Greek Australians

Greek Australians
Total population
99,939 (by birth, 2011)
378,270 (by ancestry, 2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Victoria · New South Wales · South Australia · Queensland
Australian English · Greek
Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Jewish, Muslim
Related ethnic groups
Cypriot Australians · Other Greek diaspora groups

Greek Australians (Greek: Ελληνοαυστραλοί, Ellinoafstrali) comprise Australian citizens who have full or partial Greek heritage or people who seek asylum as refugees after Greek Civil War or emigrated from Greece and reside in Australia. The 2011 census recorded 378,270 people of Greek ancestry, and 99,939 born in Greece,[1] making Australia home to one of the largest Greek communities in the world. Greeks are the seventh largest ethnic group in Australia. In the 2006 census, 365,147 people reported to have Greek ancestry, either exclusively or in combination with another ethnic group.[2] Also, the 2006 census recorded 125,849 people born in Greece and 21,149 born in Cyprus (many of whom are Greek Cypriots).

Greek immigration to Australia has been one of the most important migratory flows in the history of Australia, especially after World War II and Greek Civil War.

Greek Australians, as with other European Australians, have contributed much to the society of Australia as the past generations' choice to pursue a better life have given the first generation of Greek Australians an opportunity to create a better future and career in their nation of birth. They are considered first generation Australians and are proud of their heritage but simply, proudly call themselves Australians. As of 2015 the flow of migrants from Greece has in fact increased due to the economic crisis in the Hellenic Republic,[3] with Australia as one of the main destinations, mainly to Melbourne where the Greek Australian community is most established.[4]


Early Greek immigration

Greek immigration to Australia began in the early colonial period in the 19th century. The first known Greeks arrived in 1829.[5] These Greeks were seven sailors convicted of piracy by a British naval court and were sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. Though eventually pardoned, two of those seven Greeks stayed and settled in the country. They settled on the Monaro Plains in Southern New South Wales. Their names were Andronicos and Jigger Bulgaris. Andronicos went back to Greece a single man but Jigger stayed and married a local woman from the Tinderry Ranges near Michelago and fathered many children. Jigger was buried at Nimmitabel Pioneer Cemetery Hellenic Club of Canberra laid a commemorative piece of marble over his resting place around 2000. The first known free Greek migrant to Australia was Katerina Georgia Plessos (1809–1907),[6] who arrived in Sydney with her husband Major James Crummer in 1835. They married in 1827 on the island of Kalamos where Crummer, the island's commandant met the young refugee from the Greek independence wars. She is thought to be one of the last people to speak to Lord Byron. They lived in Sydney, Newcastle and Port Macquarie where she is buried. They had 11 children.[7] The first wave of free Hellenic migrants commenced in the 1850s, and continued through the end of the 19th century, prompted in part by the recent discovery of gold in the country.[8] A young Greek immigrant born in Athens, Greece named Georgios Tramountanas (1822 – 29 January 1911) and anglicised as George North in 1858, was the first settler of Greek origin in South Australia in 1842. The Greek community of South Australia regards North (Tramountanas) as their Pioneering Grandfather. In 1901, the year of federation, the Australian census recorded 878 native Greeks that were born there (In Greece), now living in Australia. Many of these Greeks were owners of or were employed in shops and restaurants. Some were also cane-cutters in Queensland.

20th century Greek Immigration to Australia

From the last decade of the 19th century until WWI the number of Greeks Immigrating to Australia increased steadily and Hellenic communities were reasonably well established in Melbourne and Sydney at this time. The Greek language press had begun in Australia and in 1913, Australia had the first Greek weekly newspaper that was published in Melbourne. During WWI Greece remained neutral, eventually joining the side of the Allies. In 1916 the Australian government responded to this by placing a special prohibition on the entry of Greeks and Maltese people to Australia that was not lifted until 1920. There were a number of anti-Greek outbursts as a result of the neutrality stance by Greece, often instigated by Australian soldiers on leave. During these outbursts Greek shops or cafes were badly damaged or destroyed, with the worst rioting occurring in Kalgoorlie and Boulder.

