All About Our Community
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.
In the late 1920s two Greek organisations were formed in Adelaide, the Castellorizian Brotherhood and the Apollon Society. There was, however, no large body that could represent the needs of all Greeks, liaise with government departments and establish a church in Adelaide. So a meeting was held at the Panhellenion Club, 122 Hindley Street, on October 5, 1930, at which the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia was founded. Within a year Adelaide’s first Greek school was established. In the early 1930s the community had just over 100 members. It was both a religious and cultural body.
Greek South Australians could not afford to build a church straight away. From 1930 Archimandrite Germanos Eliou held Greek Orthodox services at the hall of Holy Trinity Church near the Morphett Street Bridge. After much fundraising and hard work the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabrielle was inaugurated in 1937. Metropolitan Timotheos Evangelinidis acted as priest and intermediary between the church and the community.
During the Second World War the Greek Orthodox Community continued to thrive. It participated in fundraising to assist the Allied forces in their fight against fascism. The community’s membership increased from 100 in 1940 to 275 in 1944. In 1944 the Hellenic Youth Club was established. After the war the Greek Ex-Serviceman’s Association and the Panhellenic Society were formed.
In 1947 there were 1,024 Greek South Australians.
There was a considerable influx of Greek migrants during the post-war period. In the aftermath of its occupation by the Axis powers from 1941 until 1945, the administration, economy and politics of Greece were in a chaotic condition. Many single men migrated to South Australia from the Peloponnese, Crete, Lesbos, Cyprus, Dodecanese, Epirus, Macedonia, and even from well-established Greek settlements in Egypt and the Middle East. They also came from European nations around Greece and from the Americas, South Africa, the Philippines, the Soviet Union and Asia Minor. Often they were sponsored by relatives already settled in South Australia. Once established, they were later joined by family groups and relatives.
In 1952 the Australian government completed an agreement with the Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration and the Greek government. From this arrangement, selected workers and families were able to come to Australia as assisted immigrants. The Australian Council of Churches also began a migrant-aid scheme of its own. In 1953 the council made travel loans available to many Greeks who wanted to settle in Australia.
During the early 1950s the ratio of Greek males to females in Australia was 5 to 1. As a result, in the following years, young single Greek women were given special assistance to come to Australia. Some were sponsored by Greeks already settled here. Many of these young women married Greek men and established families.
At this time the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia had a membership of approximately 3,500. The community needed a centre which could accommodate the needs of its members. After a period of fundraising the Greek Community Centre was opened in 1957. The centre is a large, multipurpose building, consisting of Olympic Hall and numerous rooms used for educational, cultural and social activities. Greek South Australians used these facilities to assist post-war refugees who were arriving in Adelaide. They helped new arrivals with language, health, legal, educational and employment problems.
During the 1950s and 1960s, many Greek arrivals in South Australia were employed on two-year contracts with the Australian government. They worked as farmers on Eyre Peninsula or in Mount Gambier, or in factories and other places where unskilled labour was sought. Greeks worked in ship building in Whyalla, fishing in Port Lincoln and as fruit pickers and growers in the citrus, stone and dried fruit industries of Renmark and Berri. Others migrated to Port Pirie and joined the substantial Greek community already there. Significant numbers established communities in Adelaide’s western area, particularly Mile End and Thebarton. During this time Greek schools and churches were established throughout South Australia and Adelaide.
In 1961 there were 9,528 Greek South Australians. By 1966 there were 14,660.
In 1975 the Dunstan government recognised the need for a liaison between the Premier’s Department and South Australian cultural groups. In that year the premier appointed two officers to be responsible for the affairs of the Italian and Greek communities. Ms Eva Koussidis was appointed as the state’s Greek Inquiry Officer. Ms Koussidis advised the government on matters relating to Greek affairs and provided the Greek community with direct access to state government.
In the mid 1970s the first official lesson in the Modern Greek language was held in a South Australian high school. By the early 1980s it had been adopted at all levels of the South Australian education system. During these years a number of homes were established for elderly Greek South Australians, and Greek welfare service organisations became widespread. At the same time Greek cultural days and celebrations were established in South Australia. They include the Glendi Festival, the Dimitria Festival, the Festival of the Epiphany and numerous other smaller celebrations.
The Emblem of the Community – Facing the Future
Over ninty 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.
As a not-for–profit organisation the many events and services provided by the GOC of SA would not be possible without the kind support we receive from our Local, State and Federal governments and in addition, we thank and are grateful to our many wonderful sponsors. We thank each one of them dearly.