In 1988, when Australia celebrated its 200th anniversary since the commencement of its oppressive and violent white settlement, the then publishing house of McPhee Gribble/Penguin, published a four-volume thematic history of Australia’s people titled “A People’s History of Australia Since 1788”, edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee. The four volumes were organised around various everyday aspects of life in four broad divisions, namely economy, society, politics and culture, during the first 200 years of white settlement. This history was written from the “ordinary” citizen’s perspective.
In 2021, Greece and Greeks all over the globe are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the commencement of the national liberation revolution of 1821, which led to the founding of the first modern Greek state in 1830. It is within contemporary Greece, as well as within the parameters of the prevailing socio-economic and historical conditions of the new world outside of Greece, that one can trace the roots of today’s historically diverse Greek cultural communities throughout the globe, including Australia.
Costas Markos, is a second-generation Australian of Greek descent, a graduate of the School of Social Sciences at La Trobe University in Melbourne and Board member of the Greek Community of Melbourne. Costas is not a historian. He is an active citizen with a critical mind, who has dedicated most of his free time to community and social activism. What most people are not familiar with is that Mr Markos, for more than 10 years now, has been systematically researching in libraries, registries and elsewhere, in an endeavour to document the historical presence of Greeks in Australia during the 19th and the early part of 20th century.
The result of his extensive research is the publication of a series of articles which commence today, in both Greek and English, by the Melbourne based newspaper Neos Kosmos. Mr Markos writes social history from the point of view of the ordinary Greek immigrants, highlighting and integrating at the same time their lives in the wider Australia community of the 19th and early 20th century.
In his very first article, he re-examines the history of the starting point of the historical presence of Hellenism in Australia, proving with documents that the first Greek immigrant who arrived in the vast country of the south in 1811 was George Manuel and not the seven convicted sailors from the island of Hydra, who were sentenced to exile by an English naval court in 1829.
The history of Greeks in Australia and the history of Australia itself are enriched, with the publication of the articles that are to follow. Within the series of articles that are scheduled to be published, readers can discover, amongst others, the consequences of a pandemic (Spanish flu) and racism and its effect upon the then Greek community of Port Pirie in 1919, a first-hand account of the first Greek Orthodox wedding in Australia, the public support for the Cretan revolution of 1866 by the descendant of one of the leaders of the 1821 struggle Lambros Panagiotis Indares, through the columns of the Melbourne daily newspaper The Argus, as well as the celebratory anniversary of the first 50 years of the Greek Revolution in San Francisco of 1871, where Indares immigrated after Melbourne.
Costas Markos’ articles in Neos Kosmos emanate from extensive research of archival and primary sources, which expand the parameters of our historical self-awareness as a community and explore the neglected history of the Greek diaspora. These articles are worth reading! Furthermore, I hope that one day the significant archival material, held by Costas, regarding the early presence of the Greeks in Australia will become available to all of us, in either the form of articles or as a book.
Kostas Karamarkos is a Melbourne based journalist.