Phillip Island & District Historical Society

Oral History Project - Freda Aravanis - Theme: Migration from Greece to Phillip Island via life in Melbourne

Last updated on 30-Jan-22

Oral Histories of Phillip Island 


Hello. I am Dr Andrea Cleland and today on Thursday 4 November 2021 I am talking to Freda Aravanis on Phillip Island in Victoria.


This interview is part of the Oral Histories of Phillip Island project, with the Phillip Island & District Historical Society. 


A: Andrea Cleland, interviewer

F: Anne Freda Aravanis, being interviewed


(Ed: extra brief information added for clarification)

Ed: more detailed information added in subsequent conversation.

[Translated or explained from Greek spoken by Freda]


This interview was conducted outdoors in Freda’s garden in light of COVID restrictions. Freda is a Greek speaker and migrated from Greece to Australia in 1964. Born of Greek migrant parents in Australia, the interviewer Andrea has basic Greek language skills. During the interview, Freda refers to Andrea by her Greek name ‘Adriana’ and there is some use of Greek during the interview which has been noted with the English translation in [square brackets]. The written interview has minor edits to reflect the intent of the spoken word but does reflect the beauty of a non-English background speaker sharing their migration story. Freda and I talked further on 26 January 2022 to add in more details.


Welcome Freda


F: [Spoken in Greek: Where should I start first – now in Australia or when I came from Greece?]


A: Can you tell me about your migration story? How you came to Australia and what year you came?


F: I come to Australia in 1964 with the ship, Australis. I came here on September 11.


I remember being with my brother Costa and sister Soula on the ship. We had first class cabins because my brother had worked on the Vasilissa Frederica (Ed: S.S Queen Frederica of the Chandris Lines) which sailed between America and Greece. My brother knew someone that helped get the cabin. The food was nice and we ate well. There was more food on the ship than what I had in the village! There was dancing and music on the ship. I remember one boy from my village had to look after 15 girls as a chaperone.


I had travelled to Athens by bus and sailed from the Port of Piraeus to Port Melbourne. I saw the houses in Port Melbourne were all old and dirty! I got a shock. I was very sad that I had left my mum. I last saw her at the bus stop before I left my island and I was very sad.





A: Why did you leave Greece?


F: I lived in Lefkas. (Ed: The island Lefkadas on the west coast of Greece in the Ionian sea is also known as Lefkas).


A: You lived in Lefkada?


F: Yes, in Lefkada and I lived in the village, Karya.  




Freda’s birthplace, the village Karya today, on the Greek island of Lefkada. From the website:


All the old women in the village knew how to make lace and embroider. One old woman Maria had only one hand and so she started to make textiles and she taught the girls in the village. I started to learn when I finished primary school when I was around 12 years old. I have made many tablecloths, pillowcases and other linen and I have kept these.







Examples of Freda’s hand embroidered linen using traditional Karsaniki stitch that is unique to her village. Photo: Family’s own collection.


(See more about this traditional embroidery here:  with information about Maria Koutsohero and the Karsaniki embroidery museum at Karya)



A: Was that near the beach?


F: No. In arino horio [In Greek – a village up high in the mountains.]


A: Further inland?


F: Yes. It takes one hour to go to the beach.



A: One hour from the beach, yes. Why did you leave Greece?


F: Because there were many kids in the family. Eight all together. My father died. My mother can’t accept eight kids so I came here with my brother and my sister together. 


A: And how many of your brothers and sisters came to Australia?


F: Five – three girls and two boys.


A: And the other three stayed in Greece?


F: Yes.


A: Are they are still there, if they are alive?


F: One died and my other two siblings, the girl and the boy are in the village.


My brother stayed in the village and my sister left for Athens and I have been back three times.


A: Were you born in that village? What year was that?


F: Yes. In 1949.


A: Can you tell us any memories that you have as a little girl growing up?


F: I came here 16 years old, too young. I don’t remember many things from the village. 


