Making and Monitoring a ‘Suspect Community’: Australian Attacks on Greeks and the ‘Secret Census’ in 1916

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


After attacks on Greek-Australian businesses early in 1915 and as a pre-emptive measure if Greece, hitherto neutral in the Great War, joined the Central Powers, the Australian authorities conducted a ‘secret census’ of Greeks and Greek establishments in 1916. Lists were prepared containing the names, addresses, professions and ages of individuals, and lists with the addresses and owners of various businesses. The purpose was to intern these individuals if Greece entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. Adapting the theory of the ‘suspect community’, this article shows how the Australian authorities, driven by events that tended to show that Greece under King Constantine favoured the Central Powers and by the anti-Greek mobs that attacked Greek businesses, considered the Greek community ‘suspect’ and made preparations for its internment. While all foreign nationals were put under surveillance, especially after introduction of the War Precautions Act in October 1914, Greeks were the only group targeted in advance of their ‘old country’, which was neutral, joining the enemy. There were several measures that targeted, and thus discriminated against, Greeks, such as suspending the naturalisation applications of Greek men of military age and fit for service. This article focusses on the targeting of Greeks as part of the ‘secret census’, despite various Greek communities revealing that they support the pro-Entente former Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos. This indicates an underlying racism in both the Australian public, that attacked them and their establishments, and in the Australian authorities, who conducted the ‘secret census’.
Period30 Jun 2023
Event titleFlinders University CHASS Postgraduate Association Winter Conference 2023
Event typeConference
LocationBedford Park, Australia, South AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional