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Family ties to the Hill

Monday, 29th January, 2018

Steve Kamper visits the Kintore Headframe on Blende Street, the street where his father spent his childhood years. PICTURE: Kara de Groot Steve Kamper visits the Kintore Headframe on Blende Street, the street where his father spent his childhood years. PICTURE: Kara de Groot

By Kara de Groot

A Sydney politician whose father was born in Broken Hill said he was excited to visit the city his dad had remembered fondly.

Steve Kamper is the Member for Rockdale in southern Sydney, and was in town with fellow MP and shadow water minister Chris Minns to see firsthand how water issues were affecting the Far West.

There was another reason for Mr Kamper’s visit however, to see the place his father, Peter, was born and his grandfather, Vasilios ‘Bill’ Kamperogianis, worked for nearly two decades.

Bill moved to Broken Hill in 1926, having moved from Greece in 1923 and spending three years in Victoria as a shoemaker. 

“He worked as a mullocker here in one of the silver mines,” Mr Kamper said.

“I don’t know which mine he worked at, but I know it was very close to his home in Blende Street,” he said.

“He lived at 459 Blende Street, a home he bought and paid off over 12 years while my grandmother stayed in Greece.”

According to a newspaper article in the Barrier Miner, written in 1936 when Bill’s wife and daughter were finally able to join him, Bill left Greece to find better opportunities in Australia, while his wife stayed behind to care for Bill’s ailing father.

The couple had only married two months prior to Bill’s departure, and Mrs Kamperogianis was already pregnant.

“It was tough times over there, after the war, during the depression,” Mr Kamper said.

“By all accounts my grandpa became a very popular guy, especially in the Greek community in Broken Hill.

“Then after 12 years my grandma and my Aunt Kath, who was 11 by that time, were able to get on a boat for Australia.”

The boat trip took 32 days, and Mr Kamper’s aunt, Kathleen, started to teach herself English on the trip over.

Broken Hill’s Greek community reportedly turned out in full force to see the family reunited, both for their arrival by train from Adelaide, and to see them once the family had settled into their Blende Street home.

The Kamperogiani’s had another five children in Australia, one of whom was Mr Kamper’s father, Peter.

“Sadly my dad died young, but he had fond memories of Broken Hill,” Mr Kamper said.

“Dad went to Broken Hill Primary, which I think is Central now, and his older sisters went to Broken Hill High School,” he said.

“Dad used to talk about how hot it was, in his corrugated iron home, and getting to visit that site was amazing.

“The house is no longer there, but there’s a ‘for sale’ sign on the land so I’ve made a call to the agent to see what they’re asking for the site.”

Sadly, Bill broke his back working on the mines in the early 1950s, when his son Peter was about 12 years old.

Unable to work, the family sold their Blende Street house and moved to Redfern in Sydney, where Mr Kemp was eventually born and grew up to work in his dad’s accountancy firm, and eventually state politics.

Mr Kemp said it was great to be able to visit the town his father came from and explore his history.

“It’s such a neat, tidy town with so much character and I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.

“I’m really keen to try and gauge what the property values were here compared to the property values in Sydney back then.

“From what a lady at a cage told me the land where my grandpa was is probably worth about $40,000 today whereas in Sydney today similar land would be about $1.5 million, but that would have differed in the 50s when the town was pretty much at its peak.”

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