The contribution of Cretans down under

A NEW BOOK ON THE CRETAN COMMUNITY'S 19TH CENTURY SOUJOURN AND SETTLEMENT IN OCEANA BY SOCRATES TSOURDALAKIS IS HERALDED BY GEORGE DALIKAKIS.

EIGHT years of mining the community’s history of settlement in Australia and New Zealand to bring together The Cretans of Oceania from the 19th Century has been a Herculean task by the author Socrates Tsourdalakis. Tsourdalakis himself a Cretan, from Melambes of the Rethymnon prefecture, migrated to Australia in 1965.

The book covers the arrival of the first Greeks in the 19th Century to Australia and the history of their settlement in Australia and New Zealand. It addresses in great detail, state by state, including New Zealand, the settlement of Cretans, their social activities and the history of the various associations and brotherhoods established by them. The book is full of the names of those involved, over the century of settlement, in the developments of the Australian and New Zealand Cretan communities. It provides details of the major social activities and events and is full of photographs of those unforgettable occasions when the whole Cretan community gathered together to celebrate their Cretan ancestry, customs and traditions. Photographs of the numerous social dances that with the presence of traditional Cretan singers that often came to Australia especially for the occasion are presented in the book, providing information about those visiting artists that gave to all those present that important link with Crete.

There are also many photographs from more solemn occasions commemorating heroic events such as the Battle of Crete, a defining moment of World War II and the 1866 massacre by Turkish Ottomans at Crete’s Arkadi monastery.

In the book the reader is acquainted with interesting narratives about initiatives led by Cretans in Australia such as, the erection of the Hellenic Memorial beside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to commemorate those Australians that fought and died in Greece and in Crete during WWII and their contribution to the fund raising for the erection of the Australian-Hellenic Memorial to Australian and Greek dead in the Battles of Greece and Crete in 1941 in Melbourne.

Other important watersheds the author reveals includes the building of the Cretan village complex in 1985 and the acquisition of the Cretan House (Kritiko Spiti) in Melbourne’s Brunswick area, both for the Cretan community’s cultural functions and other activities.

Tsourdalakis provides information on Crete, its history and its heroes who sacrificed their lives for freedom under the Ottoman yoke and the maintenance of the Orthodox Christian traditions during various periods of occupation of the island by Arabs, Venetians and Turks.

Tsourdalakis has also interestingly compiled a list of the names of more than 1,400 Cretans that settled in Australia and New Zealand and details on their place of origin and family information.

The book is written in Greek but provides extensive summaries in English and has more than 700 historic photographs. The photographs are magnificent as testament to this community.

This book is borne out of a labour of love by Tsourdalakis. His love to Crete and his ancestors, but equally a love for his adopted country Australia. It is a gift to his compatriots who settled here as a lasting record of their experiences in their new country. It reveals a tightly knit community that still maintains its rich traditions but also celebrates a life of renewal. Tsourdalakis’ extensive research is brought to life information that until now was forgotten.

One example is a letter written by an early Cretan settler in Australia, Efstrathios Androulakis, who in 1896 writes extensively about the activities of the Greek community in Melbourne and about the few Cretans that lived there and in other parts of Australia.

The inclusion of the full text of this letter in the book is an invaluable example of what treasures can be unearthed through painstaking research.

The Pancretan Association of Melbourne – Australia funded the publication along with the support of the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

The book will be officially launched by the Hon. Rob Hulls M.P., Deputy Premier and Attorney General on February 4 in Queens Hall the Victorian Parliament House. The book can be purchased from the Pancretan Association by calling 0419 856 736 or e-mailing: info@pancretan.com.au