Tasmania: Apple Isle’s Hellenic roots


Tasmanian Greek Australians at the March 25 parade.

In Tasmania, more than one hundred young Greek Australians attend the small Greek community school every week.

In the shadow of larger and more prominent Greek Australian communities, and due to its distance from mainland Australian Hellenes, the Greek community of Tasmania is often forgotten about.
Looking back to history now, when the first Greek settlers were culturally and linguistically isolated on this island state, and described as being able to speak neither English nor Greek, things have drastically changed.
They may be more isolated than other Australian Greeks but it is this isolation that brings the small community together and its members are heavily involved.
Almost 95 per cent of the Tasmanian Greek population, that numbers close to 5,000 people, is located in Hobart.
The success story of this Greek community is its one Greek Community School of Tasmania that has been operating in the capital city of the island state.
Amid the small community, the school in Hobart’s Federal Street every year welcomes 100 to 120 Greek students. Others are non-Greeks and Philhellenes who share love for the Greek language.
Now in his fifth year in Tasmania, the principal of the St George Greek Community School is Thomas Apostolidis. Alongside Maria Papalambrou, they have been commissioned by the Greek state to teach the Greek language to Greeks of the diaspora.
The expression of interest for Greek school is constantly growing, Mr Apostolidis tells Neos Kosmos, with the recent 21st Estia Greek Festival at Hobart’s Princes Wharf bringing more of those interested to join the school.
With the Greek crisis and part of their salary cut off, it is not easy to make a living in a country of Australian standards. For two teachers, this was a good reason to return to Greece but not good enough to leave their Tasmanian students.
With three other local teachers, they use history and theatre to enhance students learning experience of both Greek language and culture. They have staged five plays, honoured every Greek historical event at Hobart’s cenotaph, and even created a video that won third prize at the recent Greek Student Film Festival.
With over 45 entries from Greek schools around Australia, their short film Greece means light was awarded. In the short video, with the script written by Maria Papalambrou and directed by Thomas Apostolidis, Greek students are featured in front of Hobart’s Lady Franklin Gallery, a building influenced by Hellenic architecture.
“This short film was aimed to show the influence that classical Hellenic architecture had on Hobart, the second oldest city and the first that was built in Australia in neoclassical style. The culmination of it is the Lady Franklin Gallery in Ancanthe Park in Hobart’s Lenah Valley. It is a classical building along the lines of a Greek temple built by Lady Jane Franklin herself, wife of Sir John Franklin, who was governor of Tasmania at the time. It’s an ancient Greek naos. She was a big Philhellene,” Mr Apostolidis tells Neos Kosmos.
About the level of Greek knowledge amongst young generations of Greek Australians in the lonely Australian state, Mr Apostolidis says it’s diverse.
“Those who have cut off all their connections with their roots and their heritage have a tendency to assimilate, and eventually they will lose the language as well. The only thing Greek to remain will be their surnames ending with -is or -os.
“But those whose parents are proud of themselves and empower their children to be proud of their heritage, they will keep the language alive,” Mr Apostolidis says confidently.
To follow the activities of the Greek School of Tasmania or to enrol, visit their facebook page www.facebook.com/GreekCommunityofTasmania

source: Neos Kosmos

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