Greek influx strains services – New migrants are creating challenges for community organisations


4 Dec 2013

Helen Velissaris


The substantial increase in the number of Greek citizens calling Australia home is fuelling a spike in demand for Greek language related services.
The Australian Greek Welfare Society (AGWS), one of the major service providers in the community, has tracked a rise in new Greek migrants asking for assistance with immigration, legal and financial matters.
This new demand has pushed the AGWS to launch, amongst others, a new survey aimed at helping to identify issues and problems for new Greek migrants hoping to settle in Australia.
With the research conducted, they hope they’ll be able to catalogue the experience of new Greek arrivals and help tailor services to fit their needs.
The 35 question survey asks for basic information and visa status, while also delving into more personal questions like “What were your expectations prior to coming to Australia?” and “What problems did you experience once in Australia?”.
It also asks new migrants what services they had trouble accessing while also asking about whether they have made connections with the Greek Australian community and the broader community.

L-R: Tina Douvos; volunteer migration agents Penny Dimopoulos and John Kotsifas; Joe Zaia; Andrew Korlos; Kelvin Thompson MP, AGWS president George Spiliotis; Jenny Mikakos MP; AGWS CEO Voula Messimeri.

L-R: Tina Douvos; volunteer migration agents Penny Dimopoulos and John Kotsifas; Joe Zaia; Andrew Korlos; Kelvin Thompson MP, AGWS president George Spiliotis; Jenny Mikakos MP; AGWS CEO Voula Messimeri.

“We’ve tried to cover all aspects, 35 questions cover everything about psychological issues, how they feel, what difficulties they face, how they see themselves in the future,” Case worker for Family and Community services department, Dimitra Lagoudaki says.
“A lot of people don’t know the system, they don’t know how to access the services and a lot of time the services don’t provide a lot of assistance so they’re not even able to fill in an application form,” she says.
The survey is the first of its kind to ask and collate this information and addresses the new demand for Greek centric services for new arrivals and their families.
One of the main aims is to quantify the demand and provide proof to create a dialogue with government organizations and charity groups.
“We know that they are here but we don’t know exactly what their issues are,” Ms Lagoudaki says.
“The government doesn’t have this information, we thought if we gather this information and start discussions we will have something to solve their problems.”
The AGWS has seen a large increase in new migrants asking for assistance and says services in place during the 50s and 60s migration boom are out of date.
“There is a lot of difference [between the two groups],” Ms Lagoudaki says.
“First of all it’s harder now to get into the country, to get a permanent visa, and the other thing is they are different people.
“A lot of them are well educated, they’ve got degrees, they’ve got work experience. A lot of them do speak a little bit of English, a lot of them do come with families. Back in the 50s and 60s mostly men were coming, but now it’s both men and women.”
The number one issue the AGWS is helping new migrants with is visas. Most new clients are on tourist visas, while student and spousal visas are the second most popular group.
A large proportion of them have low English skills and half of those on bridging visas or work visas had no income.
This is where the AGWS is already seeing a need, with many people asking legal, financial and health care information.
The organisation already provides a free fortnightly migration service and has seen a steady increase since the program started in April 2012.
It is completely staffed by volunteer migration lawyers who see there is a lack of appropriate information available to Greek speakers.
As well as the fortnightly program, the AGWS holds information sessions every couple of months to provide that extra assistance.
To take part in the survey (written in Greek and English) visit…
For more information contact the AGWS on (03) 9388 9998 or visit their website