Thousands of Greeks arrived in Australia with hope they would make a better life for themselves. Most entered the workforce without any English language skills whatsoever, there were few subsidised opportunities them to learn. Most struggled for many years, being unable to communicate they faced constant harassment and alienation from the mainstream society. Taking them many years to become socially accepted and welcomed by the Anglo-Saxon society.
Over time though while huddling together as a tight community, supporting each other through the tough times; our migrant Greek forefathers built there own branch society. They opened there own businesses, ran there own community churches, and practiced there trades; In short they helped each other create a society where they could lean on each other in order to create a better life they come in search of.
As some opened eateries and dinning establishments and much more. As some could not afford to open there own business, or in some cases did not want to take the risk in doing so, went on to work for others in the community, in factories, as tradesmen, farmers, as cleaners and even as dressmakers.
Through the times though our Greek forefathers made some significant contributions to society; the most relevant contributions made by the migrant Greeks in Australia would have been in the food and hospitality industry. The use of many herbs and spices in contemporary Australian cuisine are of traditional western custom. Although were the true influence becomes prevalent is in the preparation of food.
The taste of food prepared over coal is incredible, it possesses fantastic flavours (lamb spit) this particular method of preparing food has been used by the Greeks for centuries. It was introduced to the Australian society by the early Greek migrants. Cooking over coal as a method of food preparations now used Australia wide in many fine dining establishments.
The famous Yiros made its first debut in much of inner Melbourne early on in the settlement to of our fellow Greeks. They had everyone intrigued by the method of its preparation, and of its unique flavour. As the word spread about the money that could be made simply selling traditional ethnic food, many Greeks jumped on the bandwagon and made a fair and honest living for themselves, and there families. Yiros has now become a world renowned fast food, most residence of Australia can tell you that they have tried one and it tasted fantastic, one of the many significant contributions introduced by the Greek migrants to Australia.
Furthermore, as the new Australians began to find there feet in Australia, small delicatessens and fish and chip shops began to become more noticeable. Many Greeks took the risk of starting there own business, even tho they were not familiar with the language, they learned it slowly by watching television, listening to the radio and even attempting to read the printed media.
Secondly Greek Australians have protected and preserved there language and culture, especially within there families and also through strong community organisations. The Greek language program was one of the first when SBS radio began in the mid-1970. Through this radio program, it once again kept the community closely liked. People could advertise there established business, to gain awareness within there community and also keep up to date with recent news and upcoming social events. This influenced the mainstream community because as the migrants continued to show there ethnicity publicly, other social groups gained awareness about the Greek customs and culture.
The Orthodox Church was the central focus of the community for quite some time. Schools were established to help preserve language and culture. The Greek Orthodox Church and the many other community organisations played an important role in meeting the cultural, settlement and welfare needs of the people.
Greek Australians have maintained many of there religious, social and domestic traditions. Easter is especially important with fasting, church service and celebratory food. Christmas, New Year and Epiphany with the blessing of the Waters ritual are also observed. Patron-saint name days are celebrated even by irregular church-goers. Other community events include wedding ceremonies, baptisms, funerals and other mourning traditions.
Through the celebrations of these events the Greek community kept in constant contact with each other, it helped them remain a closely knit community. This benefits today’s society because without this cohabitation the Greek community of Australia would not be as interconnected as it is today. This has influenced mainly the younger generation of Greeks because it has helped them preserve their cultural traditions and ethnic backgrounds and celebrations. It is important for this to continue occurring so that traditions can be shared with the rest or the Australian community and also for the traditions to be passed on to the following generations.
As the 20th century progressed, Greek Australians became established members of the Australian society. Many achieved success as graziers, farmers and small-business operators in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
With their strong influence on Australia’s food service industry and other industries such as construction, real estate, tourism and wine, Greeks and people from a Greek background are now part of the Australian mainstream society prominent in politics, the arts, sport, business and tertiary education.
Through time Greeks have been socially accepted and welcomed by the Anglo-Saxon Australians. They have been praised for their years of suffering and for their true “Aussie” spirit of survival and will to succeed.