The story of Greek Macedonian migration and settlement in Australia, in broader terms, is similar in many ways to the process of integration experienced by other 500,000 Australian Greeks and Cypriots. The size as well as the nature of the Macedonian Greek immigration to Australia was affected by the Greek Macedonian village background, the past experience of Macedonian immigrants in other Balkan and central European countries since the 15th century and the Australian immigration restrictions imposed after the Great War. Adverse political conditions under the Ottoman rule (until 1913), frequent wars and the Greco-Bulgarian rivalry for the espousal of the Slavophone population in Macedonia caused the migration to Australia.
Tamis (1994:336ff) estimates that the total number of Greek Macedonians who settled in Australia during the periods 1924-1939 and 1953-1975 is approximately 135,000. Large scale male immigration paradoxically commenced when Australian states imposed immigration quotas in an attempt to secure available jobs for the Anglo Australians. Notwithstanding the socioeconomic and political conditions that prevailed in Macedonian early in the 20th century, the main variants which strongly affected pre-War immigration were the particular province, age, gender, marital status and occupation of the prospective Macedonian immigrant. They were mainly illiterate peasants, between twenty and thirty years old, with no particular skills or trade. Some of them had been immigrants to the USA and Canada. Most Slavophones, being in their twenties, had a sound knowledge of the Greek language, having had the opportunity to attend some grades in the local schools and serve in the Greek army. By 1925, the composition of the Macedonian population in Australia had changed drastically with the arrival of hundreds of immigrants from Kozani, which was purely Greek speaking. They were mainly from the large rural centres of Kozani, such as Pentalofos, Vythos, Grevena, Siatistas and Eratyra. In fact, the Greek speaking Macedonian immigrants during the pre-war era constituted the majority of all Macedonians immigrants to Victoria.
Macedonian Greek immigration was influenced immensely by the fact that it was based on kinship, family values and loyalties. Pioneer immigrants had no choice but to follow the settlement and occupational patterns selected by th senior members of the family, to follow professions that had been followed by the pioneering settlers of their family and to safeguard the customs and tradition of their village of origin. Many young Macedonian Greek immigrants remained unmarried out of family obligation toward the single sisters that they left in the old country, while some decided to marry in order to provide a family environment and yo look after their elderly parents. The formation of crowded communes in farm-houses and houses in the inner suburban areas of Melbourne and Perth (1924-1935) and in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth (1954-1970) whereby single young men or families of the same kinship shared common facilities must be seen across these lines. Companionship, security, financial advancement and easy access to accommodation were the advantages of the communal system. The main concerns of the pre-War Macedonian Greek family were their children to maintain loyalty to the village’s customs and values, not to marry outside the ethnic group and to maintain their mother tongue. Post-War immigrants added to these aims the attainment of an excellent education for their children and the acquisition of real estate not only for a more affluent lifestyle and prosperity but also for security.
Macedonian Greek immigration developed in the 1920s through contacts in the hinterland of the Australian continent. Working as gold-miners, sugar and timber-cutters, farm-clearing labourers and market gardeners the immigrants survived the hostile conditions, the anti-foreign restrictive legislation and labour union bans and came in the 1930s with a readiness to be accommodated within the broader Australian community. During the first twenty-five years of their presence in Australia (1924-1929) Macedonian Greek immigrants avoided entering into direct competition and conflict with the Australian public, selecting professions and occupations which were broadly accepted by the ANGLO-Australians. However, they could not avoid the anti-foreign feeling that flared up in the country, following a sharp increase in the numbers of Kastellorizians, Samians, Mytelenian and Macedonian Greek immigrants, as well as Italians, Bulgarians and Maltese migrating to Australia. Although the full effects of the world Depression were not felt until 1929, already in 1924 there were considerable unemployment among Macedonian immigrants in Victoria and Western Australia.
Anglo-Australians viewed the situation with a degree of prejudice which was inflated by the fear that Australia would be flooded with southern European immigrants as a result of the restrictive immigration policies of the US. Available data obtained from the records of the pre-War Macedonian Greek organizations, their membership books and thr National Archives of Australia, indicate that the total number of Macedonian immigrantsm irrespective of their ethnic orientation, who arrived in 1924 amounted to 1,400 as against 4,000 Italians and about 88,000 British subjects. Yet, their arrival generated a fierce press campaign against the “invasion” of non-British immigrants, involving Unions, the Returned Servicemen’s League (RSL), Church groups and the Parliaments of Western Australia (Labor Party), South Australia (Labor Party), New South Wales (Nationalist Party) and Victoria (Liberal/Country Party).
Greek consular reports from 1924 drew attention to the increasing discrimination of the Anglo-Australian community against the Greeks and the Italians whom they regarded at one time as being even worse than the Chinese immigrants. After 1935, assisted by the islander Greeks in the capital cities and with the implementation of more liberal immigration rules by the Joseph Lyons Commonwealth government, many Macedonian Greek immigrants changed their occupational patterns and their style of residence in the bush, forming small groups in tight communes, within one household, and small communities in the inner suburban areas of Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. Some were urbanised partly to survive certain discriminatory laws against them, some partly as a reaction to the unfamiliar British-oriented Australian environment and finally a larger section in order to accommodate more productively their experiences from the old country. A number of Macedonian Greek brotherhoods and associations sprang up in the 1930s, not only as a result of the prevailing conditions, but also because of the parochialism which characterized the Greek community of the time and the lack of complete acceptance by the islander Greeks. A few associations also emerged to counterbalance the increasing presence of the Bulgarophile Macedoslav groups in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
As from 1947, with the arrival of wives and children, the Macedonian Greek immigrants stopped perceiving their stay in Australia as transitional, dispersed their previously male-concentrated communes in the cities and the great rural centres of Banbury, Greenbushes, Bridgetown, Manjimup and Geraldton (WA), Werribee and Shepparton (Victoria) and moved towards settling permanently. This was the period of occupational adjustment and of the decline of prejudice and antagonism with the British majority of the host society. Although the Greeks in general continued to occupy an inferior position until at least the period of the bilateral Greco-Australian immigration agreement (1952) and the eventual government-supported immigration programme, Macedonian Greeks, especially the Slavophones amongst them, were further segregated by intra-group prejudice towards their home language. Macedonian Greeks identified themselves primarily as Orthodox Greeks; thus it was expected that with their progressive assimilation into the broader Greek community via intra-group relationships and common social institutions they would integrate without losing their parochial identity.
The collapse of male-dominated Macedonian Greek immigration since the early 1960s paved the way for an open bridal catchment area for the young, mainly Australia-born, Macedonian gambroi (grooms) drawn from all regions of Greece. Since 1974 the Macedonian Greek population along with the broader Greek Australian community is declining it the time. However, in 2010 most Greek Macedonian institutions remain viable, partly because of their affiliation with the more established Greek associations and partly because of the fear and prejudice aroused by the differences within the institutional structure of the Macedoslav community. Often immigrants from a given village of the region of Florina, for example Parori or Meliti, operate two separate associations, one Greek and one “Macedonian”, installing as founding administrators two brothers of the same family. One cannot be surprised therefore either by the apparent organizational vitality og the Macedonian Greek immigrants in Australia or by the formation of numerous social groups not only to resist assimilation into the Anglo-Australian society but also to resist the “macedonization process”. Consequently, the existence of over 80 Macedonian Greek associations and brotherhoods in Melbourne alone representing approximately 60,000 settlers must be interpreted in this light.