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Academic Research > Diaspora/Migration > The Contribution of Australian Kytherians In the Economy of Kythera and Australia

Academic Research > Diaspora/Migration

submitted by Nicholas Glytsos on 29.08.2010

The Contribution of Australian Kytherians In the Economy of Kythera and Australia

Nicholas P. Glytsos, Ph.D.

Emeritus Researcher of Economics
Centre of Planning and Economic Research
Athens, Greece

Paper presented at the 3rd International Symposium of Kytheraismos
Kythera, 21-24 August 2008

Address for Correspondence
14 Phidias Street, 155 62 Holargos, Athens, Greece
Tel.: +30-210-6517740
Mobile: +30-6932644001

Kythera, August 2008

The Contribution of Australian Kytherians
In the Economy of Kythera and Australia

Nicholas P. Glytsos, Ph.D.

Emeritus Researcher of Economics
Centre of Planning and Economic Research
Athens, Greece

Before proceeding το the substance of the discussion, it would be useful to present some figures on the Kytherians in Australia in order to be able to determine the weight they have on the Greeks of Australia, as well as their contribution in the economy of Kythera. Those born in Kythera plus their descendants sum up to about 80,000 (Marsellos, 1998). On the other hand, the population of Greek descend in Australia was, in 2001, 450,000 persons (ABS, 2001). Consequently, the Australian Kytherians make up about 18% of the total Greeks in Australia, as they ever had. I may note, in this context, that before the Second World War, out of 10,260 Greeks in Australia, 2,200 were Kytherians (21.4%). (Price, 1963:113). In the mid-1940’s, Kytherians constituted the backbone of the Greek community in Sidney and they had an impact on and were controlling the community (Tamis and Gavaki, 2002).

Every Kytherian emigrant to Australia or elsewhere goes through three consecutive, but not entirely distinct, phases in the migration process, each with particular characteristics and actions of migrants, and with various implications on the economy of Australia and Kythera. Consequently, for obtaining an overall picture of the effects of this migration, both places should be considered, as the migrant has one foot where he went and the other where he left.

The First Phase
The first phase in this migration process, which starts with the arrival of the immigrant in Australia, constitutes a transitional period for both the migrant and the part of the family that stays behind in Kythera. As any transitional period, this period is difficult for both parties, because it requires an adjustment to new conditions: for the migrant to land to a new economic and social reality and adjust to a new working and living environment, as well as to obey a new system of rules and regulations and a new State-Citizen relation. The family in Kythera, on its part, had to get used to a new family structure and undertake new family responsibilities.

The arrival in a foreign and far away country for which the migrant new little, if anything, and most importantly could not understand the language to be able to communicate in daily life and in work, is a big but expected shock. The first period of the Kytherian in Australia is, I believe, the most difficult, because the newcomer had to work under very difficult conditions and long hours, and at the same time, to adjust to a new economic and social reality, in a society that was inimical and unhelpful. Furthermore, the migrant had to cope with a new legal and institutional system and a new type of State-citizen relation (Glytsos, 2004b).

During this phase, the migrant’s first and foremost concern was to get a stable employment in Australia for surviving, forgetting for the moment that he has left behind in Kythera relatives, i.e. parents, brothers and particularly sisters, customarily waiting for the economic support of the migrant member for their survival and for the accumulation of a dowry for the single daughters of the family to be able to get married in Kythera.

Back in Kythera, this phase was the phase of the “payment” of the cost of migration, by the family staying behind in Kythera. Any migration has a cost, which in our case was in the form of lost family labour from the departure of family members, entailing a drop of household production, and the intensification of work by the remaining part of the family for their survival until remittances started to flow.

A particularly heavy burden and responsibility fell on the shoulders of the staying behind wife, who was remaining on the island for long periods of time until she was invited to Australia, or the husband returned to Kythera for family reunification. As I have analysed elsewhere in detail, she had to undertake all of the emigrated husband’s responsibilities, with various consequences related to the household management and the attitudes of the family members vis a vis the small Kytherian community (see Glytsos, 2008). Given that the number of emigrants was large, particularly in certain periods of time in the migration process, apart from the family, the economy of the island was negatively affected. By the end of the Second World War, in only 3 years 3,000 persons left Kythera for Australia (Kalligeros, 1998).

The Second Phase
The second phase starts with the establishment of the immigrants in the Australian labour market and their familiarization with the new business environment and ethics, as well as with the circumstances and opportunities for developing their own enterprises, using the money that they have in the meantime accumulated. This is the phase of their significant contribution in the Australian economy. I refer as an example of the contribution of even the early Kytherian arrivals in Australia, the case of Inverell. Inverell is a town 500 km northwest of Sidney with a current population of 9,749 (ABS, 2006). It was created in 1853 and, by the end of the 1890, was a very rapidly developing town in a region with rich pastoral land and mining.

