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It’s not all Greek to the Australians any more March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Victoria’s traditional migrant communities are declining as new arrivals from Asia challenge their size and influence. Census data shows Melbourne’s boast as the biggest Greek city outside Greece is under threat as community numbers steadily fall.

The state’s Greek-born population fell by 3000 to 54,324 between 2001 and 2006, the figures reveal. With migration from Greece virtually non-existent, the Greek-born dropped from third biggest community to sixth during the five-year period.

Even when generations born here are taken into account, the decline is apparent. In 2006, 117,876 Victorians said they spoke Greek at home, 4 per cent less than the previous Census.

Rockbank farmer Christos Kartalis, 69, was part of the Mediterranean migration boom of the 1950s and 1960s when hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Italians poured into Australia. Mr Kartalis grows fruit and vegetables and makes wine, a skill he learned from his father in northern Greece. “I’d like to pass this on to my daughter, or to her husband when she gets married,” he said.

Mr Kartalis’s daughter Zoyee said it was important to preserve this knowledge for future generations before it was lost. “Simple things like making good food and wine, that’s part of my Greek culture,” she said. “Culture is really important to me, without it you have no identity.”

At the last Census, 156,000 Victorians claimed Greek ancestry, while 308,000 residents had Italian heritage. Like the Greeks, the Italian-born community is declining, down 8000 to 82,849 between 2001 and 2006. The biggest group, the UK-born, also decreased, but this is expected to turn around by the next Census given a recent surge in British skilled arrivals.

After the Brits, the Italians are still the number two group in Victoria, but Asian arrivals are quickly catching up. By 2006, the number of Vietnamese-born grew to 58,877, while the Chinese-born population rose by more than 50 per cent to 56,560.

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