After a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian state government commemorated the bicentenary of the start of the 1821 Greek Revolution of Independence and paid tribute to the Greek Australian community and its contribution to Australia.
Organized by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Ros Spence, the event took place in Queen’s Hall in the Victoria Parliament Building. In attendance were many representatives of Greek-Australian organizations and politicians such as Minister Steve Dimopoulos and Senator Lee Tarlamis et al.
Mrs. Spence, who is married to a Greek, said: “Once you marry a Greek, you also marry Greece.”
She then shared her “love for Greece” and how captivated she was by its “beauty and people that she plans to “return as soon as possible”.
The earliest Greeks to arrive in Victoria “landed during the gold rush of the 1850s and were sailors who abandoned their English ships to find fortune here”.
“The Greek community has had an indelible and positive impact on Victorian society, culture and economy,” the minister said.
Speaking after Ms Spence, Melbourne Greek Community President (GCM) Bill Papastergiadis also emphasized the “extraordinary contribution of the diaspora to wider Australian society”, saying it “makes us all proud”.
Mr Papastergiadis referred to the GCM’s close cooperation with the state government in several projects, recognized as the role of other Greek community bodies.
“The Greek community of this state prides itself on having an external focus.
“It sees itself as part of the broad cosmopolitan and multicultural fabric of our beautiful city and state,” said Papastergiadis.
He reminded those in attendance that the Greek diaspora was expected to “shrunk to the 1970s after the migration program of the 1950s”.
“In fact, the Greek financial crisis has created a second wave of migration from Greece to Australia, which is still ongoing.”
He also reflected on how the Covid pandemic “tested the tenacity” of many Greek organizations, saying he believed “we came out of this stronger and more united”.
“The success of our diaspora in Victoria is due to the collective work of so many organizations.”
The president of the GCM then listed a series of community programs that have received support from the Victorian government, such as keeping the Greek Language Program alive at La Trobe and Greek Language Scholarships; education programs for children of recent arrivals; Alphington Grammar, Oakleigh Grammar and St Johns College infrastructure works; funding Antipodes Festival, the replica of Parthenon marbles and the Open Horizon exhibition of the National Archaeological Museum of Greece and a host of infrastructure support programs such as the fifteen-story Cultural Center, a new urban hub and vaccination centers.
The Consul General of Greece, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, spoke about the “dynamics of the Greek-Australian community”.
He said it can be “proven by the presence of so many leading Greek Australians in the arts, sciences, business, sports and other endeavours.”
dr. Marinis Pirpiris was the master of ceremonies in the Parliament and the event ended with Greek music and mezethes.