Recently we discussed various aspects of immigration to this country. Today we are looking at the development of Brisbane's vibrant Greek community, in particular their churches. Greece itself is having severe economic issues as this post goes to air, and it may result in that country departing the European Union. I've been to Greece a couple of times and marvelled at the antiquities and the fact that it is the basis of our concept of democracy. It would be a shame if the country imploded now. But as my Greek barber says, "All the hard-working Greeks are in Australia making fortunes. Those left want a welfare state but aren't willing to pay taxes". I'm sure the problem isn't that simple, but it is interesting that a Greek man interprets things in that way.
Greece, wedged between Europe and Asia, had been invaded from one direction or another for centuries, and the population was used to fleeing to new homes. Greeks started to arrive in Queensland as far back as the 1860s, mostly to rural towns. During the twentieth century, some Greek migrants in Queensland worked in the mining and sugar industries, and many established small shops and cafes. Most Queensland outback towns had at least one Greek cafe or milk bar.
A Greek community centre was established in Charlotte St Brisbane in 1913, and in 1922 the first Greek Orthodox priest arrived in Brisbane. He conducted services in St Luke's Anglican Church in Charlotte St until the completion of the first Greek Orthodox church, also in Charlotte St, in 1929. Here is a photo of the laying of the foundation stone and dedication in late 1928.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #50666)
And here is a later picture of that church from around 1955. It no longer exists.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #202766)
Although immigration ceased during WWII, it started again soon afterwards, and there was a large intake of Greek migrants during the 1950s. During the war Greece had been invaded by the Italians, who were initially repulsed, and then the Germans. The Greek mainland was occupied by Axis powers from 1941 to 1944, so it was no wonder that many Greek citizens were prepared to travel overseas to a new life.
Most Greek migrants were Greek Orthodox Christians, and the church in the centre of Brisbane became too small for the swelling congregation. In 1956 land was purchased in South Brisbane to allow the construction of a new church. Plans were drawn up by RM Wilson, the foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1958 and the church was consecrated on 24 April 1960. Here is a recent photograph of the church.
It seems to me that the Greeks are very strong on family and their cultural traditions. There is a large Greek Club next to the church that enables these traditions to continue amongst newer generations. Of course, Greeks know how to have fun and the annual Paniyiri festival that has been running since 1976 is held over the road from the church and draws huge crowds each year.
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