Cypriot Culture

Cypriots in Australia

The earliest known Cypriot settlers in Australia arrived during the gold rushes of the 1850s. Many others arrived as crewmembers of ships. By 1933, the census recorded 500 people born in Cyprus. These were all Greek Cypriots. The first Turkish Cypriot arrived in 1947.

 

The largest influx of Cypriot migration occurred in the 1970s. This coincided with the political tensions in Cyprus at the time and the deployment of Turkish troops. Roughly 6,600 people arrived in a four-year period after this event as many people sought better opportunity for their families.1 There has been relatively minimal migration since the declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. According to the 2016 census, 84% of the Cyprus-born population in Australia arrived prior to 1985.


Australia has one of the largest Cypriot migrant communities in the world (outside of Greece or Turkey). The vast majority of the population live in Victoria and New South Wales. The community is known to keep particularly strong ties to their homeland identity and culture. For example, they have one of the highest rates of language maintenance relative to Australia’s other migrant groups. The 2011 census identified that roughly 85% of the Cyprus-born population spoke either Greek (67%) or Turkish (18%) at home. This demonstrates how there has been a concerted effort within the communities to maintain their cultures and traditions. Between the 1960s and 1980s, it was common for Cypriot families to make their children attend language school in their mother-tongue on weekends or in the afternoon after their normal school day.


The Cypriot first-generation migrant population is older than most, with the median age being 60 (23 years older than the median age of the total Australian population). Only 1.8% of Cyprus-born people in Australia are under 25 years of age. As the majority of first-generation Cypriots migrated over 40 years ago, their practice of some aspects of Cypriot culture may be more traditional than what is now common in modern-day Cyprus. Many people who arrived in the 1960s and ’70s did not return to Cyprus for many decades and continued to practise their culture in the way that they had remembered it at their time of migration. This understanding and preservation of the country’s cultural customs may be different to those born and living in Cyprus today as much has changed on the island over the past decades. Nevertheless, it continues to be passed onto the younger second generation of Cypriots born in Australia.


Much cultural activity of the Cypriot population revolves around the local church or mosque. For example, most Cypriot institutions are sponsored or supported by a religious body. However, the younger generation of Cypriots (those born in Australia) are generally less religious. The Cypriot population in Australia has largely combined with the Greek and Turkish mainlander migrant communities respectively. Thus, rather than finding community organisations formed on the basis of shared Cypriot citizenship, one often finds that Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots have bonded with other Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking migrants.


In 2011, 17.4% of people born in Cyprus identified their religion as Islam and 14.3% identified their ancestry as Turkish. This could suggest that roughly 17-14% of the Cyprus-born population are Turkish Cypriots. It is important to note that the Australian government does not recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It supports the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus as the only legitimate authority on the island. This may pose a challenge for Turkish Cypriots living in Australia. 


1 Hatay, 2007

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