For years young Greek-Australians have sought ways to engage in their culture and learn about the origins of their ancestors.

Last year’s lockdowns brought many Greek youth groups to a standstill, forcing many to cancel events that hundreds of people looked forward to, but not all was lost.

With a good grip on technology and internet literacy, youth run organisations made sure to power on through.

In this three part series, representatives from Greek youth groups from across Victoria share the efforts they made to ensure that young Greeks remained well connected to their community and heritage despite being in lockdown.

The series kicks off with last year’s Cretan Brotherhood Youth President Vasilios Berbatakis and president of non-profit organisation Greek Youth Generator, Dean Kotsianis.

READ MORE: Brisbane’s Young Citizen of the Year is a tireless volunteer for Greek community youth

Vasilios Berbatakis – 2020 Cretan Brotherhood Youth President

Vasilios Berbatakis Photo: Supplied

Enthused to continue our growth at the Cretan Brotherhood, our team set off to establish itself as a Hellenic Hub. With strong representation at the 2020 Greek Youth Summit and hosting Greek Musicians from Crete by February, our year was off to a fantastic start.

The new leadership team introduced design-thinking to encourage greater collaboration during our meetings. However, as restrictions were imposed, our initial objectives were compromised so our team could respond to the reality we faced. With priority, we created a plan to keep our community connected, albeit digitally.

Our PR team’s efforts were not unnoticed as we created a hash tag for March 25 that the wider Hellenic Community of Australia promoted and expressed support for Greece against numerous provocations. Our team promoted culturally informative posts from Greek Orthodox events, important dates and interesting pieces on what would typically be happening in Greece at this current time, like our beloved Πανηγύρια (festivals). We also stepped out of our dancing limelight and chose to sing this time, featuring in a rendition of Ήτανε Μια Φόρα (There was a time).

Collaboratively, we donated to a food fundraiser to help newly migrated Greek families who were ineligible for the financial subsidies the Australian Government provided to many other community groups. It is important to highlight that at our core, we possess a strength to assist those in need and this token of φιλότιμο (filotimo) will always be offered. This extended to reaching out to all of our sponsors over the last couple of years to make sure they were okay, promoting their brands via our social channels.

Our main attractions such as our Youth and Tavern Nights were not possible and so they are on hold until the capacity restrictions lift and you can be sure that they will be bigger than ever before.

Excitingly, we sold limited tees of the Φάρος in Crete, raised $2,200 for Movember and started a Cretan Brotherhood Futsal team. Our carols run left us all feeling wholesome and to end the term, we ran a mini-convention, comprised of a few days of fun with time relaxing on a beach, a bar crawl and a day of dodgeball. All well received.

Congratulations to Rhea Gotsis and Vasili Theodorakis who will be leading the 2021 Youth Team.

On behalf of the 2020 Cretan Brotherhood of Melbourne and Victoria’s youth group, thank you to all of our supporters, may our entire Hellenic community stay safe και εύχομαι να έχετε καλή υγεία και επιτυχία με το καινούργιο χρόνο.

Dean Kotsianis – Greek Youth Generator President

Dean Kotsianis Photo: Supplied

READ MORE: Young Yarraville local bringing an interactive mural celebrating Greek contribution in the area

For a new non-profit organisation with big dreams and little resources, it was difficult to make a hard and fast start during COVID. The inception of Greek Youth Generator as an idea may stem back many years, appeared briefly through summits and stalls along the way, but all of our papers were only ever actioned in April 2020.

All that aside, we hadn’t even announced ourselves to the world before December 2020. COVID may have put in place some unnecessary delays and distances between people but perhaps it also gave us a chance to think our process through and remove the angst of needing to rush ourselves.

We spent a considerable amount of time refining and importantly, simplifying our mission, vision and values with the aid of business relief mentorship. We know now that we want to be an experimental platform and directory that brings ideas to life and lowers the bar to community participation in as personalised a way as possible. We want to help those who haven’t yet, to GET THEIR GREEK ON!

What we learn from that process is that every idea should be treated somewhat like a business, with sustainability in mind. After all, we want to make the connection to community and culture a fun, relevant and longstanding one. Through our recent mural installation in Yarraville, our landmark event of the summer, I think we’re doing that pretty well!