The first Kytherians arrived at Inverell in 1899 and quickly they extended their business to the nearing towns. They represented a high proportion of the Greeks in the region and they had an “outstanding contribution” in the Australian development and set the foundations for several of to day’s successful and well known Australian Kytherian families (Makarthis, 2006).

For Kythera, this phase was the phase of the “repayment” of the earlier migration cost, as described above, through the remittances to the relatives on the island. Naturally, these remittances were private incomes, and despite the fact that they were sent for purely altruistic reasons, and not for the expectation of some future benefits, they covered, in effect, the earlier cost of emigration incurred by the family in Kythera. This is not the case of temporary migrants that leave with the purpose or returning after a while and they expect some economic compensation in the form of inheritance or other benefits, as the theory predicts and the reality has shown for other cases.

According to my own calculations (based on Glytsos, 1997, 2003), the remittances sent by the Kytherians of Australia, amounted, in the first half of the 1960’s - that was a mid period of the migration flows to Australia - to 500,000-600,000 US dollars annually, corresponding to 120-140 US dollars per inhabitant in Kythera; a not an insignificant amount at the time. This continuous flow of incomes had a multiplier contribution in the economy of the island, and it is not too far fetched to argue that it may even have, over time, limited the movement of Kytherians to Australia by contributing to the economic development of the island. In other words, the flow of emigration to Australia could possibly have been gradually self-restrained.

Within this framework, the particular part of remittances that went for the dowry of single women has enabled them to stay in Kythera and get married on the island instead of leaving for Australia in search of a husband, as it was often the case. This had an impact on the demography and the economy of the island through the creation of new families. It has partly restrained the demographic decadence and the economic deterioration of the island, resulting from the exodus of population to Australia and elsewhere abroad and also to Athens.

Apart from this contribution to the Kytherian economy through the private flow of incomes, the Kytherians of the diaspora made a great contribution to the building of the island’s social infrastructure. The Kythera high school, the hospital, the old people’s nursing home and the churches had all received their generous financial support. Perhaps some of these social facilities would not have been able to be created at the time, except after some long waiting.

In a period when a trip to Athens or the staying there was not easy for the poor Kytherians, one can think how many brains would have been wasted, without the high school, how many lives would have been lost without the hospital and how much misery would have been suffered by the elderly without the old people’s nursing home. The contribution of the Kytherians of diaspora has been outstanding, for which the inhabitants of the island would be grateful . But further than this contribution to the social infrastructure, or as a result of it, the economic benefits To Kythera were significant. The construction of these buildings and their functioning created and create incomes for the island (Glytsos, 2005).

The Third Phase
Several years later, moving to another era and a much higher economic and educational level of the Kytherians of all generations in Australia we enter the third phase, which is the phase of “maturity” of the migration process. In this phase, the contribution of Kytherian immigrants in the Australian economy and society is very significant. Big business operates along with smaller business and there are scientists and high calibre professionals of the second and third generation who belong to the high ranks of the Australian economy and society.

The educational level of the Greeks in Australia, and consequently of the Kytherians that make up a considerable part of them, as shown above, is generally similar to the educational level of the whole Australian population. Thus, 12.1% of the Greeks of all generations in Australia hold university and postgraduate degrees, compared with 12.9% of the total Australian population (ABS, 2001). Considering that in this proportion are included the first generation Greeks whose educational level was low, it is very likely that the educational level of second and third generation Greeks is even higher than the corresponding educational level of the Australian population.

Consequent to their educational level is the employment of the Greek Australians, and Kytherians for that matter, to high rank occupations. A proportion of 24.3% of them are employed in the occupational category of Scientists and Higher Administrative Personnel, compared with 27.5% of the total Australian population (Glytsos, 2004a, with data from the ABS, 2001).

Analogous is the case of the Kytherians in the US where the Kytherian descendants have a high educational level and run very successful business and they also have become distinguished scientists (Mavromatis and Sougiannis, 2001, 2006) .

For Kythera, the basic feature of this phase is the frequent visits of the Australian Kytherians to the island and their stay for shorter or longer periods of time, or for some of them Kythera becomes their permanent residence. The connection of Kytherians of Australia with their roots, and the acquaintance of their children and grandchildren with the native land of their ancestors is by itself a development of the utmost importance. But further than that, or perhaps because of that, the economic benefits to the island are large. The Kytherians of Australia are, in fact, supporting the two basic sectors of the island’s economy, that is, tourism and construction. Tourism is enhanced by their frequent visits to the island, which, in turn, motivates them to fix old houses or build new houses, as well as hotels and restaurants or shops, all of which generate more incomes for the Kytherians.

