(Melbourne, Australia) – Historian Leonard Janiszewski and photographer Effy Alexakis, a Greek-Australian, have just given a seminar in Melbourne, Australia titled, “Enterprise and Diversity: Greek-Australian Occupational Pursuits, 1810s to Present.” Their goal has been to highlight aspects of the Greek diaspora in Greece since 1810. There have been waves of Greek immigrants coming to Australia off and on since that time, with the most recent wave occuring today.
They both became interested in studying Greeks in Australia since 1982 when Alexakis lost her father. She talks a lot about the legacy he left behind. She says, “I grew up with the narrative that we would return to Greece some day. My father came to Australia in 1954 and a few years later, by arranged marriage, my mother arrived on one of the so-called bride ships.” Her father died in the 1980’s.
Once he passed away, Alexakis began taking photographs related to the Greek diaspora. At the time, she mainly focused on photographing members of the Greek community. She was reacting to the idea that it appeared as if the history of the Greek-Australian community was being glossed over. She hoped her photographs would change that.
Ultimately, she was right. Eventually she teamed up with an historian, Leonard Janiszewksi, and the pair have been devoted to telling the story of the Greek-Australians ever since. This seminar was one of their most recent projects. Concerning the presence of Greeks in Australia, Janiszewski says, “The prevalent view of Greeks was that they were all owners of milk bars, while the women had been associated with black-clad figures or women dressed in traditional costumes.”
The pair feel as if these are things about the culture that need to be preserved. He also went on to say that, “What set them apart from other ethnic groups is that the Greeks assimilated in Australian society while at the same time maintaining a strong ethnic identity.” The pair have been collaborating for some time and will likely continue to do so.