Even though the main Macedonia r4ally will take place on Sunday 25 February, Greek Australians have already spoken loudly and with conviction. The opening of the 31st Lonsdale Street Greek Festival (LSGF) was therefore painted with Macedonian colours.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was the first to comment on the topic stating that Former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was right when years ago he said that “Macedonia is Greek”, something Opposition Leader Matthew Guy seconded.
Bishop of Dervis Ezekiel –a proud Macedonian Greek -was also one to speak of Macedonia’s Greekness followed by Bill Papastergiadis, president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria.
All key note speakers proceeded to notify the crowd that the Macedonia protest in Melbourne has been moved to Sunday 25 February and it won’t take place on 4 March as it was originally announced.
The protest rally, organised by the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria will take place outside the Greek Consulate, with a 2pm start.
Meanwhile, this year’s Lonsdale Street Greek Festival was reportedly by far the largest and most successful, as Mr Papastergiadis said in his address.
“It is the festival with the biggest attendance in Greek diaspora worldwide,” he stressed adding the LSGF has over 80 stalls across Lonsdale Street and three massive stages selling more than 20.000 souvas and offering performances by 500 dancers, 70 singers and 40 actors.
“Greeks do the biggest. Greeks do the best, but what’s more impressive about Greeks here in Melbourne is that Greeks do it as one.”
“Together and united, we create wonderful festivals, build stunning buildings and create an awesome Hellenic community in this big city.’
It’s worth highlighting that Melbourne’s Greek Community is responsible for so much more other than throwing the largest party.
It operates 15 schools including Alphington Grammar College; it has its own film festival; gives 50 lectures; organises international conferences; live music events; a writer’s festival; a food festival.
“This is the essence of or Organisation, Melbourne’s Greek Community.
In his own speech Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pledged to fund the Antipodes Festival with $600,000 for the next four year term. In addition to that, State Government will offer another $337,000 for the completion of the Parthenon Plaque on the Greek Centre’s façade.
The federal government was represented by Minister of Social Services Kelly O’Dwyer and Greek Australian MP Julia Banks, who both reflected on the contribution of Hellenism to the Australian culture and the country’s development.
Labor Leader Bill Shorten dubbed Greeks “good Australians” and added that when his party comes to power he will ensure the right to a pension from overseas for Australia’s Greek citizens.
The Greek Ambassador to Australia Ekaterini Xagorari,General Consul of Greece in Melbourne Dimitrios Michalopoulos and municipal officials also took to the stage to thank Melbourne’s Greek Community for putting on such an amazing cultural event every year.
More reports and photos from the festival in today’s and Thursday’s Greek edition. A full-coverage editorial also to come on Saturday.