Another 876 names have been added to the National Monument to Migration at the Australian National Maritime Museum, at the latest unveiling ceremony in Pyrmont.

The National Monument to Migration honoured the thousands of migrants who have travelled across the world to call Australia home, currently featuring over 31,000 names from over 200 countries.

Each year, more names are inscribed on the bronze-panelled wall which faces Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay – historically the site where many migrants first arrived.

The museum has worked closely with the Greek community over the past year in a special fundraiser to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence and to honour the contribution of Greek Australians.

At the unveiling, 244 new inscriptions were added, honouring people from both Greece and Cyprus – amongst these, the first ten Greek migrants to Australia. The ceremony was attended by 2,000 people, many of whom were Greek.

The MC for the event was SBS presenter Virginia Landenberg and other speakers included Nick Lewocki, of Polish heritage, Richard J Aculus from the UK of Indian heritage and whose wife came from Jordan and Stephen Nguyen whose parents travelled in extreme circumstances from Vietnam.

Three speakers, whose names were amongst those newly-added to the Monument, shared their migration stories at the event, including Eugenia Mitrakas, Nick Lewocki who hails Poland, and Indian Richard J. Arculus. Stephen Nguyen, whose parents travelled in extreme circumstances from Vietnam also made an appearance.

“I was invited as a speaker at their recent unveiling ceremony to speak on my personal migrant journey. Most of your readers think of me as second generation, but I am a “FOB” – Fresh off the Boat,” Ms Mitrakas told Neos Kosmos.

“This event was timely as at the end of this month, is the launch of a new book by Constantine Emmanuel on the fateful journey of the Corsica which was arrested upon arrival in Station Pier on 2 February 1952.

“My father was on that ship. My mother together with my older siblings arrived on the SS Skaugum in 1955. The news of the day on our arrival were equally dramatic for that time – the Petrov defection. In the last few days, we also celebrated 65 years of the Begona brides ship.”

Ms Mitrakas OAM provided her heartfelt speech at the National Monument to Migration to Neos Kosmos. Read it below:

I feel honoured to be invited to address you and thank Tina Koutsogiannis and her team for their excellent work.

I grew up in a mountain village on Lesvos in the early 1950s.

I was bright and the villagers were sure that I would become a teacher, but I wanted more. I wanted to be a doctor.

My father, one of the few men in the village with higher education, migrated to Australia when I was 4. My mother wanted him to return, and after 4 years when he didn’t, she packed up my older sister and brother and me and we sailed to join him on the SS Skaugum. I had completed 3 years of school in the village.

We had one suitcase between us. There was no room for my hair ribbons, but I had, around my neck my treasured wafer-thin gold cross gifted by my grandmother and a wafer- thin gold Parthenon gifted by my favourite uncle. They remain a constant reminder of my Greek heritage.

I recall during the journey a sea burial, conducted by the ship’s captain, queuing up each morning for a ration of milk for my older seasick siblings and being introduced to my first banana.

There was excitement when we finally reached Australian land, followed by disappointment when my mother announced we had 5 more days at sea. Welcome to Fremantle.

We arrived in Station Pier in Melbourne on a cold wintry day. The front-page news of the day was the Petrov defection.

My first impressions of Australia were not positive. Rows and rows of timber houses lined the main road with lacework that looked just like my mother’s doilies. We left our three-story stone house for this! The taxi then turned into luxuriant Kerferd Road where we later settled permanently.

The location was fortuitous because at the end of the road was The MacRobertson Girls’ High School. I attended this school competing with Melbourne’s most gifted girls.

I was 8 years old on arrival but turned 9 the next day and I was looking forward to starting school in year 4, but to my humiliation, no doubt because I was vertically challenged, I was put in Grade 1. At least I learnt my nursery rhymes and completed three years in one.

I attended the University of Melbourne on a Commonwealth Scholarship studying Law/Arts majoring in Classical Greek and Greek Philosophy.

I visited Greece after I completed my studies where I had my epiphany. Until then, I was a Greek living in my adopted country, but I returned home a fully pledged Australian, proud of my Greek heritage and the realisation of just how much Australia had offered me.

On my admission day, I was the only female, and the Sun newspaper was there to record it as “the first Greek female admitted to practice” with a large photo on page three.

The article did not go unnoticed by the Immigration Department who sent a journalist to interview me. The Department’s articles and photos were circulated worldwide to promote Australia as a destination where dreams could come true, and I was happy to sing Australia’s praises.

In 1988 Vogue Australia interviewed me for an article for their bicentennial celebrations.

In this article Diana Bagnall wrote:

“She straddles the Greek community and the wider Australian populace with the agility of one who has been subjected to the mores of both. Her Greek connections are her alpha but not her omega. Greekness is a stock onto which she has grafted a predominantly Australian lifestyle”.

Growing older, I feel even more privileged to call myself an Australian.

I have used my privileged position to offer back to the Australian and Greek community the debt that I owe Australia for welcoming me to my adopted country and giving me such amazing opportunities. This pro bono work commenced in my undergraduate days and continued for more than 50 years.

I remember fondly the ceremony I attended when I was 10 years old at the South Melbourne town when I became a proud Australian citizen.

I am just as proud and humbled in being recognised in this National Monument to Migration which is equally significant in my life.

The museum is now accepting names for the next panel on the monument before the next closing date of 22 December. For further information go to