These benefits are cumulative and have multiple effects on the Kytherian economy. The more people of Kytherian descend come to the island over time in search of their roots and the more they know the island, the more money is spent on the spot. The construction activity, no matter whether it is private houses or the building of hotels and shops to make a profit, is more or less the result of the frequent visits of Kytherians of diaspora. If we could – and we can with the proper research – calculate the contribution of this diaspora in these two sectors of the Kytherian economy, we would find that it is very substantial.


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Population Census, 2001, 2006

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Γλυτσός Νικόλαος, Π. «Δημογραφικές Εξελίξεις, Εκπαίδευση και Οικονομικές Συνθήκες των Ελλήνων της Αυστραλίας». Εργασία που παρουσιάστηκε στο Συμπόσιο με τίτλο Οι Έλληνες της Αυστραλίας. Κοινή οργάνωση του Πανεπιστημίου La trobe της Αυστραλίας και του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών, Αθήνα, 27-28 Μαΐου 2004α.[“Demographic developments, education and economic conditions of Kytherians in Australia”].

Γλυτσός Νικόλαος, Π. «Από τα Κύθηρα στη Αυστραλία, από την Φτώχεια στην Ευημερία». Παρουσιάστηκε στο Α’ Διεθνές Συνέδριο του Κυθηραïσμού, με θέμα Κυθηραïκή Ταυτότητα Ινστιτούτο Κυθηραïσμός, Κύθηρα, 24-26 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2004β. Υπάρχει στην Αγγλική στο, with the title, “From Kythera to Australia, From Poverty to Prosperity”. International Conference on Kytherian Identity. Organised by the Institute of Kytheraismos, Kythera 24-26 September 2004β.

Γλυτσός Νικόλαος, Π. «Η Αθέατη Πλευρά του Ευεργετισμού: Συμβολή στην Δημιουργία Ανθρωπίνου Κεφαλαίου και στην Απασχόληση». Παρουσιάστηκε στο Συνέδριο Ανοικτού Πανεπιστημίου του Δήμου Κυθήρων, με θέμα Ευεργετισμός, Κύθηρα 21-25 Σεπτεμβρίου 2005. [“The invisible side of benefaction: contribution in the creation of human capital and employment”].

Glytsos, Nicholas, P. Remitting Behaviour of Temporary and Permanent Migrants, The case of Greek in Germany and Australia, Labour, Vol.11, No.3, Autumn, 1997: 409 435.

Glytsos, Nicholas, P. Changing Roles and Attitudes of Women Staying Men Emigrate, The Story of the Secluded Greek Island of Kythera with Mass Emigration to Australia. Womens Studies International Forum, 31 (2008) 96-103.

Καλλίγερος Εμμανουήλ, Εδώ Γεννήθηκε η Αφροδίτη: Σύντομη Ιστορία των Κυθήρων, Αθήνα, Εκδόσεις Κυθηραïκά, 1998. [Aphrodite was born here: A short history of Kythera]

Makarthis, Peter, Kytherians of Inverell NSW Australia, Presentation to 2nd Symposium Kytheraismos Canberra Australia September 2006. In

Μαρσέλλος Ηλίας, «Κυθηραïκή Διασπορά: Οι Κυθηραïκές Κοινότητες ανά τον Κόσμο και η Κοινωνική τους Συμβολή στο Νησί». Η Καθημερινή/Επτά Ημέρες Ένθετο, 5(7). [“Kytherian diaspora: The Kytherian communities over the world and their contribution to the island”

Μαυρομάτης Ιωάννης και Θεόδωρος Σούγιαννης, «Κυθήριοι Μετανάστες στις ΗΠΑ (19ος-20ος αιώνας)». Στο Γεώργιος Ν. Λεοντσίνης (Επιμ.) Εκκλησία, Παιδεία-Εκπαίδευση και Πολιτισμός στα Κύθηρα. Τόμος 2, Ανοικτό Πανεπιστήμιο Δήμου Κυθήρων, Κύθηρα 2006: 463-474. Το άρθρο στην Αγγλική είναι καταχωρημένο στο, με τον τίτλο John Mavromatis and Theodore Sougiannis, “Kytherian Immigrants in the United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries”. A Presentation to the Kytherian Conference Kythera, September, 2001.

Price, Charles, Southern Europeans in Australia, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Tamis A and E. Gavaki, From Migrants to Citizens: Greek Migration in Australia and Canada, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, October, 2002.

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