A short history about the community.
Written by Mr Ahmet Ali.
Australia’s very first Turkish speaking citizen of Cyprus arrived here in 1947. At that stage Cyprus was under British Administration and with the severity of post WW2 economic conditions Cypriots began emigrating to various destinations like England, Australia, Canada and the USA.
One cannot help but greatly admire the adventurous spirit and enormous courage of these early settlers to Australia – a country over 15,000 kms away from Cyprus, and which took some 30 days to reach by sea voyage. The added challenges and fears of these folk who invested their life savings to pay for the voyage to a country they knew little about, with very little knowledge of English and a different religion, simply amplifies my deepest respect, for our early settlers.
Their numbers grew to less than 100 by the early 1950’s (almost all males) and they would regularly meet on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne for social interaction.
These folk achieved a significant milestone in their settlement when they formally established “The Cyprus Turkish Association of Vic” in, November 1956, and bought a building to serve as their community centre, at 588 Rathdowne St, Nth Carlton.
My late father (Ali Ahmet Beykoylu) used to recall with great warmth the excitement in the small Turkish Cypriot community at the time of the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Turkey was well represented in the sport of wrestling and we all went to Festival Hall to witness the Turkish superstar wrestlers winning several gold medals.
The Association was also the first to organise weekly Turkish language classes as well as folk dancing for young children who met at the small community centre every weekend. There were numerous community social functions throughout the year and formal celebrations of major events on the Turkish calendar e.g. 23 April, 19 May, 30 August, 29 October etc. The community centre was also used as their place of religious worship.
As the community grew in numbers to a few thousand and the youngsters became teenagers, the Association also formed the “Royal Park Soccer Club” in 1969. As the club evolved it became the “Albion Turk Gucu Soccer Club”, and now plays a dominant role as the “Cairnlea Football Club” in the Victorian Football Federation. The club continues to play a strong community role giving hundreds of youngsters the opportunity to enjoy soccer and other sports.
As the community’s size and needs grew, the association sold their premises in Carlton and purchased a modern 2 storey premises at 394 Victoria St Richmond in October 1975, for $105,000 at auction. In the early 1980’s the association again relocated, to their present multi-purpose community centre site at 547 Ballarat Rd, Albion.
Another significant achievement of our community has been the long term project to establish and build the beautiful mosque (“Cyprus Turkish Islamic Centre”) located at 618 Ballarat Rd, Ardeer.
The mosque opened in 1992 after some 20 years and the enormous contribution of hundreds of our community volunteers. The mosque today displays an outstanding Ottoman/ Turkish style architectural achievement with 17 domes and a minaret and proudly hosts many visitors including school children and community leaders from all around Australia.
The above are examples of the successful settlement in Victoria of the Turkish Cypriot community who can also proudly boast the achievements of many of it’s number in a wide range of professional, business, community and sporting pursuits. We are very proud to say this community has produced doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, accountants, an Australian Diplomat, retailers, hundreds of very successful tradesmen & women who have excelled in their craft and thousands of good, hard working and generous community workers.
During this 2017 year we will be celebrating the wonderful achievements of our community over the last 70 years. The celebrations will culminate in an exciting all day festival to be held on the grounds of the Mosque on Sunday 4 March 2018
We will welcome thousands of visitors to the festival from Victoria and all across Australia offering entertainment, food and cultural displays.
(Prepared by Ahmet Ali. Arrived in Australia Dec 1955, aged 4)