A: Can you describe what your village was like?


F: I liked the village yes but, [In Greek – What memories do I have?] Adriana. Poor people, they had nothing.


A: That was the time of the Civil War when you were born. (Ed: The Greek Civil war occurred between 1946 – 1949.)


F: No, the war just finished. My father died when I was four years old, [Repeated in Greek –my father died when I was four years old] and my mother can’t look after us. Very poor family, very poor family.


F: My father died from a burst appendix as it was too late to operate. It was peritonitis.


A: So it was hard for people in Greece to live there?


F: Yes in Greece and in the village too. It was very hard.


A: Did a lot of people leave from the village?


F: Yes. Those years in my village there was 4,000 or 5,000 people but after many, many people came to Australia and America and Germany and everywhere. Now, there are only old people in my village.


A: When you lived in Lefkada did you get to go to the beach much or was life more in the village?


F: No, no in the village. 


A: Did you go to school?


F: Of course yes, I finished primary school. I didn’t go to high school. I came here after when I was 16.


A: Where did you live when you came here?


F: I first lived in Hawthorn with my brother. I had another brother here, my brother George and his wife, and three lived all together, and then five of us. And after, I was married first. 


A: How did you meet your husband?


F: I met him here in Australia. He was from my village but we met in Australia.


A: Did you know him from the village?


F: Not much because he was older than me, ten years older.


A: And his name was…


F: Theodore.


A: And where did you meet him in Melbourne?


F: My mother-in-law was working in the village. She said that girl come to Australia and she said I liked to…


A: Like a proxenio [matchmaking], an arranged marriage?


F: (Laughs) Like a proxenio. Then he came here in September and in January I was married.


I knew his family and I liked him straight away. We had a very happy and loving marriage. We were married for 49 years at the time he passed away.


A: Where did you get married?


F: In Agios Ioannis, in Carlton (Ed: St John Greek Orthodox Church).


It was a small church in Rathdowne Street that was behind near where they built the bigger church that is there now. We mainly went to the Holy Monastery of Axion Estin in Northcote as we later lived in Alphington.



Freda on the way to her wedding to Theodore, 1966. 

Photo from family collection



Freda and Theodore during the ‘Crowning’ part of their wedding ceremony.

Photo: Family’s own collection



A: Did you have a big wedding at that time?


F: No, no. We had many people at the church, but it was not a big party.



A: What year were you married? 1966?


F: 1966. I have a party with a small amount of people – it was not all the people who were at the church. We had dinner in the hotel, in Russell and Lonsdale Street.



Continental Hotel where Freda and Theodore had their wedding reception. Image from:


A: That was like a Greek community here in Melbourne?


F: Yes the Greek area. We had a small dinner at the hotel with my brothers and sisters. And after, we had our honeymoon at Geelong (laughs).


A: At least you went somewhere.


F: Yes for one week in the hotel.



Geelong Beach 1960s, Valentine postcard. Image from:


A: And probably working after that?


F: Yes. After, I came here and live with.... [In Greek – This is a nice story].


A: Freda is going to tell us a story.


F: We were renting one room in a house and in the morning, on Monday morning, I went to get up to make coffee. I see in the kitchen, there lived another four or five families in that house. I said to my husband, I can’t live here. I come to Australia and I lived in a flat with my brothers and myself and I can’t live with others in Brunswick, in one room.



Sydney Road, Brunswick, c.1960s. Image from: Northern Suburbs Memories Facebook page


A: So that was like a rooming house. And what did you do?


F: My husband had a house in Sydney Road together with my brother-in-law. But it had a shop downstairs and upstairs there lived people. I went to live with my brother-in-law for one month, to give notice to the people who had the shop. I went to live there with my brother-in-law Alex (Ed: Theodore’s brother) and my sister-in-law Maria (Ed: Alex’s wife). We lived together for five years and after that we bought the house in Alphington. 


