Overview of the Ukrainian Community in Australia
by Andrew Mandyczewsky
The Australian Ukrainian community traces its foundation to the arrival
of post-World War 2 refugees from war torn Europe. These refugees were
termed Displaced Persons and began arriving in 1948. Prior to 1948 only
a small number had arrived, and most of these were not nationally aware
individuals. The most notable of these was Nicolai Miklouho-Maclay, an
ethnographer and naturalist who visited Australia in 1878, and was
responsible for the building of Australia's first
biological field station
at Watson's Bay in NSW.
Today, there is a vibrant albeit small Ukrainian community of
between 30,000 and 50,000 people, predominantly living in Melbourne and
Sydney. There are also large Ukrainian centres in Geelong, Brisbane,
Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. Smaller centres exist in Queanbeyan,
Hobart, Newcastle, Moe, Albury-Wodonga, and Northam.
The 1950's saw a huge birth of community organisations,
churches and centres. They brought with them what they treasured most: -
their Christian faith, their traditions and their
seven-thousand-year-old culture. Gradually over the years of settlement,
Ukrainians through their own hard work and dedication, built a network
of churches, community centres, financial institutions and language
schools throughout Australia, and fund Ukrainian studies at Monash and
Macquarie universities. The Ukrainian schools provide opportunities for
students to learn the language, history, literature and culture of the
Ukrainian people. The community centre provides a meeting place for
various youth, women's and senior citizens' social activities,
recreation, concerts and so forth. The dance ensemble regularly
represent Ukrainians at many festivals and the choir performs a variety
of songs at concerts.
Informing the general Australian community and political circles about
the lack of human and political rights in Ukraine was a major concern of
the community until Ukraine gained its independence on 24 August 1991.
The sixties through to the late eighties saw a large number of political
manifestations throughout all the major capital cities of Australia,
particularly after Soviet Ukraine increased national repression in the
In 1975 Australia abandoned its White Australia Policy in favour of a
policy of Multiculturalism which saw the rise of Ukrainian language
radio programming around the country, as well as funding opportunities
for artistic groups, for language classes.
In the late eighties, as the independence movement strengthens in
Ukraine through the policies of Glasnost and Perestroika throughout the
USSR, Ukrainian politicians begin to visit Australia. The local
community abandons its practice of not encouraging official contact with
Ukraine and begins to actively seek new ways to cooperate with officials
from Ukraine. An honorary consulate is established in Melbourne.
Community delegates begin to visit Ukraine. There begins a cultural
exchange where artistic groups from both countries begin to tour both
Ukraine and Australia.
The incorporation of recently arrived Ukrainians into existing community
structures is of high priority to the community.
Australia's Ukrainian community is actively engaged in dialogue
activities with other faiths and communities. Australian Ukrainians are actively engaged in the process of developing a
multicultural society which recognises religious, as well as ethnic,
While Australia is basically a tolerant and non-discriminatory society, the
AFUO occasionally deals with issues of an anti-Ukrainian or
Ukrainiaphobic nature. Small groups occasionally target the media with
articles which slander the entire community, usually to do with
activities during WW2. Ukrainians have lost 7,000,000 people during an
artificial famine in 1932-33, in excess of that number during the Second
World War, and are extremely aware of acts of genocide against a
particular people. The Ukrainian community sees anti-Ukrainian
behaviour as damaging to the fabric of Australian society, and is firmly
opposed at all levels.
Australian Ukrainians are keen to play a role in international matters
with representation in the Ukrainian World Congress and a positive
working relationship with government and opposition politicians. Recent
matters include fostering parliamentary delegations visiting both
Ukraine and Australia. The AFUO is also keen to relax the strict
Australian immigration policies towards Ukrainians wishing to visit
[A Chronological History of Ukrainians in Australia]