Page 911 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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Greek Independence Day

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.38): I rise tonight to advise that on the 29th of last month I was pleased to attend on behalf of the Chief Minister the Greek national day event at the Hellenic Club in Woden. 25 March is Greek National Independence Day and is a celebration of the emancipation of the Greek people from the Ottoman Empire with the treaty of Erdine in 1829.

The actual date commemorated—25 March 1821—is the day that the general uprising against the Ottomans began, with Bishop Germanos of Patras raising the flag of revolution over the monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. From this point, the cry “Death or freedom” became the motto of the long-fought revolution. After this bold move and uprisings on many of the Greek islands and in several mainland regions, Athens was taken by the revolutionaries in 1822. Several years of success were unfortunately followed by large losses by 1827, when Athens was retaken by the Ottomans.

With this loss and others around Greece, it was decided by Great Britain, the Kingdom of France and Russia to intervene on the Greek side of the conflict. With such a large combined international force, the war was won, and the treaty of Erdine was signed on 25 March 1829. The revolution and subsequent revolutionary independence war cost the lives of over 100,000 Greeks over eight years.

It was not long after the end of the Independence War that the first trickle of Greek people began to arrive in Australia, with the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s. This very small community associated with the gold rush were quite ephemeral and intended to return home rich men, which led to there being around 127 Greek-born men in Australia in 1871 compared to only 19 Greek-born women.

By the turn of the 20th century there was a significant number of Greek people in Australia, particularly in Melbourne, and this is where the first Greek Orthodox Church and other Greek community establishments appeared, a good decade before the founding of Canberra of course. The number of Greek people who lived in Canberra during the foundation years following 1913 is unclear. We do know, however, that in 1930, 12 Greek people had made Canberra their home. This number has dramatically increased over the years to now approximately 4,500 people of Greek origin living in the ACT, and this Greek community is a wonderful part of our multicultural society which exists in Canberra.

We see Greek community presence at the annual Multicultural Festival, the Hellenic Club, and there is also a new Hellenic preschool which has recently opened. The preschool was built on the site of the previous Hellenic preschool which was run by the Canberra Greek Orthodox community. The Hellenic Club of Canberra donated more than a million dollars for the building of the new preschool, for which I am sure the students and community are very grateful. This is just one example of the Canberra Greek community’s contribution to Canberra as a whole.

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