The Australian Hellenic Council is a peak lobby group within the Greek-Australian community in relation to political and social issues affecting that community.
We deplore the recent incident in Melbourne when a young man of Greek descent was viciously set upon by persons believed to be of North Macedonian background following a controversial council meeting held at the City of Whittlesea council meeting and in the wake of a provocative Facebook post from Whittlesea mayor Emilia Lisa Sterjova, in which she was shown dancing with a flag featuring the Vergina Sun symbol.
For many years the issue of the name to be applied to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was a thorn in relations between Athens and Skopje. That all changed in 2019 with the Prespes Agreement which recognised the Republic of North Macedonia and which also stipulated that the government in Skopje undertook to revise the project of the Hellenic antiquisation of statues, buildings and public infrastructures and to respect the Greek historical and cultural heritage of Ancient Macedonia.
Importantly, it was also expressly agreed that North Macedonia would cease using the Star of the Vergina Sun as its symbol and to remove it from all public spaces.
Unfortunately, there is a small group of ultra-right nationalists in Australia who cling to irredentist fantasies about a Greater Macedonia and who have resorted to violent acts in the past, such as the burning of the Greek flag.
It is therefore unforgivable that an elected local councillor, no less the mayor, of the beleaguered Whittlesea Council should act recklessly and provocatively in displaying a flag that plays to the violent and fascist tendencies of a vocal minority of troublemakers. Even Whittlesea Council’s own website acknowledges that according to the 2016 Census there were just over 5,400 or 2.8 per cent of the local population born in North Macedonia.
Whittlesea Mayor Sterjova may be of North Macedonian descent but she should know better and should be acting in the interests of her entire local community.
The Australian Hellenic Council calls upon the Victorian Government to take steps to admonish and caution the Whittlesea Mayor as to her imprudent and provocative actions. The States of Greece and Northern Macedonia have resolved their differences and are moving forward. The City of Whittlesea should do likewise and abandon the populist rhetoric and unfortunate violence that her actions have incited.