The Social Support and Service Needs of Australia’s Ageing Greek Migrants: A Pilot Project

Lareen Newman, Michael Tsianikas, Georgia Panagiotopoulos, Catherine Hurley, Ruth Walker

Abstract


This article explores the social support and service needs of Greek-speakers in Australia who migrated as young adults mostly in the 1940s and 1950s. The article reports the findings of a pilot research project initiated by the Modern Greek department at Flinders University in conjunction with social, health and ageing researchers. Focus groups and interviews were held in Adelaide and Darwin in 2010 with older Greek-speakers born in Greece and Cyprus; a survey of service organisations was also conducted. All older Greeks chose to be inter - viewed in Greek. They reported using a range of formal services, although some were confused about how to access services and lacked awareness of services. Interrupted primary education had resulted in low reading proficiency in Greek, while settlement experiences had contributed to low proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English. These were major barriers to accessing services with no Greek-speaking staff. In line with cultural expectations, a key support role was played by adult children, while some Greek-speaking GPs and MPs also mediated information and service access. Many older  Greeks appear to be living independently in the community, but this is only possible because of high levels of informal support from close family. Those without children may therefore be more vulnerable to social isolation. The Modern Greek researchers who were integral members of the research team acted as “insiders” who shared the culture and language of interviewees. Since all interviewees chose to be interviewed in Modern Greek, the ability to conduct interviews in Greek clearly enabled their participation, whereas they may have declined to participate had interviews only been available in English. At the same time, the non-Greek researchers provided a critical “outsider” view which strengthened the data analysis and interpretation. We conclude that this project has demonstrated the important role that Modern Greek academics can play in research on social and health issues among the Greek diaspora.


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