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Kytherian Cultural Exchange

Greeks in Australia.

Author: Maria Hill (nee) Costadopoulos
When Published: 1979
Available: On web
Description: Honours thesis

*Pioneering research of high quality

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"A thesis written in 1979 by Maria Costadopoulos-Hill as part of her honors year at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

The thesis explores Greek history from the early 1900’s to the late 1970’s, looking at perspectives such as family life and identity. These perspectives are supported by primary evidence consisting of oral history interviews and photographs.



The thesis has examined the charges and continuities' within the Kytherian and Castellorizan family over three generations in Australia. It has documented their lives and has presented 'images' of the Greek family that have not been known before.

The first generation, the early Kytherian and Castellorizan settlers arrived as young unmarried men' worked hard for many years, acquired their own cafes and fish-shops and then settled down and raised a family. Although first generation Kytherian and Castellorizan family life varied due to their different places of settlement, both groups of people still maintained the traditional Greek family patterns in Australia. The first generation parents laid the foundation of 'Greekness'. They inculated within their children an awareness that they belonged to a distinct culture group of people which would be dissipated and destroyed if intermarriage occurred. This awareness was instilled into their children not out of loyalty to Greece but out of loyalty to the family.

Although the second generation Kytherian Greeks attempted to retain a certain between the different generations of Greeks by making their children aware of their Greek background and by warning them of the dangers of intermarriage as they had been warned, they also wrought major structural changes to Greek family life. The second generation took Greek family upbringing and adapted it to fit the Australian and form a completely new subculture which was neither Greek nor Australian but a strange mixture of both. The new Greek-Australian family that emerged had distinctive features which were not present in mainland Greece and were a product of changes within the Australian environment such as industrialisation urbanisation. The character of the new Greek-Australian family that emerged was also determined by changes in occupation and class from one generation to the next. The upbringing, the racism and the prejudice experienced by the second generation coupled with the above factors determined the nature of the new family that emerged.

Even with the third generation, 'loyalty to the family' and endogamous marriages were still very important aspects. Endogamy was supported by the third generation out of inherent loyalty to the Greek family and to their grandparents who were important formative influences in their lives. Although there were continuities from one generation to the next, changes had also occurred between the second and third generation in regard to attitudes toward education and career and attitudes towards Greek morality. The third generation were different from their parents. They were middle class children, born into middle class families and were totally detached from the initial migration experience. Their only contact with Greek culture was through their grandparents who were a major formative influence were not a result of the movement away from the core of the Greek culture but were caused by the different class position of the third generation. Thus 'ethnicity' is far from a sufficient explanation of changes within the Greek family in Australia. Other factors have played an important role in these changes.

"Oral History captures... the vast penumbra of doubt; the extraordinary untidiness and ambiguity of life, above all the mystery of human personality..."
B. Ostry.
'The Illusion of Understanding: Making the Ambiguous Intelligible,' Oral History Review, 1977, p 9.

This thesis seeks to fill some of the gaps which exist in the study of the family life of immigrants in Australia. Charles Price writing in 1963 identified this need in Southern Europeans in Australia:

" Indeed the whole matter of southern European family life in Australia, and the extent to which the family customs and loyalty of each particular group survived amongst the second and third generation, requires considerably more research " (1)

Studies that have dealt with migrant family life seem to have concentrated on first generation post-war migrants and their family dislocation. (2) They have not looked at the Greek family in Australia over a long period of time in order to see the changes and continuities that have occurred. If one is to look seriously at concepts such as 'assimilation' or 'integration' or 'cultural change' or whatever label one may choose to attach to the process by which an ethnic group changes and affects change in Australia, (3) one must look at immigrant families over a long period of time. It is totally unrealistic to assume that change can occur within one generation. "Cultural change' is a slow process and cannot occur immediately. In order to examine the extent to which family customs and loyalty' survived and whether cultural change has occurred, the thesis will attempt to examine the Greek family over three generations in Australia. It will examine the life of the first generation' immigrants: the early settlers who came from mainland Greece and the islands. (4) It will discuss the type of life they led in Australian the early 1900s, 20s, 30s and 40s. It will examine how they settled, organised and survived, married and brought up a family. It will also look at the 'second generation'; the children of the early immigrants, who were born in Australia; and how their upbringing coupled with other influences within Australian society determined the family that was to later emerge. Finally the 'third generation', consisting of the grandchildren of the first generation or the children of the second generation, will also be examined to determine what aspects of Greek culture they have retained and the changes that have occurred between the second and third generation..."

[continued at

http://www.cybernaut.com.au/greeksinoz/frmset1.htm ]

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