Greeks have been establishing new lives in Victoria ever since the gold rush of the 1850s. Many Greeks were amongst the sailors who left their English ships in Australian waters when they heard the discovery of gold. Most intended to return home rich men, so few women came to join them. By 1871, there were still only 19 Greece-born women in Victoria, and 127 men. After the gold declined, those who stayed found work in restaurants, cafes and shops.
The community commenced to consolidate through chain migration
- relatives and townspeople joining Greek settlers already here. The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria was founded in 1897and in 1901 the Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne was established. The first Greek language newspaper, Australis, was issued in 1913.
In the 1920s a quota system limited the number of non-British immigrants
to Australia, Greeks included. Between 1925 and 1929 this meant only 100 Greeks were allowed to immigrate each month.
After World War II and during the civil war in Greece that followed, over 160,000 Greeks came to Australia, mostly to Victoria. Initially, the majority found work in factories or farms as unskilled or semi-skilled labour – even educated migrants had to settle for a manual job. Community groups, churches, welfare agencies, newspapers and schools gradually developed, and eventually, the population of Melbourne constituted one of the largest Greek settlements in the world outside of Greece.
Although Greek immigration to Australia declined in the 1970s, in 2011 almost 49,991 Victorians were born in Greece. Far more are proud to have Greek heritage. The Greek community today largely lives in areas around Coburg, Preston, Port Melbourne, Oakleigh and Doncaster, and continues to make significant contributions to many aspects of Victorian life – particularly in food and hospitality, manufacturing, small business and politics.