We enjoyed living together. There was two rooms. There was a room for each couple and the three children – my son and their two daughters – slept in the living room. The rooms were very big and we all cooked and ate together. Maria was a nurse in Greece and she helped with my son. Everybody worked hard to save for a house. It was cheap to buy a house at that time in Alphington.


A: What year did you have your two children?


I had the first child, Paul, in Sydney Road, Brunswick and after I had Elizabeth in Alphington after five years.


A: What year was Paul born?


F: In 1966.


A: And Elizabeth in 1971?


F: Yes.


A: What hospital did you have Paul in?


F: Queen Victoria.



Queen Victoria Hospital, where Freda’s children were born in the 1970s. Image from:


A: Did they give you much help.


F: It was good. They were good at that time.


A: Did your husband go with you?


F: He can’t. My husband only came to visit in the afternoon. It was not all day visiting like now.


A: Did you find the nurses help you?


F: Beautiful, it was nice. And Elizabeth too was born in Queen Victoria.


A: Did your husband come at that time with you?


F: No, not inside.


A: When you gave birth you were with the midwife?


F: Yes. My mother Christina was here, when Elizabeth was born. She helped me, she helped me too much, my mother (Ed:as in Freda’s mother helped her a great deal). She lived close by and my brothers lived in Alphington too.




Theodore and Freda with their son Paul and daughter Elizabeth at 

Elizabeth’s Christening, 1971. Photo: Family’s own collection


A: How long was your mother here for?


F: My mother was here for four or five years. She lived here in Australia but after she had a big car accident. My brother’s wife was finished, dead, and the little baby. My sister-in-law Elizabeth and my baby niece Christine were killed in the car accident.


A: Oh, that’s sad. 


F: And my mother had a big operation in her head, and afterwards my mother went back.


A: Back to Greece.


F: Yes. My mother lived with my brother in Australia for four years. My husband and I worked very hard. My husband worked the nightshift, and he would look after the kids because I didn’t like to leave them with other women to look after. I worked in the laundry, I did afternoon shifts for years.


A: You worked in the laundry?


F: Yes, it was close to my house, at Spotless Drycleaning. 


A: What work did your husband do?


F: He worked at the paper mill – the Australian Paper Mills in Alphington.



Australian Paper Mills, where Freda’s husband Theodore worked for many years. Image from:


A: Oh the paper mill there.


F: Yes, for many years. 


A: On machinery?


F: Yes, and after working in Brunswick, they made the needles…


A: You can say it in Greek.


F: At the Clostireio (Ed: a factory where they make sewing needles).


A: The sewing needles?


F: Yes. And after I worked to make all the metals for the bathrooms, the soap holders for many years.


A: And that was in a factory?


F: Yes.


A: Were there other people from Greece there or other countries?


F: Yes, many.


A: Who did you work with mainly.


F: [In Greek – How should I say, I worked only with Greeks.[
(Ed: As Freda’s co-workers were also Greek migrants, there was limited opportunity for interaction with English speakers at work.)


A: Did you get a lot of opportunity to speak English?


F: That’s why I don’t speak very well in English because I worked only with Greek people. First, I worked at the Cadbury chocolate factory for six months. That was all Greek workers, all Greek. My first job.




Cadbury Chocolates commercial “A little sign of love: Milk Tray” from 1969. 

National Film and Sound Archive. See video here:


A: And you have three grandchildren?


F: Yes, Theodore, Rikki and Michael.


Freda’s three grandchildren: Theodore, Michael and Rikki[C1]

Photo: Family’s own collection


A: And is family important to you?


F: Oh yes, I grow up my grandchildren, Adriana. I helped raise them.


A: You give a lot of help?


F: Yes, Theodore and Rikki. It was only six months when my daughter-in-law went back to work and I helped to grow them up. I looked after them at six months old. My daughter-in-law went back to work.


A: And Elizabeth and Michael live here on Phillip Island with you?


F: In Melbourne at the start. 


Freda’s daughter Elizabeth and grandson Michael. 

