In the late 1960s, thousands of Turkish migrants began moving to Australia as part of a wave of post-World War II immigration that permanently changed the face of Australian cities.
For the Australian government and employers, migrants from Turkey and other non-English-speaking countries represented one thing: cheap factory labour that would meekly accept low wages and poor working conditions.
Turkish migrants, however, had other ideas. Beginning in the 1970s, Turkish socialists and communists established a series of social centres throughout Melbourne, known as derneks. The derneks encompassed all areas of life, and brought together thousands of Turkish Australians to run union organising classes, fight for greater state support for migrants, show solidarity with striking workers, wage political campaigns, as well as run theatre groups, sports teams, language classes, summer camps and a host of social events. In the process, they created a thriving working class culture, and turned Turkish migrants into active subjects who fought exploitation and racism in their adopted homeland.
To tell this remarkable story, in this episode we chat with Eda Seyhan, a human rights researcher and lawyer who’s interviewed dozens of Turkish migrants who were activists in Melbourne’s derneks.