Selling an American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café

A Touring Exhibition from the In Their Own Image: Greek - Australians National Project, Macquarie University, Sydney*

Astoria Cafe interior. Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW, late 1940s. Photo courtesy N. Raftos, from the 'In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians' National Project archive, Macquarie University, Sydney

Astoria Cafe interior
Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW, late 1940s
Photo courtesy N. Raftos, from the 'In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians' National Project archive, Macquarie University, Sydney

Curated by Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski

Every time you drink a Coke, enjoy a milk shake, ice-cream or milk chocolate treat, or go to the cinema, or listen to the latest popular music hit, you can thank Australia's Greek settlers.

This major photography exhibition explores an important chapter in the development of Australian culture. Critically applauded since its initial launch at the National Museum of Australia in 2008, the curators Alexakis and Janiszewski have cleverly utilised a revealing interplay of historical and contemporary photographs, married to extended oral history captions, and overlaid by a dramatic multimedia presentation created by film-maker Michael Karris, to present a social history exhibition that has powerfully resonated with audiences across the country.

Australia's Greek café is presented as a global phenomenon in the modern era. Food-catering enterprises run by Greek migrants/settlers successfully married Hellenic and cross-cultural influences with local needs. Greek-run cafés populated Australian country towns and cities, merging local fare with new American food-catering ideas. Prior to the explosion of American fast-food franchises, Greek cafés contributed to a major change in Australian eating habits. While a traditional mixed grill remained a favourite, Greek cafés were known for their introduction of American sodas, ice-cream sundaes, milkshakes, hamburgers, milk chocolate and hard sugar candies, into communities right across Australia.

This touring exhibition will soon be exhibiting at the Hurstville City Museum & Gallery (2 August - 28 September 2014)

*The 'Greek-Australians: In their Own Image' National Project operates under the auspices of the Australian History Museum at Macquarie University.