The newly minted, Turkish Heritage Society Australia launched a book last week at the Coburg Town Hall titled Coburg Mosque – A Journey of Turkish Settlement by Nail Aykan. In front of hundreds of people – Turks, Greeks, Arabs and others – Nail Aykan talked about the importance of documenting migrant local history.

“I hope many community groups, across the spectrum, will be encouraged to look into their own histories and unique stories and write about it – so it’s never forgotten and that it may inspire future generations.”

The book is on the evolution of the Coburg Mosque, the first mosque for the Turkish community in Victoria. The author talked to Neos Kosmos and said that “the book is really a settlement story.”

“The Turkish community were fortunate in their settlement in Australia, compared to other nations they migrated to.”

“The Greeks helped the Turks navigate the migration of the community, the Turks used the knowledge and community building skills of the Greeks.”

Aykan said that it was the Greeks that inspired the Turks to develop their own community structures.

“A lot of people I interviewed said this, that the Greeks in Sydney Rd Coburg, were important to the Turks.”

“The idea to gather to develop a mosque that acts as a community centre was born in a few Greek coffee shops, and the Greeks encouraged the new Turkish immigrants, and it was in those Greek coffee shops that they gathered in,” Aykan told Neos Kosmos.

Aykan said that most of the Turks he talked to for the book, found solace in the Greek kafenio.

“They could relate to the culture of coffee and men playing cards – they have been living together for centuries, it doesn’t matter what politics, they had same clothes, the same values, the same music and same food, they were in their comfort zone,” Aykan said.

The Turks and Greeks have more in common than most people think, he added.

The book took 18 months to write. Aykan said that “writing a book is like driving a bus, you need a different skill set, and I had to learn the hard way.”

“It all happened, Dan [Andrews] locked us up, and we only had an hour of walking outdoors, so I used to neighbourhood park and walk, with friends, and we’d walk and talk.” It was during this time that Aykan decided that documenting the Turkish community’s local history was essential.

“The history of the Coburg Mosque is important. A group of guys who grew up around the Coburg Mosque formed a business called Pacific Gate international and they provided the seed funds to write about the mosque in its 50th anniversary.”

The author points out that the Turks then came from “a very secular place.”

“Like the Greeks the place of worship was also a community space, a lot of the Turkish migrants did not have a concrete idea of what faith was – their real intention was to build a community centre, and some thought it could include a Mosque, the trigger was funerals, it doesn’t matter whether you are secular or not, when you die, you need to be buried,” the author told Neos Kosmos.

For enquiries or a copy of the book contact