Vagrant "Gypsies" and respectable Greeks: a defining moment in early Greek-Melbourne, 1897-1900
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Well known in Australian history are the arrivals of Greeks. Less acknowledged are the attempts of Greeks to define themselves within the contours of the Australian nation and the implications of such endeavours. In 1898, a group of “Greek Gypsies” arrived in South Australia. Coincidentally their arrival coincided with the establishment of the Greek community of Melbourne and the emergent politics of Australian nationbuilding. As a group of semi-nomadic, questionably “Greek” migrants they were treated in contradictory ways. They received charitable assistance from some settlers while others — predominantly immigration restrictionists and the Greek-Melbournians — regarded them as a burden to colonial progress. How and why the Greek community of Melbourne chose to discredit these people was linked to the colonial ideal of respectability, which fostered the social traits of independence and permanent settlement. Positioning themselves within the attainable confines of respectability vindicated the Greeks of Melbourne as valued settlers.