Cyprus Mail

Greek literature a foundation of life

committee members

An association in Australia aims to increase the use of the spoken language and all writing created in it finds PAUL LAMBIS

The Hellenic Writers’ Association of Australia believes that literature is the foundation of life. Since being set up in 1992 by a group of individuals seeking to promote Greek Australian arts, literature and publications within the local community and throughout the global Hellenic Diaspora, the Hellenic Writers’ Association of Australia has become the voice for all Greek Australian writers.

“The Hellenic Writers’ Association of Australia advances the social, cultural and educational objectives of the country’s Greek community through meetings, media announcements, social and educational meetings,” president of the association Roma Siachos said.

According to Siachos, the association also helps to promote literary awareness among the younger generation by organising literary competitions and activities in collaboration with school leaders and the broader community. “Our main goal is to keep literature alive,” she said.

Siachos, and committee members Kalliopi Kouroupi, Gerasimos Clonis, Dionysia Katiforis, John Sachinidis, Magdalini Klepkou, Nick Piperis, Ermioni Tasiopoulos, Soula Kolokythas and Voula Triantafyllou, have been an active organisation within Australia’s Greek community, which now numbers over 92,000 people.

“Interestingly enough, the first migrants from Greece were seven young sailors convicted of piracy by a British naval court and transported to Australia, where they arrived in August 1829,” Siachos told the Cyprus Mail. “After being pardoned, two of the sailors settled in Australia.

President of the Hellenic Writers’ Association, Roma Siachos

“The first significant Greek migration to Australia occurred during the gold rush in the 1850s. The majority of Greek settlers worked in mining camps, on wharves, or on coastal ships,” she added.

“There were roughly 878 Greek-born people in Australia by 1901, and most of them were store owners or employees at shops and restaurants, while some were cane cutters in Queensland.

“There was a significant increase in immigration between the two World Wars. The deportation of Greeks from Asia Minor, as well as immigration quotas established by the United States of America in the early 1920s, contributed to this,” she added.

However, it was not until the 1960s that migration from Greece became more rapid, with the greatest concentration of Greek Australians now residing in Victoria, “which is often regarded as the heartland of the Greek Australian community.”

Although there are numerous Hellenic community centres throughout the country, the Hellenic Writers’ Association focuses on the literary side of Greek culture, and frequently promotes literature and arts within the community through book launches, radio and television interviews, creative workshops for aspiring writers, seminars with guest speakers, literary gatherings, and literature competitions for secondary and tertiary students.

“We organise many school competitions on a variety of topics related to the campaign Speak Greek in March, which was conceived by cultural diversity and community advocate Mike Zafiropoulos to encourage the Greek community, school system, and government to give greater priority to the speaking, learning, and teaching of the Greek language,” Siachos said.

diaspora2“The initiative was created to generate increased interest through a variety of themes, one for each day of March, ranging from the alphabet, arithmetic, grammar and philosophy to politics, economics, mythology, and the Olympics. While the campaign began in Melbourne, it quickly spread throughout Australia and abroad.”

Although Siachos and her dynamic team are focused on promoting Greek literary awareness throughout Australia and beyond, the language barrier is their main challenge in keeping literature alive, particularly among the younger generation. “The third generation does not speak Greek fluently, and they lack writing and speaking skills.”

Despite the challenges, the association is steadfast in its commitment to encouraging greater use of the Greek language by keeping it alive through speaking Greek at home and “preserving the values of this great cultural inheritance.

“Our association also publishes an annual bilingual magazine titled o Logos, which provides additional information on the association and its activities, as well as a vast selection of works produced by Greek Australian writers and poets that have contributed to our country’s literary landscape,” Siachos said.

The Hellenic Writers’ Association of Australia, like most Hellenic organisations in Australia and around the world, works to strengthen the Greek diaspora’s ties to the homeland and to preserve its ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity. “From the stories told by our grandmothers to the great education we receive later in life, literature plays a significant part throughout, influencing us and making us understand the ways of life.”

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