The 2011-released hit TV series The Slap opens on 40-year-old Hector who is going through what looks like a midlife crisis. Hector also has a cousin named Harry. Together, they embody the successful second-generation Greek Australian community living in Melbourne, VIC.
Released in 2011, The Slap TV series was brilliantly and faithfully inspired from Christos Tsiolkas’s best-selling eponymous novel, published in 2008. The Greek Australian author’s acclaimed portrayal of his community in the novel raised my curiosity over the life and customs of Greek Australians.
The Greek community in Australia dates back to the 1850s when some members first came to seek wealth. Today, there is a very active Greek community in Victoria who influence the local lifestyle in many ways.
The DFAT’s (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) website states that the 2011’s census “recorded 99,937 Greece-born living in Australia and 378,300 Australians claimed Greek ancestry”. The page also presents the Greece-Australia relationship as “based on strong community ties”. Melbourne is nicknamed Sister City to Thessaloniki and is considered equivalent to the third largest ‘Greek city’ in the world.
Due to economic turmoil in Greece, ABC reported that many former Greek Australians – or their descent – who went have settled on the continents are likely to head for Australia hoping for better job prospects.
Ross Karavis is the director of the wall-known week-long Antipodes Festival, which presents Greek Australian’s films and cinema-related events in Melbourne. If you happen to be in Sidney in March 2014, swing by the city’s Greek Festival to watch films, go to the gallery or tour in the park.
According to Ross Karavis, there are over 100 organizations in Melbourne’s area, including the Greek Orthodox Church, which also works towards providing welfare services, activities for the retired or language classes.
On the web, Melbourne-based Neokosmos.com, GreekReporter among others report daily news from the homeland and foreign countries to Greek communities across the country. Like Alex Dimitriades, who plays Harry in The Slap, quite a few Greek Australians have become celebrities. Actors like young heartthrob Jared Daperis and brothers Costas and Louis Mandylor are among them. Last summer, Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman proudly announced having Greek blood from one of his forefathers.
In the City
On goworldtravel, actor Louis Mandylor talked extensively about his childhood in Melbourne’s large Greek community and how some neighborhoods were not exactly Greek-friendly back in his younger days. Where he lives, it is not unusual to hear Greek words here and there while walking in the streets. He and his brother spoke in their mother tongue to their parents. Meanwhile, Mediterranean delicacies are widely sold on local markets.
Portrayed in the character Koula, Hector’s mother, the Greek’s love of food is comparable to divine worship. For her son’s birthday barbecue, she cooks enough to feed a whole village. Then she insists her dishes must be served first instead of Aisha’s, Hector’s wife who is also a warring cook of Anglo-Mauritian descent.
The relation between the two women is more than tense, both competing to prove their devotion to Hector. Koula is described as an authoritative and invasive nurturing mother. She firmly believes that Aisha is not worthy of her boy and openly criticizes her in Greek. The calm and quiet father is more often seen talking to Hector and Harry, whom he dearly watches over.
Family is a key element in The Slap. Hector and Harry are cousins but act like brothers to each other since Hector’s parents took Harry in from a young age. Despite being a shady character, Harry truly cares about Hector and his parents. Hector’s and Harry’s children stick together when Hugo, an ill-behaved four-year-old, gets them in trouble more than once. They play cricket together in the garden and attend one another’s birthday enthusiastically.
Passing on Greek Identity
Throughout the TV series, neither do Hector’s children nor his sister’s speak a Greek word while their parents occasionally exchange in Greek. About passing on the cultural heritage, Web author Greek Australian Anna Bourozikas wrote about how much she has learned from living in a close-knit Greek network. She is now able to speak “kitchen Greek” and tries to teach it to her children but knows that it is a big challenge.
Unlike Louis Mandylor who disliked the experience of attending Greek classes, Bourozikas participated actively, just like many of the neighbors’ children. Now, she would like her children to experience the same so that they can connect with their relatives in Australia. While trying to reach her goal, she is still reflecting on what it means to be Greek Australian today for your nationality also goes where your heart points to.