona said.

With his son Jarrah, Terry skippers the Limnos, which Kon built in Fremantle and named after his Greek island home of Lemnos — where 50,000 Australian troops and nurses were stationed in World War I.

Terry Paleologoudias now skippers the Limnos prawn vessel, which his father had built in the 1970s.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

For Terry’s eldest brother John Paleologoudias, fishing is also in his blood.

He worked on the family’s prawn boats but now fishes for whiting, garfish and calamari in Venus Bay.

Nick played a hands-on role in the management of the family business and was a passionate leader within the region’s fishing sector.

Nick passed on his business knowledge to his children Steve (pictured) and Kailie.(Supplied: Paleologoudias family)

After growing up on the prawn trawlers and Venus Bay jetty alongside his dad, uncles and grandfather, Nick’s son Steve now skippers the Bosanquet, while cousin Theo Parissos owns Lincoln Lady.

There have been fluctuating prawn catches over the years, but the family’s three boats trawl the same waters that Kon trawled six decades ago.

“We still fish the same fishing grounds that they fished in the old days back in the 1960s,” Terry said.

“We haven’t had to go looking anywhere else.”

Tourist attraction

The trio of boats tied up at the picturesque Venus Bay have long been a tourist attraction themselves, along with the curved jetty.

Now the pelican sculpture, commissioned and paid for by Nicole Elliott, the owner of the town’s only store, provides an added attraction.

“Sitting on the verandah the kids and I just decided that Venus Bay needed something big,” Ms Elliott said.

The Paleaologoudias family own all three boats that operate in the western prawn zone.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

A group of pelicans can often be seen at the jetty as they patiently wait for returning fishers to clean their catch and throw fish scraps.

Ms Elliott said the pelicans were synonymous with the Paleologoudias fishing fleet and she wanted to honour the family and their legacy.

Ms Elliott said the reaction had been wonderful since the pelican was unveiled in December. 

“There would have to be in excess of 50-plus photos a day taken with Pauly,” she said.

That’s almost more than the town’s permanent population of 59.

Nicole Elliott commissioned and paid for the 3-metre-high sculpture to put her town on the map.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

Terry said his family were humbled by the tribute.

“It was a bit overwhelming and it was a complete shock,” he said.

“This is the first time someone has honoured our family.”

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