Photo: Family’s own collection.


A: And later here on Phillip Island. How did your family come to live here on Phillip Island?


F: I had the house. I came here on holidays 35 or 36 years ago [approximately 1985]. After I came here in Ventnor, my brother-in-law bought a house in Fisher Street. My son bought the land here where I live now and built the house. But the first house that we bought in Ventnor was together with our koumbari (Ed: best man and woman at Orthodox wedding, sponsor of child/ren). The koumbaro was second cousin with my husband Theodore and was the Paul’s godfather.


A: Down on the corner.


F: Yes, the small house, a very small house.


When family came to visit us, they would stay in a two bedroom bungalow at the back.


A: Oh the blue one on the corner, that was beautiful that house, it’s gone now. Was it blue?


F: Yes. Not blue, it was white. Then after we buy the land and built the house. This house is 35 years old now.


A: And a lot of your brothers and sisters bought land here?


F: Yes, my brother, my sister and another brother here in the same street. Good company.


A: How did you design the house, did you design it?


F: No. I saw one house back on the other street, the same style, and I liked it and if I say to the builder I want that house, he would fix everything. 


Hugh was a young boy and this was his first building job on the island.


A: So you went by what the other designs were here? This house is a beautiful house. It’s brick on the bottom and timber on the top and the upstairs area is where you can see a bit of the ocean. 


F: Before you could see the sea here, there were no houses, no fences, nothing Adriana before. That time I came here there were no houses, no fences nothing, not many houses.


A: So it looked very much like a farm area?


F: Yes it did before. One house here, another house there. That house wasn’t here or that house. Only the older woman next door and the house at the back were here at the time I came here.


A: Does Phillip Island remind you of Lefkada?


F: Oh, yes! The bridge.


A: Lefkada is joined to the mainland by a bridge. Do you feel when you come over the bridge, it’s like going there?


F: Yes, yes, yes. My husband loved it. He came by himself to live one to two weeks, because I couldn’t come. I looked after the grandkids. My husband came to live one to two weeks here. After, we retired and my husband and I came here to live for two years. Finished.


A: Is that when he passed away from leukemia?


F: Yes, from leukemia. My husband loved it here. He loved it.


A: Did you enjoy going to the beach?


F: Yes, he loved it here. 


A: And so you decided to stay here, haven’t you?


F: Yes, I stayed here. I look after the garden. I look after Michael and I look after Spyradoula (laughs).


A: I have some questions around that soon. Do you spend a lot of time here with your family, your oikeogenia [Greek for family]. There are a lot of social activities, they come and go. 


F: Yes, they come and go. We celebrate Christmas and Easter. It’s beautiful. My family are coming for this Christmas too. Before, so many people come here. Every Christmas, we had here 20 to 30 people, and they stayed as well. [In Greek – we made beds for them upstairs and downstairs.]



Freda with her sister-in-law Dina. Photo: Family’s own collection



Freda holding one nephew, with another on the left, husband Theodore and son Paul at right. Photo: Family’s own collection


A: Do you celebrate a lot of the religious festivals, that’s a big part of your life, the religion?


F: Yes. We have very big parties. My husband’s name day, my 25th wedding anniversary, big parties when there were marriages in Melbourne, my son’s wedding ̶  for one week we had a party.


A: Before the wedding, everyone came here before the wedding like a glendi [party/celebration]?


F: Yes, yes. One week party, it was very, very big.


A: How did you find the pandemic affected everybody here, because everything had to stop?


F: Yes, everything stopped. 


A: Did you find that hard.


F: Yes, very hard. Now I haven’t seen my grandkids for two or three months because they are in Melbourne.


A: Can you tell me about the Greek community on Phillip Island. There are a lot of Greeks here aren’t there?


F: Yes, we have a big community here and we have got many people. 90, 100 people sometimes go once a month.


A: To the Greek Senior Citizens Clubs? You have 90 people that go?


