The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) today had the pleasure of hosting the Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon Scott Morrison at the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture on his first visit.
The Prime Minister was joined by the Hon David Coleman, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs in the Morrison Government and Gladys Liu, Liberal candidate for Chisholm who were met by the GCM President Bill Papastergiadis many of his fellow Board Members and the Greek Centre staff led by Jorge Menidis.
During their visit The Prime Minister, Minister and Ms Lui toured the building and were shown the Delphi Bank Mezzanine where he was shown a video of the GCM’s activity; the Level 2 classrooms during which a U3A class was operating; and the Level 12 library where the visiting party were greeted by members of the Board of Management including Vice President Tammy Iliou, Treasurer Assoc Prof Marini Pirpiris, Hon Secretary Costas Marko and Board members Nick Koukouvitakis, Michael Karamitos, Leo Vlahakis, Voula Kaliani, Vasso Zangali and Nick Dallas.
The GCM President then paused the tour to sit and meet with the visiting party. He explained how the Greek Centre operated detailing the volume of activity that now comes through the Centre resulting in 1400+ weekly visitors. He also spoke about the broad cultural and educational program noting the language campuses, adult classes, advanced Greek and Ancient Greek courses that the GCM ran at the Centre. He once again thanked the Government for the seed funding it had provided for the Centre ($2million) at the time of the buildings construction.
Mr Papastergiaidis also referred to important issues that affected the whole of the general Greek Community including the matters of pensions and transportability, program for newly arriving Greeks, additional funding for Greek education programs and other matters affecting the broader Greek community in Australia.
Along with a personal insight into the recent tennis star Tsitsipas recent on-court heroics at the Australian Open, the Prime Minister then spoke of the significant contribution that migrants have contributed to Australia citing studies that have shown that first and second generation migrants are consistently do well in any metric that considers the population as a whole.
Mr Papastergiaidis then spoke about the GCM’s outreach citing the work that it had just commenced with the assistance of Fotis Kapetopoulos and the South Sudanese community who were looking at the GCM as mentors.
The Prime Minister said that it was a great development and in fact was what he expected an organisation with the international reputation that the GCM had to be doing. He was impressed by the volume of education programs and cultural activity.
Whilst he reminisced about the old building that was on this site, he was particularly impressed with the Centre and both he and the Minister felt there was nothing similar to the Greek Centre anywhere in Australia or indeed the world. “I doubt that there is anything like this in Australia or anywhere in the world” said the prime Minister.
In particular, the Prime Minister was impressed with the outward outlook programmes that the GCM seemed to be running. He noted that Australia is a leader in multiculturalism and the GCM is top amongst the Australian proponents of it.
The Prime Minister then spoke about growing up amongst Greeks with whom he was always made to feel welcome in their homes.
In particular, the Prime Minister was emphatic about the significant input that Greeks have had in Australia and in particular the Melbourne Greek Community as the preeminent Greek organisation in the great Greek diaspora.
Minister Coleman supported what the Prime Minister was saying adding the significant impact of migrants in small business.
Mr Papastergiadis then took the opportunity to present to The Prime Minister and Minister a number of projects for their consideration.
The party then proceeded to Melina on the Rooftop on Level 13 where they were treated to traditional Greek Dancing by Greek Community of Melbourne dance group. Enthused by the performance, The Prime Minister was encouraged onto the dance floor by Mr. Papastergiadis for an impromptu performance much to the delight of the guests and media.
The Prime Minister then assisted in the presentation of two plaques of recognition to leading community supporters Greg Kaias and Jim Sarris.
Finally Mr Papastergiadis presented a plaque to commemorate the Prime Minister’s visit. The Prime Minister then spoke to the group saying;
“Well, thank you all very much for coming along here today. I am here today with David Coleman, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and of course Gladys Liu, our candidate for Chisholm here in Melbourne.
It’s impossible to think about Melbourne without thinking about the Greek Community, these two ideas are inseparable and it’s always been thus here in Melbourne and the Greek Community has not only built a great city here in Melbourne, it’s built a great nation and the contribution of Greek Australians right across the country – up in Darwin where I have Greek friends, in Sydney where I have Greek friends, here in Melbourne where I have Greek friends, over in Western Australia where I was just last week with Greek friends.
I mean the Greek Community is all pervasive because it is so much a part of Australian story and as we were discussing down stairs the leadership of the Greek Community and particularly here in Melbourne where it is the largest of all communities here in Australia and is the best example of how community organisations should be.
But as Bill was reminding us that people in the 50’s and 60’s would come and sleep here many, many, many years ago that has become the model and standard that I think all communities now seek to work to.
My apologies for not being able to be here at the Festival this year because of commitments. I am certainly looking forward to coming and bringing my family next time because it is a great event for the city of Melbourne but even more important event here for the Greek Community.
(And) can I particularly thank those that were just honoured here for their very genuine contributions, for realizing all of this and keeping it happening.
It’s the ongoing contribution and support from the Greek community itself, those that have done incredibly well here and understand that that comes with a responsibility of investing back in the community, that’s the nature of the culture.
So congratulations. I’m grateful to be here and I look forward to coming back maybe on a Friday afternoon particularly by the look of this rather well appointed establishment over here. I’m sure there’s been plenty of a good night here.”