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Effy Alexakis And Leonard Janiszewski

The ‘Greek café’: the future of Australias past.

Australians from non-English speaking background have impacted greatly upon Australia’s development, yet the nation’s grand historical narratives and symbols only reveal their presence as limited entities.

Indeed, Australia’s past has been over-run and comprehensively overwhelmed by research and interpretation through an English language base. This has essentially created a myopic, monocultural vision that has effectively alienated, marginalised, and even left broadly unacknowledged, the significance which cultural diversity and hybridity has had in developing the Australia of today. Professional Australian historians and heritage specialists with linguistic skills in a language, or languages, other than English, and who are prepared to engage in research utilising such skills — such as Barry York and Gianfranco Cresciani — are currently rare. The underlying theme of this paper, is consequently, a call to firmly encourage and facilitate the development of such historians and heritage specialists.

Untying the restrictive binds of the English language straightjacket will undoubtedly lead to new visions of our past and heritage, to reveal who we are as ‘Australians’ — and in regard to Australia’s Hellenicpresence, as ‘Greek Australians’ — and potentially, what we could become.

To assist in this methodological process, a key historiographical outlook must also change. ‘Ethnic history’ must emerge from its ‘ghetto’ and ‘celebratory’ publications to embrace the extended question: ‘How does the historical data on groups from non-English speaking background effect the major themes of Australia’s past, and moreover, can any new understanding of Australia’s history which may arise, be of international relevance?’

The development and demise of Australia’s country ‘Greek café’ — broadly regarded as a quintessentially Australian phenomenon which appeared throughout the nation, but was particularly synonymous with rural life in the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland — may be able to point the way to a possible future for the research and writing of Australia’s past.

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