The first Ithacan on record
One of the first Greeks to settle in Melbourne was Ithacan Andreas Lekatsas who arrived in 1848 as a sailor aboard a British ship. The story is that Andreas made his way to the Ballarat goldfields at the time of the Eureka Stockade. He returned to Ithaca in 1870 and gave a glowing account of life in the Antipodes, laying the foundation of chain migration from Ithaca to Australia in the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s.
Ithacans and the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria
In the early years of migration, Ithacans were prominent in Greek community affairs and were involved in establishing the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria in 1897 and the building of the first Greek Orthodox Church in Victoria, the Evangelismos in 1901. A number of Ithacans served as Presidents of the Greek Community from 1906 to 1942.
Pioneering Ithacans leave their mark on street names
Ithaca Court, Chadstone, was named after Speros Kostopoulos who arrived in Australia between 1900-1902 and purchased farmland in the area in the 1930s.
Kandi Lane, North Balwyn, located behind the iconic Kandi’s Fruit Supply owned by the Cleomenis Kandiliotis family from 1954 – 2015.
Ithaca Road, Frankston South, is located on land acquired by A J J Lucas, after World War 1, on Oliver’s Hill.
Anglicization of Ithacan family names
When you hear surnames such as BLACK, COLLINS, LUCAS, MORRIS and SCOTT you instantly think they belong to Anglosaxons. Well actually they may very well be the family names of people of Ithacan descent. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, in a society that was suspicious of foreigners, names were anglicized to avoid racist taunts. Mavrokefalos and Mavromatis became Black, Kallinikos became Collins, Lekatsas became Lucas, Moraitis changed to Morris and Sikiotis to Scott.
Ithacan Historical Society
Formed in the early 1990s to ensure that the history of Ithacan migration and settlement would not be lost, the Ithacan Historical Society’s core work is building the Society’s archives with images, documents, oral histories and artefacts.
Significant projects undertaken:
– the publication of a cookbook, Ithacan Recipes, Australian Memories
– Penelope’s Loom Workshops which aim to keep traditional Ithacan handicrafts alive
– retrospectives of well-known Ithacan women, Elly Lukas, model and founder of the Elly Lukas College of Beauty Therapy and Irini Pappas, actor and narrator.
Special centenary projects:
– production of the documentary Out of the Earth, The life and Times of A J J Lucas which screened recently at the 2016 Delphi Bank Greek Film Festival
– Centenary Exhibition at the Immigration Museum
– publication of The Ithacans, a social history of the Ithacan community of Melbourne
Remember going to the National Theatre in Richmond, the Kinema in Albert Park and the Westgarth in Northcote to watch a Greek film In the 1960s and 70s? Well-known Ithacan, Stathis Raftopoulos, who arrived in Australia in 1934, aged 15 years, played an integral role in the establishment of Greek cinemas (he screened the first Greek film in Melbourne in 1949). Thousands of post-war immigrants who packed the cinemas craving home-grown culture benefited from Stathis’ foresight and passion for film. For his service to Greek community cultural life and his literary achievements, he was awarded an MBE.
The Venetian occupation of the Ionian islands which spanned 400 years, ingrained many Italian words into the Ithacan vocabulary. Many Ithacan Australians still call their grandparents nonna and nonno instead of γιαγιά and παππού.