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GCM Dinner Dance Commemorates Greek National Day

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GCM Dinner Dance Commemorates Greek National Day

The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) hosted its annual Greek national Day commemorating Dinner Dance at the historic Panarcadian Association Hall on Friday 22 March.

The event brought together members of the Greek community, community leaders and public figures, in a vibrant atmosphere where good food and good times sat large in the menu.

The event, which is designed to celebrate Melbourne’s Greek community whilst commemorating Greek National Day and the great War of Independence, featured a program anchored by popular Melbourne band Anagenisi and a feature moving performance by the GCM’s own acclaimed Dance Group.

The event was well patronised by prominent Greek and philhellene political figures who were all provided with an opportunity to present a greeting.

The guest speakers included Federal Minister Bill Shorten, the Federal member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou, Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Nick Staikos, state MP Kat Theophanous, Deputy Lord Mayor of the city of Melbourne Nicholas Reece and the visiting Greek Deputy Minister for the Interior, Theodors Livianos.

(Transcripts of speeches follow)

The President of GCM, Bill Papastergiadis OAM, expressing his deep appreciation for the overwhelming love and support from all the attendees said “This event, is not just a celebration, but also a symbol of the enduring strength and unity of our community. It serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving cultural heritage, nurturing community ties, and passing down traditions to the generations to come.”

He continued emphasizing the importance of celebrating Greek Independence Day stating “Celebrating Greek Independence Day serves as a poignant reminder of our collective history, marking the journey from oppression to freedom and the sacrifices made along the way. It symbolizes the triumph of democracy, liberty, and the enduring spirit of our homeland. Τhis commemoration also sheds light on the road that lies ahead, reminding us of the challenges we still face and the importance of remaining vigilant in safeguarding our hard-won freedoms. As we honour the struggles of the past, we are inspired to continue working towards a future marked by progress, unity, and prosperity for all.”

Reflecting on the night Leonidas Vlahakis, Chair of the GCM Cultural Committee remarked, “It was heartening to see the venue largely filled with young people who are developing a strong connection to their culture and to the GCM. These events are an important link to the continuity of our organisation. With events like this one, the GCM continues to unite the community in celebration and solidarity, ensuring that the spirit of Greece shines brightly in Melbourne and beyond.”

One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly the enchanting performance of the GCM Dance Group who presented a pot-pouri of dance and song from all corners of Greece. Impeccably dressed in vibrant traditional costumes the dancers showcased their considerable talents captivating the audience with their graceful movements.

Nick Papefthimiou, the leader of the GCM Dance Group stated “We feel honoured to showcase the dances of the Sarakatsan nomads of Greece. Among these dances, the stavroto holds particular significance as it pays homage to blood brother relationships. Attendees also had the chance to glimpse into fading vocal traditions—songs seldom performed by musicians and unaccompanied by instrumentation. These melodies, unique to their villages, are sadly fading as older generations gradually depart.”Top of Form

The event went well into the night and featured the drawing of a raffle where one lucky guest one a trip to Greece on Scoot airlines as Anagenisi poured on the dance tracks for the energetic crowd.


MARIA VAMVAKINOU, Federal Member for Calwell

Represented the Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles, mentioned that Australia boasts just under 500,000 Greeks – according to the last census

She read a message from Andrew Giles conveying his best wishes and great respect and acknowledgement of the great contribution made by the Greek community in the building fo this nation.

Ms Vamvakinou reiterated the point made by Minister Giles noting that in particular on the 25th of March, which she recalled fondly learning about at Greek school as a child and is an important marker in the nation building of the modern Greek state, the contribution that Greeks have then gone on to make in the building of this Australian nation is significant.

Ms Vamvakinou then introduced the Hon Bill Shorten

The Minister reiterated the points made by his colleagues and recalled growing up alongside Greeks in Oakleigh.

The Minister brought greetings from the Prime Minister and welcomed the Greek Deputy Minister to Melbourne which he said “is a city dominated by reminders of the cultural, economic and religious influence of Greek migrants.” He went on to mention two examples of this “The Holy Church of the Annunciation… which celebrates its feast day this weekend… is the first exclusively Greek speaking Greek Orthodox church in Australia”.

