Presenter: Assoc. Professor Nicholas Doumanis.
The histories of ordinary first generation Greek Australians can tell us a great deal about Australia's great transformation as a modern society since 1945. These histories should also be seen within the context of a much longer history of Greek emigration and diasporic resettlement. This particular generation typically came from war-torn and impoverished villages in mainland Greece, the islands, and Cyprus, and then became working class women and men in inner city Melbourne and Sydney. Within a decade or two they migrated again to the suburbs, where they recreated their lives once again in conditions more to their liking. Many of them capitalized on a succession of property booms, and many of them were successful in small business.
This second movement signified more than anything else the success of Australia's remarkable post-war immigration experiment, which saw successive postwar governments orchestrate a massive social engineering program to rapidly expand the nation's population and productive capacity. That this was done with remarkably little social disruption suggests that the immigrants, including the Greeks, had effectively signed up to the experiment. At the same time, the Greeks particularly were keen to combat cultural assimilation by energetically developing their own institutions for cultural retention. The effect was to make them different Greeks, for Australian life and their locally born and raised children would inevitably alter their own sensibilities and outlooks. When they began visiting Greece flying Olympic Airways from the 1970s, they could not help but see the homeland Greeks – their siblings, cousins and old friends – as different people. The feeling was mutual.
The history of the first generation of post-war Greeks is a neglected but fascinating story. It speaks to the success of Australian immigration and Multiculturalism. Following on from George Megalogenis' recent work on Australia's economic prosperity and political stability, my aim is further appraise the roles played by Greek migrants in remaking their lives while helping to build Australia. My aim is to examine how the Greeks migrants reconstituted themselves as men, women, families, and as ethnic subjects. Questions that will guide my inquiries include: what role did migrants play in creating their own histories? How do their histories assist our understanding of the cultural, social and economic transformation of Australian society since the war? How did they become Australian while remaining Greek?
Nick Doumanis teaches history at the University of New South Wales. He has written a series of works on various aspects of Greeks history, his most recent being Before the Nation (Oxford University Press, 2012), which is about Greek life in Asia Minor before 1912. He is currently working on a history of the eastern Mediterranean and co-authoring a study of Greeks in the twentieth century with Professor Antonis Liakos. His longer-term project is the history of Greeks in Australia since the 1950s, and he is currently organizing a program to develop a Greek Australian historical archive.
During the course of the year considerable expenses are incurred in staging the seminars. In order to mitigate these costs individuals or organisations are invited to donate against a lecture of their choice, please email:
For this seminar we'd like to thank the following donors: George Kapnias, Nontas Tsitas, Efstratia Papadopoulos and Denise Diakodimitriou
You too can donate against one or more seminars and (optionally) let your name or brand be known as a patron of culture to our members, visitors and followers, as well as the broader artistic and cultural community of Melbourne.
We also thank the seminars' corporate sponsors: