On 13 December, 1951 the SS Corsica left Limassol with 761 Cypriot migrants for Australia and was the first ship to leave Cyprus with so many emigrants. Arriving at Fremantle on 25 January and Melbourne on 4 February in early 1952, the trip was described by a female passenger as a “hell trip on a floating slum”, because of the horrendous conditions on board.

This is the story of many firsts: the first time so many Cypriots emigrated at the one time; the first time that records show such a horrendous voyage of a migrant ship; and the first time that a migrant ship was discussed in the Australian federal parliament.

Among those who made the voyage was Varnavas Michael Varnava, the father of Associate Professor Andrekos Varnava from Flinders University.

He will present a lecture entitled ‘Australia! Australia! The Voyage of the SS Corsica and its passengers from Cyprus to Australia in 1951-52’ at the Greek Centre this month as part of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne.

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The lecture will set the story of the Corsica and its passengers within three interlocking and broad historical contexts:

  • The Cypriot emigrant story as part of the urban and rural movement, which requires an analysis of the backgrounds of who was emigrating to Australia and leaving Cyprus;
  • The experience of those making the voyage, which requires a description of the conditions on the ship compared to conditions on other migrant ships;
  • The Australian migration story, specifically as regards immigration restrictions and national identity.

Associate Professor Varnava is also an Honorary Professor at De Montfort University in Leicester. He is the author of three monographs, and has published many book chapters and articles.

When: Thursday 29 August at 7.00 pm
Where: Greek Centre (Mezz, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC)

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