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Jim Jupp on the European culture in Melbourne

James Jupp.

Political scientist Jim Jupp reflects on the European culture in Melbourne



Date Added:

13 February 2009


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It was cosmopolitan in the early stages and they’d certainly livened up the shopping areas, all those Carlton shopping areas were on the verge of dying out and that was even more true for – of Collingwood in the next suburb. And then they started coming to life and of course now they’re the centre of ethnic Melbourne and absolutely packed out with people at the weekend and so on. So it was – it was interesting and they started breaking down the liquor laws, bringing food into the pubs for example which were just drinking dens which had to close at six o'clock anyway. And livening up what had become really, a rather moribund culture. And the working class culture was I think, very moribund because it was mostly an elderly population who hadn’t - the young ones had all moved out somewhere else. And very traditional working class population. So the Greeks and Italians livened things up quite a lot.


The main impact, the one that’s always stressed of course, is on the restaurant trade, the catering situation was fairly dire. It was dominated by restrictions like six o'clock closing, which of course came off, I think in 1963 to wild rejoicing. There were still very severe limits on Sundays, and a lot – there was a certain amount of sly grogging beer for the Australians and wine for the Italians. And if you wanted to get it, you could get it. And there were clubs downtown where – illegal drinking clubs basically –where you would drink out of cups and so that if a friendly copper came in by mistake, you could pretend to be drinking tea.


So it was all pretty dire. And the food was very sort of Aussie-English food, meat pies and steak and eggs in the pubs. And very, very few restaurants. So that was the main thing that started changing and by the time you get into the middle ‘60s, it’s changed quite a lot. Otherwise I wouldn’t say that most of – what the subcultures are – the Greek one particularly were centred around music and they had their own meeting halls and cinemas, showing Greek films and all the rest of it. And the Italians had too – they were for themselves, they were not shared with the majority population. Anyway in some parts of that area there weren’t the Australian – the old Australians weren’t the majority population anyway. So you had social clubs and you had dance halls and restaurants and so on. And the only thing that really was shared with the broader public would be the restaurants.


A lot of it was concerned with looking at – trying to dissect anti-migrant attitudes in the media and amongst the general population including this belief that they brought all sorts of crimes with them which weren’t there already, which in the inner suburbs wasn’t true because crime ran all – petty crime ran through all of that area. And that was one thing to look at and then of course, the migrants wouldn’t mix with the rest of us and of course, I went to a lot of social activities and you could see that they were mixing perfectly alright with each other, but that they didn’t feel welcome in Australian dominated places, including some pubs. Some pubs became the Italians particularly managed to colonise some pubs. But other pubs, they wouldn’t go in. So – I mean there was quite a lot of segregation on both sides because they weren’t comfortable with each other.


The Greeks and Italians had perfectly good – really making the point they had a perfectly good life of their own, they were predominantly working class at that stage, but they were making, you know, making their own life and they really didn’t need to integrate or assimilate into the Australian way of life. And of course, because of the restrictions on drinking and entertainment and all the rest of it, they didn’t regard the Australian way of life as particularly exciting or attractive in any case. Because they were living in predominantly old working class areas, which were very set in their ways and very really exclusive, didn’t – the two sides didn’t really want to mix. But that doesn’t mean they were fighting each other, it just meant they had developed alternative lifestyles which they were relatively happy with.


End transcript