During the post war years, Australia inaugurated a programme of immigration from Europe in order to accelerate its development and expand its population as a defence against its northern neighbours. Australia became the main overseas migratory destination for Greeks after 1945 and received more than 180,000 Greeks between 1945 and 1970.
Join our guests as they discuss how and why over 180,000 Greeks immigrated to Australia between 1945 and 1970.
Hosted by Kyriakos Gold, CEO of Just Gold Digital Agency, and filmed in the heart of Melbourne's Greek Quarter.
Guest speakers include Maria Vamvakinou MP; Arthur Korfiatis, Realtor; Dr George Vassilacopoulos, A/ Senior Lecturer LaTrobe University, Peter Kalliakoudis, travel executive and Costas Markos, consultant (in order of appearance).
Guest speakers include Dr George Vassilacopoulos, A/ Senior Lecturer La Trobe University; Sotiris Hatzimanolis, Editor in Chief Neos Kosmos; Dr Konstandina Dounis, Teaching Associate at Monash University; Dean Kalymniou, Lawyer; Maria Vamvakinou MP and Peter Mitrakas, lawyer (in order of appearance).
Guest speakers include Dr George Vassilacopoulos, A/ Senior Lecturer La Trobe University; Dean Kalymniou, Lawyer; Dr Konstandina Dounis, Teaching Associate at Monash University; Peter Mitrakas, lawyer; Mary Mitrakas, lawyer; Maria Vamvakinou MP; Peter Kalliakoudis, travel executive and Arthur Korfiatis, Rent Exchange Real Estate Agency (in order of appearance).
Guest speakers include Dean Kalymniou, lawyer; Dr George Vassilacopoulos, A/ Senior Lecturer La Trobe University; Peter Stefanidis, President of the Pontian Federation Australia; Maria Vamvakinou MP; Peter Mitrakas, lawyer; Katerina Kotsonis, Greek-Australian Actress and Peter Kalliakoudis, travel executive (in order of appearance).
In 1946 Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration, declared that “the days of our isolation are over... more and more people... will come from overseas to link their fate with our destiny”. Australia’s post-war mass migration policy had been launched. Over most of the following three decades, Greeks from all over Greece would journey by ship to the antipodean continent in unprecedented numbers, hoping for “a better life”. Passenger vessels such as the Chandris Line’s Patris, Ellinis and Australis, the Cyrenia of Hellenic Mediterranean Lines, and Lloyd Triestino’s Toscana, have since become Australian maritime icons — symbols of the populating of the “new Australia." *
Like their forebears in Greece, Greek-Australians have successfully embraced the sea. For over two hundred years, Antipodean waters have provided passage, employment, adventure, recreation and sport for Greek-Australians. This insight into their involvement with the sea, can only help but emphasise the significance of their contribution to Australia’s maritime activities. Their participation at times has demonstrated great enterprise and courage and has unquestionably assisted in shaping the course of modern Australia’s relationship with the sea.
But the complexity and contentedness of the migration-transport-tourism-trade nexus is clear in the case of post-World War II Greece-Australia emigration. The mechanism of migration was not only — if at all — a humanitarian operation. Australia did not support immigration as a means of tackling the overpopulation of Europe, as the Australian officials declared, but rather to utilize the migrants for economic development and demographic growth. Post-war Greece permitted and supported the emigration of its people, not as a means of offering them greater employment opportunities, but to tackle the high unemployment issue in the country and to use the expected migrant remittances to alleviate the shortages in its currency reserves.
In the meantime, while Kalymnian sponge divers were brought out during the 1950s to dive for pearl shell in seas off the continent’s north-west coast, one enterprising and single-minded Greek, Con Denis George (Georgiades), experimented with the production of cultured pearls, an avenue later pursued by other Greeks such as N. Paspaley (Paspalis) of Darwin and Western Australian fishing magnate, Michael G. Kailis. Today, Greek Australians have become synonymous with the sale of both fresh and frozen seafood around the country but especially in our capital cities.
Furthermore, in 1956 a program was instituted to redress the imbalance and bring out single Greek women. Such women would be trained in Athens for domestic work in Australia, as well as being taught basic English. Between 1957 and 1963, more Greek females than males arrived in Australia, though most were privately sponsored rather than “assisted”. With migrant ships carrying large numbers of single Greek women to Australia, many as prospective brides for Greek men, the vessels became known as “bride ships."* Embarkation was an emotionally difficult process, both for emigrants and for those who were left behind. However, boarding was not successful for some because their sponsors in Australia withdrew their nomination. This was a common phenomenon, especially for women who met a man by exchanging correspondence and photographs – the first face-to-face contact with a fiancé took place in Australia.
Judging by the "horrible" living conditions during the voyage, in the migrant overseas, especially those of the first period (1907-1937), immigrants were considered a "burden". Suffice it to say that ships of only 5-6 thousand tons, carried up to 1,200-1,300 passengers, on trips that often exceeded 20-22 days. The immigrants were literally "packed" in the spaces below the main deck in desperately narrow spaces. From the very first day, the crowds, the fumes of vomit, the smell of the bodies of the passengers and the lack of basic cleanliness made the atmosphere suffocating.
After 1952 the increase of the Greek element in Australia was significant. The main reason for the migration were economical with nightmarish circumstances at the Immigrant Centers like Bonegilla in Victoria. The last migrant ship to dock at Station Pier, Port Melbourne, was the Australis in 1977. But in Australia things were not better for the Greeks. In 1925 the Queensland Deputy Secretary of State wrote: "Greeks in northern Queensland are generally undesirable and not good immigrants. They live in the cities of the region and engage in business of cafes, inns and other less reputable activities. They are not farmers and do not contribute anything to the wealth or security of this country. They do not engage in any useful work, which would be done less well without their help. Accompanied by a police officer, I visited several of their clubs and inns, which are generally in poor condition. Their standard of living is lower than that of other foreigners. Socially and economically, this type of immigrant is a threat to the community in which they settle and would be to the benefit of the state, if their entry was completely banned."
Southern Europeans, such as Greeks and Italians, were at the bottom of the list because they came from an underdeveloped region of Europe and were considered to be ignorant of modern life practices, mainly unskilled, mostly illiterate, and thus not easily assimilated.
Over the years the plane brought an end to the ocean liners. The travel days were converted into hours and the fare fell very low. The ships succumbed and most became cruise ships. In 1970 the migration wave decreased with the antistrophe numbers of immigrates returning to Greece.
Many called migration "God's blessing", as they saw no other way out. Others "curse of God" and "modern slave market". This was the way out with only one suitcase in hand, full of "dreams and hopes" for the best of luck, for a new future. Immigration, in addition to the sadness and misery it brought, opened roads to many people and brought the Greek world in contact with other countries, other cultures, other religions and traditions. Today the descendants of these people are the best ambassadors of Greece. They may be separated by the distance from their homeland, but they continue and will continue to dream wherever they are… in Greek, because "Homeland is the language you speak in your dreams"!
* (Janiszewski, Leonard and Alexakis, Effy): Greek currents in Australian waters: Greek-Australians and the sea, 1810s–2013
The period of Metapolitefsi in Greece and Multiculturalism in Australia (1967-2009) was a period of prosperity for the Greek Australian community, with travel and movement between the two countries.