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Bringing attention to the Greek Aboriginal connection

Victorian Commissioner Andrew Jackomos visits the Greece Centre to discuss issues impacting the Aboriginal and Greek communities

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(L-R) GCM vice-president Theo Markos, Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Andrew Jackomos, and GCM board member Spiros Papadopoulos at the Greek Centre. Photo: Supplied

10 November 2017

Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos, paid a visit to the Greek Centre last week.

Meeting with Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) vice-president Theo Markos and board members Dr Nick Dallas and Spiros Papadopoulos, after touring the centre's facilities, Mr Jackomos took the opportunity to discuss a number of historical and contemporary issues pertaining to the Greek and Aboriginal communities in Australia.

Of Greek and Aboriginal descent himself, Jackomos' mother was of Aboriginal background and his paternal grandparents migrated to Australia from Kastellorizo in the early 1900s, the commissioner reflected on his experiences growing up and the discrimination he and his family faced.

"Andrew grew up in a family that was subjected to the discrimination that existed for being Aboriginal and being Greek. He remembers that in the 1960s he had to go and get permission to visit his grandmother in Shepparton. So even in the 60s there was really incredible discrimination against the Aborigines that really affected the way he saw things," Mr Markos told Neos Kosmos.

This year the GCM is celebrating its 120th anniversary, which coincides with the 40-year anniversary of the 1967 referendum when the Constitution was changed to improve the services available to Indigenous Australians by including them in the census, and giving federal parliament the power to make laws in relation to them.

To acknowledge this, and further raise awareness about how far the cause has yet to go, Mr Jackomos will be presenting what is expected to be an insightful lecture at the Greek Centre on the 'Greek Aboriginal Connection' on Thursday 30 November.

"[Since the 1967 referendum] Andrew has basically been at the forefront of fighting for Aboriginal rights just like his father (Alick Jackomos) did, and he believes there's a long way still to go to reach social equity in regards to Aboriginal rights - even now he thinks the Aboriginals are treated unfairly in this country," said Mr Markos.

Meanwhile, Mr Jackomos also revealed that there were quite a few Greek men who in the 1930s and 40s married Aboriginal women, and that their children would like to reconnect with the Greek part of their heritage. Looking to establish a closer collaboration with the Aboriginal community, Mr Markos says the GCM team are hoping to be of help.

"One suggestion was that as a community we would try and locate who those children are and encourage them to possibly attend our Greek schools as a part of coming back and rediscovering parts of their roots and background, and we're seriously looking at doing something like that," Mr Markos said.

"We recognise the Aborigines as the true [custodians] of this land and as Greeks we have the responsibility of recognising that every time we meet on their ground and recognising that their struggle still has a long way to go. We can contribute to that and ensure the government recognises their needs. It's important that takes place. I'd personally like to see the Aboriginal flag flying alongside the Australian flag and the Greek flag at our centre on Lonsdale Street."

Mr Jackomos will present his lecture on the Greek Aboriginal connection on Thursday 30 November at the Greek Centre (169 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, VIC) at 7.00 pm. Attendance is free.

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