Greek migration to Australia began in the 1800s, with significant numbers arriving during the gold rush. There was further immigration in the years between the two World Wars as the Ottoman Empire expelled Greeks from Turkey (Asia Minor). However, the biggest influx occurred in the post-war period after World War II up until the 1970s. Thousands of Greeks arrived over this time seeking better economic opportunity. This migration slowed once Europe had reconstructed and recovered from the war. Subsequent migration has been very minimal as the current Greek preference is generally to migrate elsewhere in Europe rather than Australia. According to the 2011 census, almost 80% of Australia’s residents who were born in Greece arrived before 1971.
Community in Australia
Australia has the third largest Greekin the world. As of 2011, 50% of the Greek population lives in Victoria. They constitute one of the country’s longest-settled migrant populations. It should be noted that those Greeks who have been settled and acculturated to Australia for decades may have a different understanding of cultural customs than those born and living in Greece today. While many Greek-Australians hold onto what they call “ta ethima mas” (our culture and traditions), what constitutes Greek tradition varies and blurs with every generation and may not absolutely reflect the descriptions in this profile.
Today, the Greece-born population in Australia is quite elderly (the median age being 67)1 and their children may not have been formally taught the Greek language, history and culture. Nevertheless, the Greek community generally keeps particularly strong ties to their homeland identity and culture. The language continues to be a mainstay for most, with 88% ofcontinuing to speak Greek at home.2 Eastern (Greek) Christianity also remains especially important to the older generation of Greek Australians.
It is important to acknowledge that not everyone born in Greece identifies as Greek, and vice versa. For example, some people born in the northern region of Macedonia may identify as Macedonian instead of Greek; at least 3% identify their ancestry as Macedonian.3 In the Australian community, there are also Peloponnesian Greeks, Pontian Greeks, Greeks from Asia Minor, Greeks from Egypt and Greek Cypriots.
1 Census, 2011
2 Census, 2011
3 Census, 2011