From the last decade of the 19th century until WWI the number of Greeks immigrating to Australia increased steadily and Hellenic communities were reasonably well established in Melbourne and Sydney at this time. The Greek language press had begun in Australia and in 1913, Australia had the first Greek weekly newspaper that was published in Melbourne. During WWI Greece remained neutral, eventually joining the side of the Allies. In 1916 the Australian government responded to this by placing a special prohibition on the entry of Greeks and Maltese people to Australia that was not lifted until 1920. There were a number of anti-Greek outbursts as a result of the neutrality stance by Greece, often instigated by Australian soldiers on leave. During these outbursts Greek shops and Greek cafés were badly damaged or destroyed, with the worst rioting occurring in Kalgoorlie and Boulder.
During the 1920s, as a result of the Greco-Turkish War there was a significant amount of Greek migration to Darwin and across the Top End. Greeks often worked in the canefields in North Queensland and move to Darwin during the dry season to work in the pearling industry. One famous family of Greek Australians, the Paspaley family from the island of Kastellorizo, excelled in the Pearling industry and have stores across Australia with their main store in Darwin. It is noted that the first major flow of Greek immigrants to Australia began in the mid 1920s, where a large number of Greek people from Kastellorizo migrated to Australia to escape the Ottoman repression. A large number of these people from Greece’s easternmost island spent time in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, before being offered migration to Australia by British authorities. Those of Kastellorizian descent living in Australia now refer to themselves as ‘Kazzies,’ and have maintained a strong and unique community.
During the interwar period, the number of Greeks migrating to Australia increased substantially. Some Greeks who settled in Australia were expelled from Asia Minor after the Greek military defeat and the genocide committed by Turkey between 1913 and 1922, while other Greeks sought entry after the USA established restrictive immigration quotas in the early 1920s. From 1924 until 1936 a series of regulations operating in Australia severely restricted the number of Greeks permitted to immigrate to and settle in Australia.
Greece entered WWII with the Allies when she was invaded by German and Italian forces who remained in Greece until 1944. Many ANZACs went to the nation and tried to help the population to defeat the Axis enemy only to be saved themselves by the locals, building a relationship between Australians and Greeks that stands strong to this day. When troops withdrew a struggle broke out between pro and anti-communist factions which resulted in civil war between 1946 and 1949, ending with the defeat of the communists, but at a cost of many Greek lives and the uprooting of children who were kidnapped and taken from their families.
The Greek government, devastated by the destruction of infrastructure and the mass looting of their banks by the Germans, encouraged post-war migration as a way of solving poverty and unemployment problems. Post WWII in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Greeks were one of the main European races picked by the Australian government’s “Populate or perish” immigration scheme and due to this, thousands of Greeks migrated to Australia to gain a better life and future for themselves and their families. The main destinations where these “Hellenes” immigrated were cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. During these decades, Greeks began to establish their own restaurants, Hellenic Community Clubs, and Greek-Australian soccer clubs. Greeks along with Italians, Croatians, Maltese, Serbians, Jews, Hungarians, Czechs, etc. marked a milestone on Australian sport in general by forming many successful Association football clubs. The most successful Australian clubs with Greek heritage and culture are South Melbourne Hellas (South Melbourne FC) founded in 1959, Alexander the Great (Heidelberg United FC) founded in 1958, Pan-Hellenic (Sydney Olympic FC) founded in 1957, West Adelaide Hellas (West Adelaide SC) founded in 1962 and Brisbane Pan Rhodian (Olympic FC) founded in 1967. All five clubs were founded by Greek immigrants that immigrated to those respective cities.
After the changes in Greece from the mid 1970s, including the fall of the Papadopoulos regime in 1974 and the formal inclusion of Greece into the European Union, Greek immigration to Australia has slowed since the 1971 peak of 160,200 arrivals. Within Australia, the Greek immigrants have been “extremely well organised socially and politically”, with approximately 600 Greek organisations in the country by 1973, and immigrants have strived to maintain their faith and cultural identity.
By comparison the Greek Cypriot community in Australia doubled following the Invasion of Cyprus by Turkey following a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1974.