Greek Australians

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Greek Australians
Greek christening party, Bondi Beach, Sydney, September 1946.jpg
Greek Australian christening party, at Bondi Beach 1946.
Total population
424,750 by ancestry (2021 census)[1]
(1.7% of the Australian population)[1]
92,314 born in Greece[1]
Regions with significant populations
Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth
Australian English · Greek
Christianity (predominantly Greek Orthodox)
Related ethnic groups
Cypriot Australians · Greek New Zealanders · Greek diaspora

Greek Australians (Greek: Ελληνοαυστραλοί, Ellinoafstrali) are Australians of Greek ancestry. Greek Australians are one of the largest groups within the global Greek diaspora. As per the 2021 census, 424,750 people stated that they had Greek ancestry (whether alone or in combination with another ancestry), comprising 1.7% of the Australian population.[1] At the 2021 census, 92,314 Australian residents were born in Greece.[1]

Greek immigration to Australia has been one of the largest migratory flows in the history of Australia, especially after World War II and the Greek Civil War. The flow of migrants from Greece increased slightly in 2015 due to the economic crisis in Greece,[2] with Australia as one of the main destinations for departing Greeks, mainly to Melbourne, where the Greek Australian community is most deeply established.[3]

88% of Greek Australians speak Greek and 91% are members of the Greek Orthodox Church.[4]

Australia and Greece also have a close bilateral relationship based on historical ties and the rich contribution of Greek Australians to Australian society. In 2019, the export of Australian services to Greece was valued at $92 million, while services imports from Greece totalled $750 million. Australia's stock of investment in Greece in 2019 totalled $481 million, while investment in Australia from Greece was $192 million.[5]


Early Greek immigration[edit]

Greek immigration to Australia began in the early colonial period in the 19th century. The first known Greeks arrived in 1829.[6] These Greeks were seven sailors, convicted of piracy by a British naval court, and were sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. Though they were eventually pardoned, two of those seven Greeks stayed and settled in the country. One settled on the Monaro Plains in Southern New South Wales and one at Picton near Sydney.[citation needed] Their names were Ghikas Bulgaris known as Jigger Bulgari, and Andonis Manolis. Jigger Bulgari married an Irish woman, and they had many children. Jigger was buried at Nimmitabel Pioneer Cemetery. The Hellenic Club of Canberra laid a commemorative marble plaque over his resting place around 2000. Andonis Manolis' grave is in the old cemetery at Mittagong. The first known free Greek migrant to Australia was Katerina Georgia Plessos (1809–1907),[7] 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. In her youth, she must have been one of the last living people to speak to Lord Byron. They lived in Sydney, Newcastle and Port Macquarie. They had 11 children.[8] 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.[9] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Many of these Greeks were owners of or were employed in shops and restaurants. Some were also cane-cutters in Queensland.[citation needed]

20th century Greek immigration[edit]

Orpheus Arfaras, Greek ceramicist, Sydney, 1952

From the last decade of the 19th century until World War I, 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 began in Australia and in 1913, Australia had the first Greek weekly newspaper called Afstralia that was published in Melbourne.[10] During World War I, 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.[citation needed] 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 and Greek cafés were badly damaged or destroyed, with the worst rioting occurring in Kalgoorlie and Boulder.[citation needed]

During the 1920s, as a result of the Greco-Turkish War there was a significant amount of Greek migration to Darwin, Northern Territory and across the Top End.[citation needed] Greeks often worked in the canefields in North Queensland and move to Darwin during the dry season to work in the pearling industry.[citation needed] One famous family of Greek Australians, the Paspaley family from the island of Kastellorizo, excelled in the Pearling industry and have stores across Australia with their main store in Darwin.[citation needed] It is noted that the first major flow of Greek immigrants to Australia began in the mid 1920s, where many Greek people from Kastellorizo migrated to Australia to escape the Ottoman repression. Numerous of these people from Greece's easternmost island spent time in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, before being offered migration to Australia by British authorities. Those of Kastellorizian descent living in Australia now refer to themselves as 'Kazzies,' and have maintained a strong and unique community.[citation needed]

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 genocide committed by Turkey between 1913 and 1922, while other Greeks sought entry after the USA established restrictive immigration quotas in the early 1920s.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Greece entered World War II 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 relationship between Australians and Greeks that stands strong to this day.[citation needed] 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, but at a cost of many Greek lives and the uprooting of children who were kidnapped and taken from their families.[citation needed]

The Greek government, devastated by the destruction of infrastructure and the mass looting of their banks by the Germans, encouraged post-war migration as a way of solving poverty and unemployment problems. Post WWII in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Greeks were one of the main European races[citation needed] picked by the Australian government's "Populate or perish" immigration scheme and due to this, thousands of Greeks migrated to Australia to gain a better life and future for themselves and their families. The main destinations where these "Hellenes" immigrated were cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.[citation needed] During these decades, Greeks began to establish their own restaurants, Hellenic Community Clubs, and Greek-Australian soccer clubs. Greeks along with Italians, Croatians, Maltese, Serbians, Jews, Hungarians, Czechs, etc. marked a milestone on Australian sport in general by forming many successful Association football clubs.[citation needed] The most successful Australian clubs with Greek heritage and culture are South Melbourne Hellas (South Melbourne FC) founded in 1959, Alexander the Great (Heidelberg United FC) founded in 1958, Pan-Hellenic (Sydney Olympic FC) founded in 1957, West Adelaide Hellas (West Adelaide SC) founded in 1962 and Brisbane Pan Rhodian (Olympic FC) founded in 1967. All five clubs were founded by Greek immigrants that immigrated to those respective cities.[citation needed]

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.[11]

By comparison, the Greek Cypriot community in Australia doubled following the Invasion of Cyprus by Turkey following a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1974. [12]

21st century Greek immigration[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[13]


At the 2021 census, 424,750 people stated that they had Greek ancestry (whether alone or in combination with another ancestry), comprising 1.7% of the Australian population.[1] At the 2021 census, 92,314 Australian residents were born in Greece.[1]

The largest concentration of Greek Australians is in the state of Victoria, which is often regarded as the heartland of the Greek Australian community. Victoria's capital Melbourne has the largest Greek Australian community in Australia.