F: Oh yes, before the last two to three years, at New Year’s Eve the kids would come from Melbourne. It was beautiful.


A: Where did you have the dance, at Melaleuca? There is a hall there. 


F: Yes.


A: And you would meet there once a month?


F: Yes. Not now. It was beautiful, very nice.


A: What were some of the activities that you would do as a club?


F: Dancing and cooking, talking together.


We play traditional Greek music on a music system. We cook together foods such as pitas, oven roasted lambs, chips, salads and Greek sweets. The chef is the sister of our President whose name is Angela. Membership of the club is $10 per year and we pay $10 for person for the meal. There are big tables of 15 people and we sit with the same group each time. Two of the tables are Australians who enjoy coming to the club.


We used to celebrate Apokries. It is a carnival before Lent begins. We would dress up but we no longer do that now as many of the members have passed away. We send flowers for them for their funerals


A: And you would go on holidays together?


F: Yes, one time we went to Adelaide, and another time to Lakes Entrance. We would go for day trips.


A: Do you do Easter and things like that together or is that more of a family thing?


F: It’s more a family thing.


A: Do you know how some of the club members came to live on Phillip Island? Did they come from holidays? Or did other people tell them about Phillip Island to come here?


F: Yes, yes.


(Ed: The Greek Senior Citizens of the Bass Coast caters to the Greek senior community with holiday homes in Bass Coast and Greek Seniors now retired and living permanently in Bass Coast.)


A: You’ve got the most beautiful garden here.


F: Yes, I’ve worked hard (laughs). I have worked very hard Adriana because I love it. I love the flowers, I love the garden, the vegies I love.


A: What do you call the beans in Greek?


F: Koukkia [fava beans]. I make fasoula which are beans cooked in tomatoes that I grow in my garden and olive oil. You can use other beans too for this dish.




Freda with a tub of her own Koukkia (fava beans). Image: Andrea Cleland



A: There is a huge basket of the most amazing green beans here and we’re surrounded by roses and the kippo [vegetable garden].


F: In the kippo I have beans, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini...


A: I can see tomatoes, olive trees, fig trees and a pear tree. 


F: Everything, I love the garden, I love it.


A: Do you garden by the season? How do you learn what things to put in and when?


F: Yes. I learn, I know at summertime to put in the vegetables. At winter time, I put in the broccoli and those types of things, the garlic, the silver beet.


(Ed: Freda always gives away her vegies to family and friends, she is very giving.


All the Greek migrants on the island have vegetable gardens and/or fruit trees. Freda’s brothers have many olive trees growing at their island homes and they take the olives to be pressed for oil near Mornington but these are in small quantities.)



Michael and Freda harvesting from her kippo – vegetable garden. 

Photo: Family’s own collection.

A: And a lot of things from the garden you then cook?


F: Yes. Potatoes. 


A: And what are some of the meals that you like to cook, because you make things from scratch.


F: Yes everything. 


A: I can say Freda is an amazing cook. The spanakopita [spinach filo pie] and galaktoboureko [custard filo pie]…


F: Spanokapita, Galaktoboureko, baclava. Kataifi [fine vermicelli-like pastry], everything.


A: Especially at Easter time, there are a lot of things you prepare.


F: I make tsoureki [Easter bread], the kouloria [Greek Easter cookies] kourabiedes [Christmas almond butter biscuits], many things, melomakarona [Christmas honey cookies].



Freda’s Fasolakia- traditional meal cooked with beans, potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes with olive oil. The vegetables are from Freda’s garden. Photo: Family’s own collection.




Some examples of more of the foods that Freda makes: images from Wikipedia


A: How did you learn to cook these recipes?


F: I learnt with other people and I have books too, I have the recipes. With other people, if I see something I like I will ask ‘how do you make that’?


We also share recipes and cooking tips at the Greek club.


A: And you cook together with your family too?


F: Yes, my granddaughter has learnt to make tiropita [cheese filo pie].