During the 1920s, as a result of the Greco-Turkish War there was a significant amount of Greek migration to Darwin and across the Top End. Greeks would often work in the canefields in North Queensland and move to Darwin during the dry season to work in the pearling industry. One famous family of Greek Australians, the Paspaley family excelled in the Pearling industry and have stores across Australia with their main store being in Darwin.

During the interwar period, the number of Greeks migrating to Australia increased substantially. Some Greeks who settled in Australia were expelled from Asia Minor after the Greek military defeat and the mass genocide by Turkey in 1922 while other Greeks sought entry after the USA established restrictive immigration quotas in the early 1920s. From 1924 until 1936 a series of regulations operating in Australia severely restricted the number of Greeks permitted to immigrate to and settle in Australia.

Greece entered WWII with the Allies when she was invaded by German and Italian forces who remained in Greece until 1944. Many ANZACs went to the nation and tried to help the population to defeat the AXIS enemy only to be saved themselves by the locals, building a realtionship between Australians and Greeks that stands strong to this day. When troops withdrew a struggle broke out between pro and anti-communist factions which resulted in civil war between 1946 and 1949, ending with the defeat of the communists.

The Greek government, devastated by the destruction of infratsructure and the looting of their banks by the Germans, encouraged post-war migration as a way of solving poverty and unemployment problems, with the most favoured destination being West Germany although large numbers also went to Australia and Canada. Post WWII in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Greeks were among one of the main European races picked by the Australian government's "Populate or perish" immigration scheme and due to this, thousands of Greeks migrated to Australia with just one purpose and that was to gain a better life and future for themselves and their families. The main destinations where these "Hellenes" immigrated were to cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. During these decades, the Greeks started making an impact in the country like never before, they were not only still establishing their own restaurants, this time they were also establishing their own Hellenic Community Clubs and Greek-Australian Soccer clubs. Greeks along with Italians, Croatians, Maltese, Serbians, Jews, Hungarians, Czechs etc. really made a stamp on Australian sport in general by forming some of the greatest and most successful Association football clubs that Australian football has ever had[peacock term] and in the Greek communities case, the most successful Australian clubs with Greek heritage and culture are the inventions of South Melbourne Hellas (South Melbourne FC) founded in 1959, Pan-Hellenic (Sydney Olympic FC) founded in 1957 and West Adelaide Hellas (West Adelaide SC) founded in 1962. All three clubs were founded by Greek immigrants that immigrated to those respective cities. Since then, the rest of the 20th century from 1970-1999, Greek immigration to Australia very much declined and Greek immigrants were very few and not many of them came to settle in Australia during the rest of the century. The main way the Greek population was increasing greatly during this time was through the birth of either full, half or part Australian-born Greek descendants who are children (2nd Generation) and grandchildren(3rd Generation) of the Greek immigrants who came in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. However, Hellenic/ Greek immigration has increased in the last few years due to the severe economic crisis overseas.

After the changes in Greece from the mid 1970s, including the fall of the Papadopoulos regime in 1974 and the formal inclusion of Greece into the European Union, Greek immigration to Australia has slowed since the 1971 peak of 160,200 arrivals. Within Australia, the Greek immigrants have been "extremely well organised socially and politically", with approximately 600 Greek organisations in the country by 1973, and immigrants have strived to maintain their faith and cultural identity.[9]

21st century Greek Immigration to Australia

Greek Australians during a parade for Australia Day in Melbourne (2014)

Since the year 2000, Greek immigration to Australia has slowed down. However, in the years 2000-2009, many Greek-Australians both native Greek and Australian-born, returned to Greece to discover their homeland and reconnect with their ancestral roots. Yet, as the economic crisis in Greece grew, the opportunities for temporary resident Greek Australians abroad were limited. For this reason many Greek Australians have shortened their planned long term stays in Greece and have returned home to Australia.