The 2021 census showed that the following states had the largest numbers of people nominating Greek ancestry: Victoria (181,184), New South Wales (141,627), South Australia (40,704), Queensland (32,702), Western Australia (16,117).[14]

One study investigating the 54 most common ethnic groups in Australia found that Greek Australians had the lowest rate of intermarriage (marrying outside their ethnicity) than every other ethnicity in the first, second and third generations.[15]


Thessaloniki stele, Melbourne.jpg


According to census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, 91.4% of Australians with Greek ancestry are Christian, mainly Eastern Orthodox, however minorities who belong to different Christian denominations like Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals also exist. Together, these other denominations make up 0.4% of the Greek Australian population. 5.6% identified as spiritual, secular or irreligious, and 2.6% did not answer the census question on religion.[16] Greek Australians are predominantly Greek Orthodox.[16] The largest religious body of Greek Orthodox Australians is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, with its headquarters at the Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern. According to SBS, Greeks in Australia have got higher weekly church attendance and higher levels of religiosity than Greeks in Greece.[citation needed]

Greek language[edit]

In 2016, the Greek language was spoken at home by 237,588 Australian residents, a 5.8% decrease from the 2011 census data. Greek is the seventh most commonly spoken language in Australia after English, Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Italian.[17] The remainder of the ethnic Greek population in Australia mainly use English as their first language.


The Greek language press had begun in Australia in 1913 when the first Greek weekly newspaper was published in Melbourne. In South Australia, the local Greek community published a short-lived newspaper called Okeanis (Oceania), around 1914 before it moved to Sydney.[18] On 16 November 1926, George Marsellos and John Stilson published a broadsheet under the name Panellenios Keryx (Panhellenic Herald or The Greek Herald), becoming the second national Greek newspaper in Australia.[19] In 1935 and 1936 a third newspaper, Pharos (Lighthouse), was published, and a number of short-lived titles were issued in the late 1960s, with the longest of these being Tachydromos (Mailman), founded in September 1968.[18] In 1957, Hellenic/Greek language newspaper Neos Kosmos was founded by Dimitri Gogos, Bill Stefanou and Alekos Doukas, the latter also being an exceptionally well known author. Since 1994, a publication called Paroikiako Vema (Steps in the adopted Country) and printed in Renmark, has served the Greek community in rural South Australia.[20]

Multicultural broadcaster SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) airs a Greek-language radio program every afternoon from 4 PM to 6 PM. The program features news, current affairs, music, interviews, and a talkback segment, where listeners can dial into the program from 5:30 PM onwards and express their opinion on a topic being focused on. Additionally, SBS also airs Greek public broadcaster ERT's Eidiseis news program every morning as part of their WorldWatch programming block.

Notable individuals[edit]


Art and design[edit]


Andrew Demetriou, former chief executive of the Australian Football League (AFL)


Film, theatre, and television[edit]

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[edit]


Australian rules football[edit]

Boxing and kickboxing[edit]


Flying disc[edit]


Mixed martial arts[edit]

Rugby league[edit]








See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g[bare URL spreadsheet file]
  2. ^ Greek (24 June 2015). "Greeks fleeing to Melbourne due to crisis". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  3. ^ ABC News (23 June 2015). "Greek nationals move to Melbourne to escape growing economic, social crisis". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  4. ^ SBS. "Greek Culture - Cultural Atlas". Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  5. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Department of Immigration & Citizenship: Media – Publications: Statistics – Community Information Summaries
  7. ^ "First Hellenes in Australia". The Athenian Association of Sydney and NSW. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  8. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
  9. ^ Appleyard, Reginald; Yiannakis, John N. (2002). Greek Pioneers in Western Australia. UWA Publishing. p. 27.
  10. ^ School of Historical Studies, Department of History. "Greeks - Entry - eMelbourne - The Encyclopedia of Melbourne Online". Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  11. ^ Keays, Sue (2004). "Yassou, Souvlakia and Paniyiri: Adapting Greek Culture for Australians". Social Change in the 21st Century Conference. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  12. ^ "Origins: History of immigration from Cyprus - Immigration Museum, Melbourne Australia". Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  13. ^ ABC News (11 October 2013). "Greek-Australian citizens look to Australia to escape economic crisis". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  14. ^[bare URL spreadsheet file]
  15. ^ Siew-Ean Khoo, Bob Birrell, Genevieve Heard. "INTERMARRIAGE BY BIRTHPLACE AND ANCESTRY IN AUSTRALIA" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ a b "Australian Bureau of Statistic". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  17. ^ Statistics, c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of. "Redirect to Census data page". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  18. ^ a b "SA Memory - SA Newspapers : Non-English language newspapers". 23 February 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  19. ^ Gilchrist, Hugh (1992). Australians and Greeks: The middle years. Australia: Australia: Halstead Press. pp. 346–349. ISBN 1875684026.
  20. ^ Laube, Anthony. "LibGuides: SA Newspapers: Non-English". Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  21. ^ Professor Nicholas Athanasou, Professor of Musculoskeletal Pathology and Emeritus Fellow
  22. ^ "Hugh Jackman declares "I'm Greek" - Neos Kosmos". 10 August 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Chris Karan - Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  24. ^ "The Australian People" an encyclopedia of the nation, its 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[edit]