This is a Christmas story of sorts, but a sad one. Beneath the Guardian’s screamer head for December 20, 1978 is a pic of the Salvation Army headquarters in Marrickville, blazing with Christmas lights, “a beacon for all to see.”
Towards the end of 1978, the stories Tom’s been covering for The Voice have got him thinking, reconsidering his smart-alec views about people, especially ‘wogs and dagos.’ What really brought home to him the inequality experienced by people on his patch were stories about blatant discrimination toward local Aboriginal people, and the plight of the Greek pensioners caught up in the Greek Conspiracy (aka The Medicare Fraud).
The Guardian’s headline and sub-head don’t make it immediately clear to us what the story is about, but Tom gives us the low-down in ‘The Greek Conspiracy.’ It’s obvious that whoever he’s talking to (at the Courtie’s, as usual), knows next-to-nothing about the Medicare Fraud. Basically, back in April that year hundreds of elderly Greek migrants were arrested and taken to court, accused of defrauding Medicare with spurious health problems, and they and many other Greek migrants had their pensions stopped.
The Guardian’s article is not about the so-called conspiracy and the arrests and convictions—of 181 arrested and tried, only four were found guilty of defrauding the Commonwealth, and three of them actually pleaded guilty! But the government continued harassing many more elderly Greek people it considered were part of ‘the conspiracy.’
What the Guardian article does cover is the staunch advocacy and efforts of community welfare agencies to get conspiracy charges dropped and compensation paid to the wrongly accused. Tom is dubious about the likelihood of compensation being paid, but has sympathy for the people swept up in the raids.
Startin to think this whole multiculturalism business
isn’t as easy as politicians’d have us believe—
. . . I reckon it’s pretty tough on the migrants too. Take
This whole Greek Conspiracy shemozzle, aka the Medicare
In dawn raids, the Commonwealth cops entered 160 homes and five
doctors’ surgeries an arrested 181 Greek pensioners,
an chucked em in the cells.
700 people on Social
Security had their benefits taken away and their
Payments stopped without any warnin. Not a good time
to be a Greek, specially a pensioner! Well that was eight
months ago, an now it’s nearly Christmas.
. . . so many of the poor buggers’re struggling to live,
pay rent, buy groceries. A few of them
have actually dropped dead or killed themselves from the stress.
An there’s plenty who dunno how they’re gonna buy Christmas
presents for their kiddies. Seems like they haven’t had a fair go
We’ll hear more about local community welfare groups and social services in other posts. Life in Newtown 40 years ago wasn’t easy for anyone except the ‘big boys’ running gambling clubs, brothels, and other illegal activities.
But for the small fry: the poor, the single mums, the latchkey kids, the homeless, the ‘abos,’ and the ‘wogs’ and ‘dagos’ life was a daily struggle.