The Greek communities ageing population and language were the hot topics discussed at the first ever meeting of the Greek Ministerial Consultative Committee held at Parliament House on Tuesday.
The meeting opened with good news from the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who announced that the Australian and Greek governments had begun negotiations into reciprocal work and holiday visas for both countries. The meeting was attended by Greek Australian MPs and co-chairs of the committee Maria Vamvakinou and Steve Georganas. As well as the immigration minister, the meeting was attended by ministers Anthony Albanese, Tony Burke, Peter Garrett and parliament secretary Mark Dreyfus highlighting the strong regard the government has for the Greek community.
The ageing Greek population was high on the agenda for the consultative committee who all felt that this issue needed to be tackled as a priority.
“We have one of the fastest growing ageing populations in the Greek community and each member [of the committee] there said that this was an issue,” co-chair Mr Georganas tells Neos Kosmos.
“We are looking at ways we can overcome this issue in the future so if we start working on it now slowly and gradually we will be able to put in place things that will help our parents and grandparents.”
He raised the issue of the Greek ageing population needing the proper care in nursing homes such as having Greek-speaking carers, being able to understand cultural differences and attention to their specific dietary requirements.
The Greek language is an issue that Mr Georganas said was close to everyone’s heart at the meeting and he said it was something that will be on the agenda in the future. He said the committee will be asking Peter Garrett, Minister for School Education to attend a future meeting to discuss this.
Information on migration was something that was raised at the meeting and all agreed that the Greek community needs to better educate and inform family and friends in Greece when making choices to come to Australia and going through the correct channels of migration.
Foreign Affairs minister Bob Carr will also be invited to a future meeting to discuss Australia’s position in relation to Greece and where they stand on the Cyprus issue.
The Greek Ministerial Consultative Committee will take home the information from this initial meeting, and come to the table in two to three months to discuss these issues and come up with frameworks and solutions.
The Greek Ministerial Consultative Committee consists of: Helen Constas (VIC) – of Peninsula Community Legal Centre, Greek Orthodox Community of Frankston and Peninsula; Harry Danalis (NSW) – President of the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales; Jimmy Georgiou (QLD) – President of the Greek Community of St George Queensland, Member of the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Multicultural Roundtable, former Member of the Cypriot Community of Brisbane; Soula Houndalas (TAS) – Sociologist and social researcher; John Kalokerinos (ACT) – Member of the Greek Community of Canberra, Director of the Hellenic Club of Canberra; Associate Professor Vrasidas Karalis (NSW) – Chair of Modern Greek Studies at University of Sydney, member of the Greek Orthodox Community in Lakemba, Chair of Greek Crisis Group at University of Sydney, and Founder of the Open Greek University of Sydney; Peter Labropoulos (SA) – from the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia and the South Australian Youth Network of the Council of Hellenes Abroad; Gary Mitchell (WA) – President of the Western Australian Hellenic Community and Member of the National Hellenic Council; Dr Nicholas Pappas (NSW) – Secretary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council, Trustee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust, Chairman of Beirut Hellenic Bank, Chairman of South Sydney Rabbitohs, Board of Governors of Steve Waugh Foundation, and President of the Powerhouse Museum; Harry Patsouris (SA) – of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Chairman of aged care provider St Basil’s Homes, Member of the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, Member of the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia, Member of the Greek Welfare Centre of South Australia; Angelica Poulos (NT) – Coordinator of the Annual Greek Glenti and Greek festivals, Member of the Kalymnian Brotherhood and the Cypriot Community; Roula Tsiolas (VIC) – Vice-President of the Victorian Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, past member of the Hellenic Women’s Federation of Victoria; Leonidas D Vlahakis (VIC) – Member of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Member of the Pallakonian Youth Group, Member of the Pan-Macedonian Federation of Victoria and Organising Committee of the Antipodes Festival; and Mike Zafiropoulos AM (VIC) – President of aged care provider Fronditha Care, Member of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, former President of the Greek Australian Students Association, former executive of SBS, and former Mayor of Fitzroy.