The offspring of the post-war, mass-migratory wave of the 1950s and 60s grew up in the parallel diasporic space of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne.
It was a distinct enclave within a wider Australian postcolonial milieu, the defining features of which were an endemic mono-culturalism and mono-lingualism. The southern Europeans were then referred to as the ‘not-quite whites’, while the Greek immigrants, sensing the host country’s condescension at best and racism at worst, set about building networks that included schools, community groups, churches and sporting groups.
Greece was the eternal homeland, while attendance at an after-hours Greek school was a non-negotiable reality.
This ‘Greekness’ was further reinforced through Greek movies, dances, weddings or baptisms on a Saturday, the Greek Orthodox Church every Sunday morning, an even more religious attendance at the Hellas soccer matches on a Sunday afternoon; Greek food on the table. And so, ‘home’ was irrevocably aligned with being Greek.
Day-to-day school life, however, was irrevocably aligned with being Australian. The two realities were utterly distinct, like two Venn diagrams with an indiscernible point of overlap. At school, the same children that belted out the Greek national anthem on the weekends, raised the Australian flag every Monday morning and sang, with hand on heart, the then national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’. They learnt to read and write in English. They barracked for an Australian Rules football team, played other sports; took part in choirs and plays.
This presentation aims to shine a spotlight on the experiences of the children of post-war Greek immigrants. Due to the paucity of what we might term official historical recordings, the findings are based on Greek-Australian literary texts, oral testimonies, photographic images and, inevitably, my own personal recollections as I, too, was one of these immigrant children.
- Dr Konstandina Dounis is a cultural historian and literary translator with a particular interest in immigrant stories and their impact on the Australian literary canon. Greek-Australian literature, history and culture has been the axis around which her research has revolved. Her doctoral research, ‘The Shadow and the Muse: Journeys within the thematic tapestry inherent in Greek-Australian women’s writing’ entails extensive forays into unearthing immigrant women’s texts, examining their propensity to challenge canonical formations, to enrich historical documentation and to widen the parameters of their diasporic community. She is a prolific translator of both poetry and prose, from Modern Greek to English, and has an extensive list of publications in this regard. Her parallel passion is teaching, a preoccupation that she has been proud and exhilarated to engage in throughout her working life. She currently teaches within the Faculty of Education, Monash University and, in 2018, was the recipient of the MSA Award for Teaching Excellence.
Dr Konstandina Dounis will be presenting a lecture on Growing Up Greek in the 50s and 60s as part of the Dardalis Hellenic Archives Research Seminar Series at the Greek Centre (168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne) at 7pm on 21 August 2019.