“Government funding for prisons is currently at $400 a day, in contrast with $170 a day for aged care services
Mike Zafiropoulos AM

Greek Australian leaders have a message for whichever party is returned to government on September 7; help us care for our elderly, sustain the Greek language and culture, and strengthen Australia’s multicultural outlook.
Bill Papastergiadis, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, told Neos Kosmos this week that GOCMV looked forward to working with either party to move its programs forward.
“The relationship which GOCMV has had with both parties in the last five years has been excellent. We’ve had strong bipartisan support for our programs, and from the Gillard government for our new cultural centre, which gave $2m towards its construction,” said Mr Papastergiadis.
“Both Labor and the Coalition leader showed a willingness to engage, both attended the Antipodes Festival and the leaders of both parties have met with us. Our discussions with both have been very positive.”
Mr Papastergiadis added that GOCMV has approached both major parties to support the community’s future programs in delivering Greek language and cultural initiatives, including increasing Greek language teaching and new research into Greek Australian history.
“We need to work with government to ensure that there are outcomes for our cultural and language needs, to ensure that we’re given the capacity to offer these services.”
The GOCMV leader who has lobbied government over the long-anticipated Working Holiday Visa agreement with Greece, says that Labor and the Coalition continue to offer bipartisan support for the deal.
“We’re grateful for the work the last Labor government did on this. We’ve also met with shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison some months ago and he’s absolutely supportive.”
Mr Papastergiadis said that the community’s members would compare the arguments from all the parties as to what they will be bringing to the table – on the economy, jobs, health, education and taxation – and particularly how each party would peg the cost of living and improve the lot of seniors.
“There’s an enormous strain on our elderly to make ends meet,” he said.
Tina Douvos, acting CEO of the Australian Greek Welfare Society, said AGWS’s work in providing care services to Greek elderly and their families – delivered through the support of government health, aged care and disability programs – could only be sustained by the political will to help society’s most vulnerable.
“There continues to be access and equity issues for non-English speaking communities, so there needs to be consideration into strategies that will help people access these services”, said Ms Douvos.
As the parties put detail to their election promises, Ms Douvos urged them to take a united approach on the question of aged and disability care.
“We would like to see both parties support the key issues that are pertinent to the wellbeing of the aged, carers and families,” she said.
In recent years AGWS’s workload has increased significantly with an ever-growing elderly Greek population needing support and a new wave of Greeks with family connections to Australia resettling into Victoria due to the economic crisis in Greece.
Campaigner for improved aged care provision – Mr Mike Zafiropoulos AM, President of Fronditha, said that establishing new approaches to the increasing challenges related to aged care was vital.
“As the proportion of the elderly in the Australian community continues to increase, governments will find it harder and harder to provide adequate funding for aged care.
“Already the funding provided is insufficient to cover costs, which continue to increase, while real funding is decreasing.”
Speaking of Fronditha’s experience, he said that with little or no capital funding available (other than through loans) from government to expand facilities and services, it has been down to the generosity of donors to maintain its work and resources.
“To demonstrate the inadequacy of aged care funding, it is worth noting that Government funding for prisons is currently at $400 a day, in contrast with $170 a day for aged care services,” said Mr Zafiropoulos.
“Pensioners are struggling to survive with the current level of pensions and the ‘user pays’ principle has been integrated into all government policies and programs relating to aged care.”
On a more general note, Mr Zafiropoulos said that it was crucial for the next government to continue to uphold “a genuine commitment to the policy of multiculturalism.
“This would enable us to maintain our cultural identity and language and at the same time contribute with other communities to the building of a harmonious, socially cohesive society, which respects the diversity of its people.”
With Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott asking voters to make a judgment call on who would deliver the most ‘fair dinkum’ policies, one person perhaps better qualified than most to make such a call – in a legal sense – is Melbourne barrister Olyvia Nikou SC.
Ms Nikou told Neos Kosmos that the next parliament would only deliver if those elusive qualities – vision, leadership, combined with an ability to deliver practical solutions, come to the fore.
“My eternal but forlorn hope is for leadership with a real vision and a practical plan for the future of the country, together with the backbone to implement policy which maximises the benefit for the country as a whole – its individual citizens trying to survive, providing for their family – and keeps businesses competitive but socially responsible in an ever changing world.
Ms Nikou, voicing a call-to-arms that we would all agree with, said that what is needed is: “Leadership which leads from the front and carries everyone onward and upward. Not negative, petty, empty, meaningless slogans and unreliable promises.
“I am not holding my breath,” added the eminent SC.