Australia! Australia! The Voyage of the SS Corsica from Cyprus to Australia in 1951-52

Associate Professor Andrekos Varnava. Source: Greek Community of Melbourne.

Associate Professor Andrekos Varnava, Flinders University, Adelaide, and Honorary Professor De Montfort University, Leicester will present a lecture entitled ‘Australia! Australia! The Voyage of the SS Corsica and its passengers from Cyprus to Australia in 1951-52’ at the Greek Centre, on 29 August 2019, as a part of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne.

On 13 December 1951 the Corsica left Limassol with 761 Cypriot migrants for Australia, including my father, Varnavas Michael Varnava, and was the first ship to leave Cyprus with so many emigrants. Arriving at Fremantle (25 January) and Melbourne (4 February) in early 1952, the trip was described by a woman passenger as a ‘hell trip on a floating slum’, because of the horrendous conditions on board.

This is the story of many firsts: the first time so many Cypriots emigrated at the one time; the first time that records show such a horrendous voyage of a migrant ship; and the first time that a migrant ship was discussed in the Australian federal parliament.

This lecture aims to set the story of the Corsica and its passengers within three interlocking and broad historical contexts: the Cypriot emigrant story as part of the urban and rural movement, which requires an analysis of the backgrounds of who was emigrating to Australia and leaving Cyprus; the experience of those making the voyage, which requires a description of the conditions on the ship compared to conditions on other migrant ships; and finally the Australian migration story, specifically as regards immigration restrictions and national identity.

Associate Professor Andrekos Varnava is the author of three monographs: British Cyprus and the Long Great War, 1914-1925: Empire, Loyalties and Democratic Deficit (Routledge 2019); Serving the Empire in the Great War: The Cypriot Mule Corps, Imperial Loyalty and Silenced Memory (ManU Press 2017; ppk. 2019) and British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878-1915: The Inconsequential Possession (ManU Press 2009; ppk. 2012). He has edited/co-edited eight volumes, the most recent being: Comic Empires: The Imperialism of Cartoons, Caricature and Satirical Art (ManU Press, forthcoming 2019); Australia, Migration and Empire: Immigrants in a Globalised World (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming, 2019); The Great War and the British Empire: Culture and Society (Routledge, 2017); Australia and the Great War: Identity, Memory, Mythology (MelbU Press, 2016); Imperial Expectations and Realities: El Dorados, Utopias and Dystopias (ManU Press, 2015). He has published many book chapters and articles, including in English Historical Review (2017), The Historical Journal (2014), Journal of Modern History (2018) and Historical Research (2014 & 2017), with others forthcoming in Social History of Medicine (2019) and Contemporary British History (2020).

When: Thursday 29 August 2019, 7.00pm
Where: Greek Centre (Mezz, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

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