A: Beautiful. Do you make the pastry from scratch?


F: Yes, from the start. 


A: That’s amazing. And your youngest grandchild Michael goes to school here on Phillip Island.


F: Yes, yes. 


A: Your other grandchildren went to school in Melbourne, did you see a lot of difference between Melbourne and Phillip Island?


F: No, because the other grandkids went to private school in Melbourne and Michael goes to the private school here on Phillip Island. But the other grandkids in Melbourne learnt Greek one day a week, that’s the best because they speak Greek very well, my grandkids.


A: Do you find Michael is keeping his Greek?


F: He talks but I don’t know if he will keep that going or will forget (laughs). I talk Greek to Michael.


Ed: Greek is very actively spoken in Freda’s household by extended family members and visitors from the Greek community on Phillip Island. Michael is comfortable listening and speaking in Greek with them and he speaks Greek beautifully. There are no formal Greek language classes held on Phillip Island.


A: Do you find the school here different, such as the sports or the people?


F: No, it’s the same here on Phillip Island as in Melbourne. 


Ed: Freda has found her personal experiences of taking her grandchildren to school and sports clubs with her grandchildren on Melbourne have been similar to what she has experienced on Phillip Island with her youngest grandson.



Freda with her grandson Michael. Photo: Family’s own collection 




A: And do you enjoy looking after your family.


F: Oh yes. I love it. I love to look after my grandkids.


Ed: Freda takes a very active role in bringing up her grandchildren and attending all her grandchildren’s activities including parties which she helps organise and cooks for. She loves being a soccer, tennis and basketball yiayia [grandmother]. She was ‘awarded’ Best Yiayia on Phillip Island for providing wonderful food at school functions as a thank you for her efforts by the parents in the prep class of Newhaven College in 2018.



Freda is awarded ‘Best Yiayia on Phillip Island’ by the Preps of Newhaven College in 2018 from Martha Gajewski who migrated from Thessaloniki, Greece in 1971. Martha’s yiayia founded what was to become Black Swan dips from her kitchen in Melbourne using traditional recipes for Greek dips.Photo: Family’s own collection.


A: Did you have to do that while you were working or sometimes when you were working, or mainly when you were retired?


F: I am retired. I stopped working early because my husband was sick with his back and stopped work and after I stopped too and I looked after my grandkids.


A: And you now look after your sister-in-law Spyradoula. How old is she, 88?


F: She’s 89. She is the last one surviving from my husband’s family and I have looked after her for the past three years.


A: Spyradoula has come to live with you here and your daughter Elizabeth and grandson Michael also live here. Do you get a lot of support for caring for Spyradoula?


F: Oh yes, the carers come to give her a bath. They help me to cut the grass and I have some help.


A: Do you find it hard to look after her?


F: Oh yes.


A: But you like having her here?


F: I love it.


A: Because she is family.


F: I love it. I wouldn’t like to put her in a nursing home. I love it but if I can and have too, I will put her in a nursing home. What can I do?


A: Have you found language to be a problem, do you find people understand you?


F: Oh yes. I don’t have much problem with that.


A: And if you can’t do something in English, who do you get to help you?


F: My daughter.


A: So Elizabeth does a lot of the things to help with you any paperwork or government or forms or things like that. 


F: Yes.


A: If we talk a little bit about your memories of Phillip Island, can you describe some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen to Phillip Island?


F: There’s been very big changes. From the time I come here, it was like a village to a village. (Ed: in terms of how settlements on Phillip Island were spaced out but now there are much more suburbs.) But now, there are big changes.


A: Like lots of suburbs and lots of people?


F: Yes, big changes. More people, more houses. Very big changes.


A: Do you like it?


F: I like the quiet but it’s alright still here in Ventnor, there hasn’t been much change.


A: Just more people. And what do you think has changed in Ventnor, more houses?


F: More houses. 


A: But it doesn’t have any shops really.


F: No nothing. 


