From dreaming to living in Melbourne
Researcher Nikolaos Gkolfinopoulos from the University of Monash looks into the migratory experience of new Greeks in Melbourne from 2008 and on, which is unexpectedly characterised by major clashes in the Greek diaspora of Melbourne
Greek researcher and associate of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTOΓ) Nikolaos Gkolfinopoulos studied the life of newly-arrived Greek migrants in Melbourne for 12 months. He came to Melbourne in 2014 to discover the link between Melbourne's steadily increasing tourism numbers and migration.
The research focuses specifically on the Greek-Millennial Migrants (GMMs) aged 19 to 39 that migrated to Melbourne after 2008. Previous data has shown an increasing number of Greek Millennials migrating to Melbourne, but the lack of insights into this new wave was indeed significant. Therefore, Golfinopoulos decided to further investigate the GMMs' reasons for emigrating to Australia and how they were being received by the existing Greek diaspora of Melbourne and the wider Australian community.
"This research studied the migratory experience of the GMMs," Golfinopoulos explains.
"The study provides interesting data, verifies expected hypotheses, and presents surprising and unexpected phenomena. In brief, the GMMs decided to migrate to Melbourne mostly because of the by-products of the Greek diaspora: family ties; friends that have already migrated; easier expected adaptation; a stepping stone."
Apart from the positive findings in terms of Melbourne's thriving tourism, the study in question, which was realised via Monash University as part of Gkolfinopoulos' thesis, presents many complaints by newly-arrived Greeks. According to the participants, there is much misinformation to people in Greece about Australia. The Lucky Country is presented as some sort of employment paradise with an array of opportunities to succeed and make money, while the Greek community networks help newcomers smoothly adjust to the Australian reality.
Their positive experience is reportedly not due to Hellenism, but rather the opposite. Interestingly, from a destination policy perspective, the GMMs are expected to be a great pulling factor of Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) tourism. This has the potential of fostering tourism in Melbourne and highlights the significant role ethnic diasporas can play in the city's tourism economy.
"Most of the GMMs leave Greece because of the Greek economic crisis and its by-products," Golfinopoulos clarifies. "Extreme levels of unemployment, the working conditions, the financial insecurity and the lack of career opportunities. Ninety point four per cent of the participants have received tertiary education − the epitome of the brain drain phenomenon. Therefore, Greece loses its brightest minds."
That means that the migratory destinations are benefited from educated, skilled, capable migrants they have not invested in through their public education system. Indeed, GMMs are free advanced human capital for the migratory destinations, such as Melbourne. Meanwhile, the majority of the participants noted that they were thinking of migrating only to Melbourne because of family ties, friends that have previously migrated to Melbourne, and the English language.
"The very well-settled Greek diaspora in Melbourne is robust enough to overcome the burden of geographical distance during the decision of the migratory destination. This proves that the phenomenon of chain migration is dominant in the case of Melbourne," he continues. "Also, many of the participants who were interviewed migrated because they were following their family or partner, and they wanted to experience living abroad."
Always, according to the testimonies, during the period of establishment in Melbourne, the 'time-buying' process was considered to be a very negative experience, affecting the overall migratory experience of many GMMs.
"There is a lack of an appropriate visa scheme," Golfinopoulos stresses. "In general, the GMMs are not migrating to Melbourne to study, neither is travelling around their primary purpose. Therefore, jumping from tourist visas to student visas is not a desire, rather a vicious cycle."
Unfortunately, the situation in Greece forbids a permanent return, and the time-buying process can result in a consequent migration to another country. Therefore, Melbourne, from being a desirable destination, becomes less and less attractive for many GMMs.
Regarding their living experience, GMMs are very satisfied with the multicultural character of the city, the quality of education provided, the urban environment and its attractions, the natural attractions, and the quality of living. From a destination branding point of view, these are the aspects that should be promoted to future Greek migrants and for VFR tourism purposes. They travel often to main cities and are very likely to recommend Melbourne as a travel destination to others.
"If Melbourne recognises its diasporas as a valuable tourism asset it will be able to benefit from targeted tourism policies based on the links of previous, current, and future migration waves," Golfinopoulos emphasises.
On the downside, and rather unexpectedly, the research reveals that current migration is characterised − according to the respondents − by major clashes between the GMMs and the Greek diaspora of Melbourne. The results showed that the respondents are not satisfied with the interaction with Hellenism in Melbourne. In fact, this was the only attribute of Melbourne, which by average means, reached the "not satisfied" area.
"Many of the respondents feel that the Greek Australians are taking advantage of the GMMs and exploit them regarding employment and wage," Golfinopoulos says.
"Also, many are dissatisfied with their relatives because they did not receive the support they expected."
Bearing in mind that the existence of the Greek diaspora was quite important for choosing Melbourne as the migratory destination, work exploitation and lack of support impact the living experience of the GMMs and the way they consider Melbourne as a migratory destination.
"Undoubtedly, this is not the case for all GMMs," he notes, adding that the issue was recognised and mentioned by almost all of the respondents, whether expressing personal experiences or sharing cases of other GMMs they were aware of.
Given that this study was exploratory in character and limited in sample, further studies are suggested to thoroughly understand what is the extent and impact of these clashes. Neos Kosmos has been presenting various stories of Greek Australian companies, families and individuals offering newcomers a helping hand, providing millennial migrants not only with job opportunities but financial and other support.
The findings, however, are indeed bringing to the surface what can be described as a silent whispering among the Greek diaspora of Melbourne and the GMMs. Consequently, it is indeed imperative to identify and further investigate how these clashes are regarded by the Greek diaspora in Melbourne, in order to have insights and understand both sides.
* Panos Apostolou is a journalist for SBS Greek Radio.
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