According to a Greek language dictionary definition, the word community is characterised as the common element that binds; the commonalities that unite people under a unique umbrella. The term community is regarded as synonymous to the term identity, while at the same time the meaning of the word is defined as the union of a people distinguished for their shared ethnic and religious background residing in a foreign land. In terms of its functionality, a community is an administrative organisation that manages local affairs.   

If one was to examine how appropriately the meaning of the word community applies to the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia (GOCSA), it would be necessary to include within the dimensions of a shared ethnic identity and administrative character of the organisation, the heart and soul of the Greeks of the diaspora. At this stage, let us examine in more depth the birth, early years, and the subsequent strengthening and development of this live, democratic organisation known as the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia.

Historical Overview:

The Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia emanated from the Greek community (paroikia) of Adelaide.

At first few in number, the Greeks of the metropolitan area of Adelaide did not exceed twenty permanent

settlers at the turn of the century. This number gradually increased to 300 people in 1930.

With great enthusiasm and moral support, the Greeks of Adelaide organised their foundation meeting on 5th October 1930, at the Panhellenion Club, 122 Hindley Street. It was at this location where the first management council was elected under the leadership of President Konstantinos Kavouras. Consequently, a number of significant events took place around that time, including the appointment of officials, registration of the Community as a corporate body; accrual of significant funds, that in early 1931 led to the appointment of the first school committee and initiation of the first Greek language school in Adelaide.

The construction of the Church of Taxiarchis, the first Greek Orthodox church in Adelaide, was a significant accomplishment for the Greeks of this city, which according to the presiding officer Michael Kambouris (1936-1945): "the church was built with three-penny bits".  The Church gave meaning and purpose to the Community, and the Greeks longed to awaken from the sound of its bell on Sunday mornings and festive days.

In 1940, the Greek Orthodox Community was well established, and throughout the next decade, the organisation became instrumental in fortifying the fight of Greeks and allied forces against fascism and Nazism.

The fundraising committee that was founded during these difficult years of the Second World War, as well as the Enlightenment Committee and the Red Cross Greek Circle, collected donations and coordinated fundraising activities for war victims.

  • By March 1941, over 90,000 pounds worth of aid were sent from Australia to Greece, mainly in the form of clothing, food and medical supplies.
  • By the end of 1946, this figure had risen to one million pounds.
  • The contribution of the Community toward this total sum was significant.

These activities resulted in strengthening the Community greatly, by increasing the number of members from 100 to 275 during 1940-1944. The result of this increased membership was also reflected in the funds collected, and consequently, led to the purchase of the two houses neighbouring the Church in 1942.

In the post-war period, the Community's activities were directed to support various other Greek organisations, to successfully complete cultural and/or sporting events, charity fund-raisers and so on. The result was that these organisations in return also supported the Community.

  • In 1948, the Community purchased the land for its future "Hellenic Community Centre", later named the "Olympic Hall", where we are currently standing. The enthusiasm and zeal were so high amongst all members during the construction of this Community Centre that were likened to a popular movement.
  • By the end of 1957, the Olympic Hall was complete and was handed over to the Greek people.

From the day of its inauguration, the Community Centre has never ceased to serve the community, meeting numerous community needs, by hosting dances, concerts, receptions, films, theatrical performances, educational seminars, as well as offering Greek language education to the youth and invaluable social services.

The Emblem of the Community - Facing the Future

Over eighty five years have passed since those humble beginnings. However the Greek spirit, soul and heart continue to beat beneath the Community's chest. 

Today, a dynamic GOC of SA looks forward into the future with optimism and vision, relying on the experience and wisdom of the past, yet possessing the foresight and perceptiveness of its visionaries. The emblem presented today, is inspired by the unbreakable link that joins two homelands, a combination of the olive branch and the constellation of the Southern Cross. Their combination is not a random choice.

The olive tree is one of the longest living trees on earth. At "Iera Othos", the Holy Street in Athens that leads to Elefsina, (the same route followed by the "Panathenean" procession in antiquity), stood until recently an olive tree. According to tradition it is believed that this tree was 2500 years old, and was named by the populous as "Plato's Olive Tree".  Mythology has it that an olive tree first sprouted on the rock of Acropolis when the goddess Athena competed with Neptune over the ownership and protection of the city. This city was named Athens.

The olive tree is a symbol of peace and victory. With an olive or laurel wreath (kotinos), athletes were crowned for their victory at the Olympic games. In the Old Testament, following the great flood, a pigeon carrying an olive leaf provided Noah with conciliation and hope. Another folk story recounts how Jesus before his arrest and crucifixion sat at the roots of an olive tree and wept. His tears nourished the tree rendering its oil edible that was also used to fuel the light of church candles.

Similarly, the constellation of the Southern Cross has been used as a significant means of orientation in the Southern hemisphere and has defined the geographical position of Australia. It is identified as a symbol of the continent since the early years of its history. For our Community, this constellation represents our adopted homeland, that directs us toward the future, urging toward the realisation of new visions. In our hands we hold the olive branches that symbolise our natural mother, and facing the future, the constellation of the Southern Cross appears and represents our adopted mother. Our thoughts, hopes and efforts unite in harmony to reveal the vision of tomorrow.