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Family and community

Family and community

Family and community: private lives and public tales

Even though most Greek cafés in Australia were small family-based food catering enterprises, they became the eating and social hubs of many rural and urban communities. They provided the family with regular income, independence (including freedom from union restrictions on the use of foreign labour), potential social and economic mobility — particularly for the succeeding generations — and maintenance of the family unit. Additionally, these businesses became a source of employment for extended family members and friends, as well as members of the local community.

Black and white photo of a Greek family seated in a café booth.
Family gathering in the Popular Café, Cootamundra, NSW, 1952.
Courtesy: E Dascarolis.

Often, Greek café proprietors not only attained commercial popularity, but also the broader responsibility of active involvement in community activities and civic affairs. However, at times, behind the beaming smiles of success lay sad, painful experiences: tragic stories of exploitation, socio-cultural dislocation, racist abuse and personal loss.

Significantly, as the social centre of their local communities, Greek cafés became a quintessential part of Australian life for most of the twentieth century.