The Greek Diaspora to Australia

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Last updated: November 10, 2019

Migration is a word that can apply to anything anywhere. Whether you are a molecule, an animal or a human being, it is a process that will create a whole lot of change. For a human, going through migration, whether your choice or by being forced, it is often a difficult life changing process. In dictionary terms migration means to shift from one system to another. This has occurred since the beginning of time, people moving from one continent to an unfamiliar continent due to war, political issues, in search of a better life.

One country, filled with spectacular history, good and bad, went through that life changing process and it was known as the Diaspora of Greece.The first Greek Australian citizens were two out of seven Greek convicts transported to Australia for piracy. They completed their sentence and then became newly made Australian Citizens.As immense events took place in Greece involving the failure of recapturing their land which had fell in Turkish hands and the Great Depression of the 1930’s the country was sent into chaos.

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What were the citizens of this once proud country going to do? With no choice but to look as far and wide for work they began to emigrate all around the globe. This brought small groups to the “great southern land” of Australia (their ally in the war against the Nazis).Life was not easy for the new arrivals. They found work in food trades, cafes, restaurants, fruit and veg, fish and confectionary shops and delicatessens. They were also able to use their skills as framers, tradesmen, cleaners, dress makers, fishermen and worked in the lead smelting industry. Out of the 2200 Greek migrants only four made their way into professions, a doctor, an engineer and two priestsLater, a civil war had risen and the turmoil lead Greek people to emigrate in search of political freedom, work, and better standards of living for their families.

Between 1947 and 1982 almost 250 000 Greeks arrived in Australia from mainland Greece, the Greek islands and other Greek communities.During Greek settlement in Australia the Greek Orthodox Church and many Clubs, Cultural Groups, schools and many other organizations played an important part in creating the Greek communities and preserving the Greek language and culture in Australia. They upheld many of the communal family and religious traditions, which they carried along with them from motherland Greece. The Easter traditions have especially been preserved, such as midnight mass, holy week and communion services. Another aspect of Easter that has been conserved is the Pre-Easter Forty Days of Lent and the regular weekly fasting.

Other religious services include the Blessing of the Waters, which is held in every city of Australia by the many Orthodox Churches, observed by many Christians, also the Epiphany, Christmas and New Years traditions have been upheld. Other traditional events include wedding ceremonies at church and at the house of the bride and groom.This tradition is very impressive in Cypriot weddings, where traditional wedding songs accompanied by the lira are sung, a special ceremony called the “last shave” of the groom is conducted by his best man. Baptisms, funerals and other mourning services also occur in their traditional ways. Even annual festivals created to commemorate Greek traditions throughout Australia, including the Glendi Greek Festival – Adelaide, Antipodes Festival – Melbourne, Greek Festival of Sydney – Sydney.Greek Australians have become famous and established members of the Australian society. They have made major influences on the development of Australia’s catering, building, real estate, tourism and vineyard industries.

Politics: George Souris- deputy leader of the NSW National Party, Nick Xenophon- SA Legislative Council backbencherThe Arts: Marie Coustas “Effie”- actress, writer, comedian, Nick Giannopoulos- actor, writer, stage, film and television producer, Tony Rafty- war artist and cartoonistEducation: Prof Manuel Aroney- academic and human rights advocateBusiness: John Lazarou- businessman and philanthropistSport: Mark Philippousis- tennis player, Anthony Koutoufides- Carlton AFL past Captain, Michael Diamond- Olympic shooterThe Greeks have made an enormous contribution to Australian cultural and social life dating back to the two huge waves of migration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They have maintained a solid sense of Greek cultural expressions, traditions, festivals and family life. Numbering almost half a million, the Greek community in Australia comprises the second largest ethnic community after the Italians. The contribution of Greek settlers to the large industrial cities and other major urban centres modernised them by injecting new ideas into the economic, social and political life of their new environment. The role of Greek settlers has been vital in building the nation we have today.

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