More than 70 representatives of Greek organisations participated in a special meeting organised by the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) at the Greek Centre, on Wednesday 14 June, to discuss issues concerning the GCM and the Greek community as a whole.
Dozens of community representatives were informed by members of the GCM Board of Directors about development plans for the Bulleen property and the proposed onsite Cultural Centre as well as the creation of a Greek Organisations Club on the 3rd floor of the current Greek Centre at 168 Lonsdale Street.
During the meeting, plans for the future of the Greek community were discussed and as well proposals for joint action and collaboration. In particular reference was made to the proposal for the establishment of a Greek Diaspora Department at the University of Melbourne, as well as the decision made at the GCM Annual General Meeting to change the GCM Constitution to allow Greek community organisations to become members.
Wednesday’s meeting was also attended by the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Ms Christina Simantirakis, who praised the initiatives and the creative efforts of the GCM.
Mr Bill Papastergiadis, President of the GCM, welcomed the representatives of the community organisations stressing the need for planning and joint action for the future. “We are at the crossroads as a Community. Much of the hard work undertaken by many of the Community groups in Victoria needs to be acknowledged but at the same time a more collective approach towards the greater good has to be put in place. The unity that we have seen amongst all of our Community groups in recent years now needs to be actioned. In that regard, we have a number of proposals which we believe all of the Community groups should participate in which will produce results for the greater good.”
Mr Papastergiadis added “it is imperative that we act prudently and responsibly in dealing with the future needs of our Community. Hence the purpose of the meeting is to engage with you on this future direction, seek your interest and answer any questions. It is with this dialogue that we will jointly be able to determine our future.”
Mr Papastergiadis emphasised that it is clear intention of the GCM that all of the Greek Community groups in Melbourne should continue to exist and that the proposals on the table in fact will enable these organisations to continue to flourish. In that regard Mr Papastergiadis said “what we propose particularly with the Bulleen project is that we will create a hub for all Community groups. We will have telephone line access for each Community group, provision of mail out for their membership lists along with production and facilitation of any meetings they require. The purpose of the Bulleen project is to unify the Community groups and ensure their ongoing success.”
Mr. Papastergiadis said that Greek organisations were established with efforts and the hard work of their members. "Our point now is not to see your hard work lost, but to recognise your achievements and see you continue to operate. We all have to look beyond our organisation and the entire community."
“Our goal is to create a powerful and effective community, "said Mr Papastergiadis. "A community that can protect and promote our national and cultural interests. That is why we are asking for your co-operation. "
Mr. Papastergiadis stressed that "the issues that we would like to address today are the development of the Bulleen property and a new Cultural Centre. The other important initiatives include the creation of a Club of Organizations on the third floor of the GCM, the establishment of a Greek Diaspora Department at Melbourne University, and providing GCM membership to Greek community organisations. "
The Hon. General Secretary of the GCM Mr. Costas Markos, referred to the plans for further development of a Greek Centre and for new services offered by the GCM to the Greek community organisations. He also stressed that further to the investment of $15 million for building the Greek Centre "we are continuing to invest in the improvement of its services and facilities" and discussed proposed renovations to the foyer of the building, to the installation of new and modern audio-visual systems, to the transfer of the GCM offices to the 12th floor, to the transfer of the library from the Greek Consulate to the Greek Centre and to the creation of the Club of organizations on the 3rd floor, with the kind donation of the Association of Argos Orestiko. "Argos Orestiko will be able to use Level 3 and the facilities of the Greek Centre along with other organisations. We hope that the historic donation of Argos Orestiko will be followed by other community organisations, " he said.
The Treasurer of the GCM Associate Professor Marinis Pirpiris referred to the new development works at Alphington Grammar School and the works for the restoration of the church of The Annunciation of Our Lady.
GCM Vice-President and Educational Convenor Mr Theodoros Markos referred to the educational activities of the GCM, making reference to the future GCM plans and educational programs, noting that this is a successful multi-dimensional policy. He also called other organisations to support the education sector through scholarships to students who excel; by supporting teacher training and student exchange programs that are being organised with the collaboration of the Greek Ministry for Education.
Mr Leonidas Vlahakis, GCM Board member and co-chair of the Lonsdale St Greek Festival spoke about the cultural programs of the GCM. He noted that the GCM is investing a lot in promoting our culture not only in the Greek community but also in the wider Australian community. He emphasised that the GCM is particularly successful in organising the Lonsdale St Greek Festival, Flavours of Greece and the Greek Film Festival.
The Vice-President of the Community Mr. Nikos Koukouvitakis referred to the new plans for the development of the Bulleen property and the new cultural centre, which will include, among other things, an exhibition space dedicated to the archives of Greek organisations and a Greek community club.
GCM’s benefactor Mr Harry Patras spoke of his vision of a “united Greek voice” in the Greek community and constructive cooperation of the Greek community organisations with the GCM, while stressing that he is very proud to have participated in the negotiations with the Argos Orestiko Association for their donation to the GCM. He said that this was the best investment they made and that their donation will remain in the history of the Greek community.
The President of the Thessaloniki Association, Mr. Pavlos Mavroudis, referred to the decision at the GCM Annual General Meeting to change the Constitution so that the Greek organisations are able to become GCM members. He also reiterated his proposal to all organisations to change their Constitutions accordingly in order to transfer their property to the GCM when they cease operating.
"Now we have a great opportunity to join the GCM and to assist the realisation of its vision for the future. All together we can do it," he said.
Mr. Mavroudis pointed out that the GCM “has now begun giving much to the community and to the organisations."
Following the presentation by the various Board Members of the Community groups who are asked to provide a brief synopsis of the current status of the various actions of the GCM, there was an open discussion within the meeting.
It became apparent in the open discussion, that there was strong support for all of the proposals. In particular, the majority of the attendees from the various Greek organisations expressed their wholehearted support and excitement at the proposal before them. It was recognised by many of them that the GCM plays a pivotal role in the future of many of the issues confronting Greeks in Melbourne. It was agreed that a collective approach would be in the interests of many. In fact, many of the representatives of the Greek organisations advised that they were in the process of making alterations to their constitutions to ensure that their assets were not dissipated to non-Greek causes and that the GCM would be added to as a beneficiary.
Mr Papastergiadis noted the historical significance of the meeting and expressed his gratitude for the collective goodwill.
This is a watershed moment for all Communities in Melbourne. The history of Communities in Melbourne has been affected disharmony and disuniting for many years. There is clear indication now of groundswell support and on many of the initiatives and the future has never looked brighter.
Detailed plans for the GCM proposals will be provided at the next meetings.
However, everyone was optimistic about the future, while the representatives of the Zakinthos Philanhtopic Society Mr Simeon Zougras and Mr Vassilis Vithoulkas handed a cheque for$ 5,000 to the Greek Centre.