Many young Greek-Australians have gone through life exploring ways to feel connected to their Greek heritage, be it through art, history, language or even food. Often this is made easier when both of their parents are of Greek origin.
There are also many of those who have had to add an extra hyphen to their list of family origins, juggling more cultures to identify themselves with.
However tricky this may be to navigate, there is a beauty in the melding of cultures and being given the opportunity to learn from so many different sources.
Two members from NUGAS Victoria share what they pull from their mixed heritage to better understand their family’s origin and themselves.
Growing up in a household with parents from different cultural backgrounds provided me with a diverse view on the world. Understanding my heritage and where I come from was something my parents encouraged me to appreciate from a very young age.
Being raised by an Australian mother and a Greek father meant that the importance of tradition was a significantly positive force in the shaping of my identity. I was fortunate enough to be educated on the history that my parents and grandparents lived through.
Growing up in a mixed household you often find yourself adopting a variety of qualities from each culture. However sometimes these values can be conflicting and you find yourself having to choose between the two. The most imperative aspect, despite these conflicting views, is to establish a connection to your cultural roots despite the negative reactions that others within your community may have towards your decisions.
A way in which I was able to stay in touch with my Greek heritage was through learning the language and in doing so this allowed me to connect further with older generations. My main take from my Australian culture is its freedom that allows me to embrace my heritage from an unbiased perspective.
Given that I now have a greater appreciation for my culture I am able to take the time to truly connect with my mixed heritage and explore the different aspects of them.
I hope to use my knowledge as a way to feel more connected to myself and my identity.
My background is Greek and Croatian. Being from this mixed background did present an initial challenge in terms of connecting to my heritage, which also had a direct impact on my understanding of my identity.
This challenge arose because of the fact that having a mixed background limited how much individual influence my Greek and Croatian sides could have on my upbringing. For example, this meant that only English was spoken in the household, and not being able to understand and speak the languages had an enormous impact on my ability to connect to those heritages.
Despite this challenge, as I got older and more curious about my heritage, I made my own effort to discover more about both nationalities. To better connect to my Greek heritage, this effort began with me becoming a general committee member of the Melbourne University Greek Association (MUnGA) in 2019, which was my first year of university.
Being able to plan and attend social events such as the souvlaki day and annual dinner dance instantly exposed me to the Greek language and culture through music, food and interaction with other Greek-Australians.
This encouraged me to attend the educational events such as the seminar on modern Greek history, which deepened my knowledge of Greek history. Having experienced just a small taste of what it is like to connect to my Greek heritage, I was hungry to experience more and build upon that connection.
This is one of the reasons why I become a general committee member of the National Union of Greek Australian Students (NUGAS) in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of many social and educational events that NUGAS usually holds, it has still been a rewarding experience especially because of my involvement with the Ta Leme podcast.
Although there is no doubt that I now have a greater ability to connect to my Greek heritage, there is still a lot more to learn and experience, which is one of the reasons why I’ve become treasurer of MUnGA in 2021.