Ed: Freda does use the Anchorage Store in Ventnor if she needs to get any item and also the butcher Island Primary Produce in Ventnor.


A: In terms of the shopping here on the island, has that changed, like in Cowes?


F: Oh yes, from the first time I came here it has changed so much.


A: What sort of shops were here when you came in the 80s?


F: It had all the shops but not the same shops as now. It was smaller, it had one supermarket.


A: Where was that one?


F: It was just Coles. (Ed: Coles used to be on the site that was initially the Co-Operative Store. Today it is the site of the current Aldi.)


A: But it was further down, was it?


F: Yes [In Greek – It is where Aldi is now]. Now we have three supermarkets, four supermarkets because we have the IGA too. 


A: And do you go to all the shops? There’s IGA, Aldi, Coles and Woolworths and then there’s San Remo IGA.


F: Yes.


A: Do you do all of the shopping here or do you have to sometimes go to Wonthaggi?


F: No I shop here. If I go to Melbourne, I buy Greek foods at the deli.


Ed: In Melbourne, Freda is able to buy supplies in bulk such as feta cheese, olives and olive oil. The local Coles in Cowes does have Greek style coffee available. Freda however finds it is cheaper to buy Greek foods in Melbourne and she grows many of the things she needs.


A: And the banking?


F: I bank here.


A: Do you have a favourite story you like to tell people about Phillip Island or anything you remember a lot?


F: [In Greek – which one is the favourite!] (laughs). I like going to the place where we had Spyradoula’s birthday.


A: The Cape Kitchen. You like going there?


F: Yes because it has a nice view.


A: What do you like most about living here on Phillip Island?


F: It’s nice and quiet and I don’t like to go to Melbourne now. 


A: Really?


F: It’s more nice, more quiet here, I don’t like to go to Melbourne now. I can’t drive in Melbourne now (laughs), there are too many cars. I like it here more.


A: Do you find the trip to Melbourne is longer than it used to be to drive up?


F: Yes, it’s more longer. I remember the time I came here with my husband in the first years, it took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Now, it takes more than two hours. 


A: Have you done anything special in the community, fundraising or any hobbies or any clubs, or mainly with the Greeks?


F: Only with the Greeks [at the Greek Senior Citizens Club] because I don’t have time anyway, Adriana.


A: You’re very busy I know, we’re lucky to have the interview today (laughs).


F: Very busy (laughs). I don’t have time.


A: Do you feel the other residents, the people who have been here a long time accept you as being a resident here?


F: Oh…no (they do). 


Ed: Freda is very much loved by everyone she meets and is very friendly with people from all backgrounds. Freda will often invite people over to share coffee, her wonderful Greek sweets and meals. If someone she knows is ill, she will often drop off meals to support other families on the island.


A: So you feel people see you as a Phillip Islander, part of the community here.


F: Yes.


A: What are your hopes for the future of Phillip Island, or any worries?


F: [In Greek – just how long will I live?]. I’m 72, how long will I last? (laughs). How will I go for the future?


A: For the island, do you worry about too many people, or about the climate, the weather on the kippo?


F: Too many people, yes. The weather has very much changed. I remember the first years I came here, everything was more burnt dry because of the weather. I find it very hard now.


A: What do you find as the difference, more dry or wet?


F: More wet, last year there was no summer, nothing. [The seasons are not the same patterns]. I don’t know this year. I remember the first years I came, it was hot, hot. I went to the beach at 12 o’clock at night and stayed at the beach but now, no.


A: Do you think more trees have grown or more trees have been cut down?


F: More trees have grown. 


A: Is there anything else you want to tell us?


F: [In Greek – what else Adriana would you like me to tell you?] (laughs)


A: (Laughs) It’s been lovely to talk to you Freda. Thank you.


F: Thank you, thank you.


A: Thank you very much.




Family dog Zeus – an important member of the family! 

Photo: Family’s own collection


End of interview.



