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. As such, it is an elderly migrant population, with the median age being 67 (30 years older than the median age of the total Australian population). Only 1.8% of Greece-born people in Australia are under 25 years of age. Therefore, it is important to note 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.
Australia has the third largest Greekin the world. As of 2011, 50% of the Greek population lives in Victoria. The Greek community keeps particularly strong ties to their homeland identity and culture. Despite being one of the longest-settled migrant populations, 88% of first-generation migrants speak Greek at home (2011 Census). Only 7.4% of people who were born in Greece speak English at home. However, while Greek-Australians tend to 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 profile described above. Today, most Greek-Australians are elderly and their children may not have been formally taught the Greek language, history and culture.
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. In the Australian community, there are also Peloponnesian Greeks, Pontian Greeks, Greeks from Asia Minor, Greeks from Egypt and Greek Cypriots.
According to the 2011 census, 93.4% of Greece-born residents in Australia identified with Eastern(Greek ) and 3.4% identified with some other religion or variation of Christianity. Only 1.7% did not identify with a religion and 1.4% did not state a religion. Religion remains especially important to the older generation of Greek Australians.