The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) has welcomed the ratification of the bill for the bilateral agreement between Australia and Greece for the “Work and Holiday Visa” by a large majority at the Hellenic Parliament, on Monday 7 December 2015.
The agreement is in part a result of the work undertaken by the GCM over the past 4 years and is expected to benefit hundreds of young Greek and Australian nationals up to 30 years of age, who will be able to secure a special visa to holiday in the two countries respectively with the right to work for up to 12 months.
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Mr Ioannis Amanatides, who brought the bill to the Greek Parliament for ratification on Monday, 7 December 2015, said he was very satisfied with its wide approval. The bill was supported by all parties with the exception of Golden Dawn and KKE.
Early in 2011, a committee was formed by the GCM in consultation with other Greek community organisations to look at the then burgeoning issues that were arising off the back of the sharp increase in Greek migration to Australia.
The committee, comprising of GCM president Bill Papastergiadis, GCM secretary Costas Markos, Fronditha and Channel 31 chair Mike Zafiropoulos, Australian Hellenic Council chair Peter Jasonides and consultant Elizabeth Hagiefremidis, met with the then Federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen to discuss at length a variety of concerns around the issue of Greek migration.
The committee tabled a number of recommendations as well as the GCM's Immigration Report. The Minister viewed all recommendations in a positive light and agreed to investigate the matter further.
It was during these discussions that it was also agreed that a bilateral agreement should be pursued in regard to working holiday visas between Australia and Greece.
The GCM has been persistent in its promotion of the Working Visa Agreement and other matters relating to Greek migration to Australia. Alongside an extensive letter campaign to a variety of Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, we have also raised the matters at every opportunity in meetings with politicians including the former Minister for Immigration Tony Burke and Greek Minister Olga Kefalogiannis when she visited Melbourne.
In reflecting on the recent passing of the bill through the Greek parliament, Mr Papastergiadis took the opportunity to thank a number of people for their part in responding to not only the working visa issue but the overall issue of the recent Greek migration:
"Despite the delays and the difficulties we never gave up. We continually made representations to both governments and particularly to Greece. The result overnight reflects how the GCM in consultation with others can effect government change here and in Greece,” he said.
“I want to particularly thank Chris Bowen and Maria Vamvakinou and all the members of our Immigration Committee who participated in the meeting of Canberra."
Mr Papastergiadis also thanked all of the Greek organizations who participated in the various public meetings to discuss the issues surrounding Greek migration to Australia the experts on migration issues, such as the immigration lawyer Penny Dimopoulos, who was a founding member of the GCM Immigration Committee.
Finally he thanked all the Greek-speaking media, such as the Neos Kosmos newspaper, TA NEA, Radio 3XY, the Greek program of SBS, 3ZZZ and the Greek Herald newspaper for their cooperation and continuous support regarding the signing of this agreement.