Credits for food images from Wikipedia: 

Galaktoboureko  Image: Wikipedia by Badseed

Tsoureki  Wikipedia recipes

Triopita  Image: Wikipedia Tanya Bakogiannis

Koulorakia  Image: Wikipedia by foodisdablog

Kourabiedes  Image: Wikipedia by Jastrow

Melomakarona  Image: Wikipedia by Kalambaki2

Spanakopita  Image: Wikipedia Warehouse Deli Alpha

Baclava  image: Wikipedia Robert Kindermann

Kataifi  Image: Wikipedia Vanilla Lounge






About Greek migration to Australia


The devastating impact of the Second World War (1939-1945) and the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) prompted large-scale emigration from Greece from the 1950s to the 1970s. From 1947 until 1977, over 1.3 million people left Greece particularly from rural areas. These migrants set out for regions and countries with well-developed secondary sectors or resource-rich economies, such as Western Europe (mainly West Germany), Brazil, Australia, Canada and the United States 

In Australia, what became a post-war immigration boom was initiated by the signing on 31 March 1947 of the United Kingdom-Australia Free and Assisted Passage Agreement, with other agreements to follow. Between 1947 and 1983, almost a quarter of a million Greeks came to Australia as permanent and long-term arrivals. Many migrants made the journey from Greece during the 1950s and 1960s on dedicated ships such as the Australis, Ellinis and Patris, with migration from the Greek Islands accounting for 15 per cent of the Greek Australian population.

Work was seen as crucial to economic independence and the establishment of independent family households. In the early 1950s, there were an estimated 200 jobs available in Australia for every applicant. Most found work in factories or farms, as over 75 per cent of Greek migrants who arrived between 1947 and 1971 were unskilled labour. Government regulations and control of post-war immigration to strategically target the occupational and employment patterns of migrants largely explained why many Greek post-war migrants went to Melbourne and worked in factory employment. By the mid-1980s, Melbourne had emerged as one of the principal centres of Greek population in the world, with a Greek community of over 200,000 people. By the late 1990s, the Greek community was the second biggest non-English speaking immigrant group in Australia. 

Currently, the number of Greek migrants in Australia has rapidly declined due to an ageing community and decreased numbers of permanent migrants from Greece. At the 2016 Australian Census, there was an increase of those who identified with Greek ancestry at 421,000 people but a decline to 1.8% of the total Australian population with 93,740 born in Greece.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Census of Population and Housing recorded 169 people on census night who identified as Greek Orthodox in Bass Coast from a total 32,796 people. 65 people in Bass Coast recorded their birthplace as Greek. It is important to note that Bass Coast has been traditionally a place where Greek migrants have owned holiday homes so this may not reflect the true extent of the Greek presence across generations that have developed a connection to Phillip Island.




Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2016) ABS Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics website, <>.


Clogg, Richard (2008) A Concise History of Greece, 2nd edn, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Sixth Reprint.


Doumanis, Nicholas (1999) ‘The Greeks in Australia’, in Richard Clogg (ed.), The Greek Diaspora in the Twentieth Century, Oxford: Macmillan Press Ltd.


Jupp, James (ed.) (2001) The Australian People: An Encyclopaedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins, 2nd ed. Cambridge: New York: Cambridge University Press.


REMPLAN 2022 accessed at:, viewed 2 January 2022.

Roudometof, Victor (2010) ‘From Greek Orthodox Diaspora to Transnational Hellenism: Greek Nationalism and the Identities of the Diaspora’, in S. et al Leoussi (ed.), The Call of the Homeland: Diaspora Nationalisms, Past and Present, Leiden: Brill, pp.139-68.


Tastsoglou, Evangelia (ed.) (2009) Women, Gender, and Diasporic Lives: Labor, Community, and Identity in Greek Migrations, Lanham: Lexington Books.


Yiannakis, John N. (2009) Odysseus in the Golden West: Greek Migration, Settlement and Adaptation in Western Australia since 1947, API Network.