Tributes have flowed for Henry Ninio, a popular former lord mayor of Adelaide, who passed away on September 22.
Born in Egypt, Ninio, 87, was a pharmacist and entrepreneur, aside from his civic role at the helm of Adelaide City Council in the 1990s.
Ninio was raised in Cairo after his family migrated from Turkey. He studied at Cairo University before fleeing with family members to Australia in 1956 when the Egyptian Jewish community was plunged into crisis in the wake of the Suez War.
Graduating as a pharmacist in 1960, he was in a small group that established businessman Alex Siros’ Simes Australia, which under Ninio’s guidance, launched the Piaf perfumery chain.
Ninio wrote two books about perfumes and their bottles, which he collected, and received the French Legion d’Honneur award for his promotion of French perfumes in Australia. However, he regarded his introduction of Australia’s first locally made perfume, with a scent sourced from native boronias, as a milestone achievement.
As lord mayor of Adelaide from 1993-97, he promoted residential zones in the East End, which invigorated inner Adelaide. He was president of Beit Shalom Synagogue in 1983.
Ninio is survived by his wife Lynette, daughter Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio of Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, her sister Zara and brother Daniel.
Rabbi Ninio reflected to The AJN this week, “He was incredibly intelligent, very creative … incredibly generous; he taught us the importance of helping others. Even when he had nothing, he would give away his last cent to help someone else. When he became more financially stable, nothing gave him more pleasure than being able to help others.
“He was a refugee who came here with nothing and he attained one of the highest civic offices.”
Walt Secord, a former NSW frontbencher and now Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council public affairs director, reflected, “I first encountered Henry Ninio when I was a young journalist at The AJN in the early 1990s and he was an alderman in Adelaide. He had an uncanny sense of the media and he knew how to respond to get his view across. He was also deeply committed to public service in the Jewish and non-Jewish community … His family can be proud of his role and legacy in helping to turn Adelaide into an international city.”
An online tribute to Ninio paid respects to the Adelaide father of three and grandfather of six, describing him as “a visionary dreamer who gave generously, lived fully and left a lasting impact on all lives. Zichrono livracha”.