Mr Shorten went on to recite the impact of Greeks in Australian football noting: ” if you look at the our own Australian football; code there are names like Demetriou, Koutafides, Georgiou and ofcourse that very common Greek name Richards which I do understand is descendet from the Panamopoulos family”.

The Minister was followed by Victorian MP Nick Staikos who was representing the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Igrid Stitt welcomed the visiting Minister from Greece noting t=”that it was a pleasure to host you yesterday in Parliament”.

Mr Staikos then went on to say “That as we celebrate a Greek Independence Day - 203 years, we also acknowledge that this is also a time where we intersect with other commemorations – last year it was 100 years since the genocide and this year it is 50 years since the invasion of Cyprus. These are solemn occasions, they are occasions with which we reflect with a lot of sorrow. Last year on the 49th anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus my colleague Kat Theophanous stood up in Parliament and she spoke on the invasion and she was the only one and she was very brave and it is fair to say that she suffered a bot of blow back and this year on the 50th anniversary I’ll be very proud to stand with stand with Kat to commemorate the inmvasion of Cyprus”

Cr Nicholas Reece took to the microphone and also spoke of the contribution that the Greek community had made to this city reiterating that Melbourne was indeed the 3rd largest Greek speaking city in the world. He noted that the Greek contribution is Australia and how important Greece is to the Australian story in particular through the theatres of war. On this point he spoke of the Memorial to fallen ANZACS that he found in Sfakia on a recent family visit noting that it had been somewhat dishevelled and that he was proud to report that it had been very recently repaired and spruced up and stands as a suitable memorial to the fallen Australian and Greeks of World War 2.

Cr Reece noted that “Melbourne was the most multicultural city in the world but it didn’t happen by accident, didn’t happen by magic. It’s something we need to keep working on and the Greek community is, I think, the best example of multicultural Melbourne, it’s the best example of a successful multicultural community”.

Kat Theophanous said “Greek Independence Day is so incredibly important to Greek heritage and also to our wider community here in Melbourne… it’s when we pay our respect to those who fought for Greece’s freedom, for the return of democracy and our right to practice our own culture and honour our own heritage…. Its also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of democracy itself and to reflect on its fragility and our responsibility to protect it.”

She went on to say that “events like this remind us of that freedom but also remind us of where that freedom is missing. My colleague Nick Staikos rightly mentioned that this year will be 50 years since it has been missing in parts of Cyprus and I hope that our Hellenic Community will join in the commemoration in the middle of the year because our collective strength should not be forgotten.”

Visiting Deputy Minister for the Interior of Greece also spoke of the enduring friendship between Australians and Greeks citing the sacrifice of Australian soldiers in both World Wars. He then quoted Theodoros Kolokotronis saying that “he said that people would say that we are crazy for starting a revolution against one of the most powerful empires in the world, but if we weren’t crazy, we wouldn’t have started a revolution”. He went on to say “if there is one lesson we can learn from that revolution its that when the Greeks remained united, we had major victories against the empire. When we are united, the sky is the limit.”

Bill Papastergiadis then thanked all of the guests noting in particular their support of the Greek community. He also thanked the Consul General and Theo Theophanous for their support. He then went on to talk of the themes that come through the commemoration of the War of Independence saying “one of the (themes) is the role of the diaspora in Greek independence and the modern state and equally our relationship with all of that being through multiculturalism and our ability to understand and celebrate independence and thirdly the shared values and bonds that we have between our two fabulous countries because as migrants in Australia it is important to understand that the Greek War of Independence drew upon the diaspora as its inspiration. A major component of the rebellion originated outside of Greece with the “Filiki Eteria”, a patriotic group founded in Odessa in the Ukraine which is currently experiencing its own struggle with undemocratic forces and the revolt somewhat commenced with Ypsilantis… in 1820 citing that most famous of mottos’, “Eleftheria I Thanatos”. And the diaspora played a big role here in Australia through our multiculturalism… which has allowed us to express ourselves and to be able to celebrate these important milestones that we are celebrating today. At the same time, acknowledging the strong bonds that Minister Livanios referred to between our two countries.”

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