In the early 2010s there has been an increase of Greek immigration flows to Australia due to unemployment, among other issues, because of the economic crisis in Greece. This has led to the return of many Greek Australians which had gone to Greece before the crisis and also the arrival of newcomers from Greece, who have been received by the large Greek Australian community mainly in Melbourne.[10]


Greeks by state or territory

The largest concentration of Greeks in Australia is in the state of Victoria, which is often regarded as the heartland of the Greek Australian community. The latest Census in 2011 recorded 99,939 Greece-born people in Australia, a fall of 9.1 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 49,992 followed by New South Wales (31,546), South Australia (9,756) and Queensland (3,441).[5][11]


Thessaloniki stele, Melbourne.jpg


According to census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006, Greek-Australian citizens are mainly Christian by religion, with 95.3% of Greece-born persons identifying with that religion. 1.6% identified with no religion or atheism, and a further 1.1% identified with other religions, while 1.9% did not answer the census question on religion.[12]

Greek language

In 2011, the Greek language was spoken at home by 252,211 Australian residents, a 4.125% decrease from the 2001 census data. Greek is the fifth most commonly spoken language in Australia after English, Mandarin, Arabic and Italian.[13]

Notable individuals


Art and design



Film, theatre, and television

Hugh Jackman, actor
George Miller, director of Babe (1995), Happy Feet (2006), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Alex Proyas, director of The Crow (1994) and I, Robot (2004)






Science and technology


Australian Rules Football

Boxing and Kickboxing



Martial Arts

Rugby League








See also


  1. ^ a b "ABS Ancestry". 2012. 
  2. ^ 2006 Census Table: Ancestry by Country of Birth of Parents – Time Series Statistics (2001, 2006 Census Years)
  3. ^ Greek Reporter (24 June 2015). "Greeks fleeing to Melbourne due to crisis". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  4. ^ ABC News (Australia) (23 June 2015). "Greek nationals move to Melbourne to escape growing economic, social crisis". Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Department of Immigration & Citizenship: Media – Publications: Statistics – Community Information Summaries
  6. ^ "First Greek". The Athenian Association of Sydney and NSW. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
  8. ^ Appleyard, Reginald; Yiannakis, John N. (2002). Greek Pioneers in Western Australia. UWA Publishing. p. 27. 
  9. ^ Keays, Sue (2004). "Yassou, Souvlakia and Paniyiri: Adapting Greek Culture for Australians". Social Change in the 21st Century Conference. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  10. ^ ABC News (Australia) (11 October 2013). "Greek-Australian citizens look to Australia to escape economic crisis". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistic
  13. ^ 2006 Census Table: Language Spoken at Home by Sex – Time Series Statistics (1996, 2001, 2006 Census Years)
  14. ^
  15. ^ "The Australian People" an encyclopedia of the nation, it's people and their origins, by James Jupp – published 1988


  • Tamis, Anastasios (2005). The Greeks in Australia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-54743-1
  • Gilchrist, Hugh (1992), Australians and Greeks Volume I: The Early Years, Brown, Prior, Anderson Pty. Ltd., ISBN 978-1-875684-01-4 
  • Alexakis, Effy and Janiszewski, Leonard (1998). In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians. Hale & Iremonger Pty Limited. ISBN 0-86806-655-9
  • Alexakis, Effy and Janiszewski, Leonard (1995). Images of Home: Mavri Xenitia. Hale & Iremonger Pty Limited. ISBN 0-86806-560-9
  • Alexakis, Effy and Janiszewski, Leonard (2013). Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Cafe. Macquarie University. ISBN 9781741383959
  • Alexakis, Effy and Janiszewski, Leonard (2016). Greek Cafes & Milk Bars of Australia. Halstead Press. ISBN 9781925043181

External links

Greek Australians

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