Long-service leave seems to be a mythical notion for most people these days, with Australians only staying with the same employer, on average, for less than *three and a half years. Two brothers are bucking the trend, with an incredible century of service between them.

In December 2019, Carmine Lepore (pronounced Leh-poor-ay), better known as Charlie, celebrated 40 years with the City of Adelaide. And in January 2020, Charlie’s brother, Antonio (aka Tony), celebrated an astonishing 60 years of Council service. We spoke with the Lepore brothers to discover a little of their 'Adelaide story' and enduring careers.

Lepore brothers 2

L-R: Tony and charlie lepore working in the garden commemorating 100 years of service between them.

When Tony was 14 and Charlie was 10, they both travelled to Australia from Italy by ship with their mother, three sisters and one of their two brothers. The journey took 29 days and on arrival in Melbourne, they immediately boarded an overnight train to Adelaide. Here they were met by their father, who had already been in Adelaide for four years, working to establish a home for his family and to pay for them to join him for a new life in Australia.

The Second World War and economic downturn in Italy saw hundreds of thousands of migrants seek a new beginning in Australia from the late 1940s through to the 1960s. The Italians kept their culture alive through tight-knit local communities and it was through their Italian community in Adelaide that at just 15, Tony was recommended for his first ever job as a gardener for what was then called, Adelaide City Council.

the Lepore brothers share a story of career and community.

Tony's first day on the job was on 20 January 1960. His first task was to help establish the gardens in Rymill Park / Murlawirrapurka which, at that stage, was just bushland filled with olive trees, roaming cows and horses. It was a huge undertaking, and Tony remembers having to chop each of the olive trees down by hand with an axe. 

Tony helped to establish Rymill Park / Murlawirrapurka over a period of two years, creating the garden beds, planting trees and laying the lawn - before being relocated to Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga. Here, Tony fondly recalls the team of four sharing a tin shed located in the Square, where they stored tools and would seek shelter at break time. Tony laughs as he remembers it being so cramped that when they all sat down, their legs would all be touching. At winter time, he'd bring in his kerosene heater from home to help keep them, and their cups of tea, warm.

While Tony was establishing his career as a gardener, his younger brother Charlie was finishing school before starting a career as a butcher. Charlie had been a butcher for 11 and a half years when he decided to take up an opportunity to work with his brother. He started at Council on the 3 December 1979, almost 20 years after Tony. His first task was to work in the South Park Lands, helping establish the Himeji Gardens

The Himeji Gardens were a gift from Adelaide's Sister City of Himeji in Japan. Charlie recalls that the Japanese were not happy with the garden the Council had initially created, sending over two of their own gardeners, Mr Kumada and Mr Kumada Junior, who worked with Charlie to teach him the techniques in Japanese gardening, including the art of Bonsai. Charlie is quick to point out that, he too, was able to teach the Japanese a thing or two about gardening in Australia.

Himeji gardens 2019 aerial view

Aerial view of the Himeji Gardens in 2019, which Charlie Lepore helped establish in the early 1980s.

After working separately in various areas of the Park Lands and looking after streetscapes, the brothers came together in 2014 and have  been working side-by-side in Rymill Park / Murlawirrapurka, where Tony first started all those years ago, ever since.

 “I was set to retire,” says Charlie, who decided to stay after being relocated to work with Tony. “I love to work with my brother. We never argue.” 

Tony couldn't agree more.

"A society grows when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
The proverb included on the commemorative plaque - reflective of the legacy the brothers will one day leave behind.

To commemorate the Lepore's remarkable anniversary, the City of Adelaide has established a special garden in the North East corner of Rymill Park / Murlawirrapurka, under full supervision of Tony and Charlie. 

Officially opened in a small ceremony hosted by the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sandy Verschoor and City of Adelaide's CEO Mark Goldstone, and among the Lepore brothers family and friends, the stunning garden features a commemorative plaque, with each of the brothers hard-working hands forever memorialised in concrete on either side.

Now that the garden is established, Tony says he might even think about retiring. As for Charlie, he'd like to catch up with his older brother and stay on for at least another 20 years.

To hear more of the brother’s story, watch the video above.

*2017 report by Third Sector

Article by

Melanie Stewart

Melanie Stewart

Having lived interstate, Melanie is an avid promoter of her beloved hometown, Adelaide. With a passion for community and sustainability, she loves sharing stories of everyday people, doing extraordinary things.