Honouring the legacy of Greek contribution to Inner West Sydney

Marrickville and Dulwich Hill have a long history of Greek contribution, even being unofficially dubbed as ‘Little Athens’.

The Inner West Council of New South Wales has agreed to honour decades of contribution to multiculturalism with an official renaming of the central precinct of Marrickville and Dulwich Hill.

Walking through Marrickville you can still smell souvlakia from the 40 year old Corinthian Rotisserie on Marrickville road.

Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne remembers the time the restaurant  had a small renovation a couple of years ago to change the facade and “people got so up in arms because they thought the restaurant was closing or that they were trying to modernise it.”

“They had to have an official reopening ceremony just to make sure the community understood that they had not lost the restaurant,” he told Neos Kosmos.

The Corinthian is a much loved staple of Marrickville Photo: Vasilis Vasilas

Mr Byrne is “very proud to have the heritage of the Greek community in the Inner West,” and wants to uphold and celebrate it despite the change of demographic in the area.

“I grew up amongst Greeks, I played football for Sydney Olympic as a junior and so I’ve always been very familiar with how important the Greek community are in the Inner West and so I’m not surprised by the enthusiasm that we’ve seen for this act of recognition.”

READ MORE: Marrickville: Sydney’s Little Athens shatters every stereotype of what Greeks did

The Inner West Council will decide the name of the precinct centred around Marrickville road with the help of the Consul General of Greece Christos Karras and the local community.

After the name has been decided, council will write to the Geographic Names Board of New south Wales seeking an official name change to be considered by their board which “can all be done in a matter of months”.

(from L to R) Mayor Darcy Byrne, Vasilis Vasilas and councillor Sam Iskander Photo: Vasilis Vasilas

Mr Byrne wants to ensure all Greeks and Cypriots feel recognised and represented with the name change however after consulting with communities he found that people were fairly relaxed with whatever the name might be.

“They just want to official recognition of the contribution that the Greek Diaspora has made to the inner west and to Australia. So whether it’s called the Hellenic precinct or Little Athens or little Greece is less significant than the official process of making a permanent and respectful recognition,” he says.

READ MORE: Vale Andreas Papaemmanouil, remembered from Athens Panathinaikos to Marrickville Olympic days

Historian and author of Little Athens (Volume One): Marrickville Vasilis Vasilas says the name change is a welcomed nod to how Marrickville defied stereotypes attached to Greek migrants back in the 70s and 80s.

“The Greek business network had reached its peak during Marrickville. Marrickville broke the stereotypes of what Greeks did in Australia…it wasn’t just the take away and milk bar. You would have the Greek tailor, the Greek shoemaker, the Greek hairdresser, the Greek barber.”

Frank’s Auto is one of the many businesses that went beyond the idea of Greek run businesses being just milk bars Photo: Vasilis Vasilas

Most importantly Mr Vasilas notes, is that it helped people feel at home, far from home.

“These Greek migrants felt comfortable to travel to Marrickville to shop there because they could speak the language…The Greeks who couldn’t speak the English language felt very comfortable to go to the Greek deli like Lamia in Marrickville to do their shopping because they could communicate and understand their temperament and their mannerisms and their sensitivities.”

Mr Vasilas says this is a great time for the renaming to occur especially as the physical and demographic landscape of Marrickville and surrounding areas continuously changes.

“They’re pioneers in Sydney. Danas Deli has been there since 1961, so they’ve seen the changes and he’s still there…They’ve successfully made the transition into Mainstream Australian society and are just part of Marrickville.”