The Australian Hellenic Council (AHC) held extensive meetings with various politicians in Canberra last Monday.
During these meetings some of the key issues raised were the compulsory teaching of the Greek language in Australia, the Cyprus and Macedonian issue, the official recognition of the Pontian Genocide and the return of the Parthenon Marbles.
Sources who were involved at the two day meeting in Canberra, and spoke to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE), on the condition of anonymity, highlighted the heated arguments that overshadowed the collective effort.
One source called the whole event a “dog’s breakfast”.
Constant bickering among the AHC representatives was apparently one of the problems faced by organisers and participants alike, according to NKEE sources.
Also overshadowing the AHC efforts was the criticism that no liaison or communication was made in the lead up to the meeting with Greek constituents or media.
A senior Greek Australian politician, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that although such efforts may be “well intended” they lack the “necessary road map to become effective and influential.”
He went on to underscore the “absence of any consultation” between organisations such as AHC and Greek Australian politicians and officials, in order to streamline lobbying messages: “This is the thing that frustrates Greece and Cyprus; that well intentioned people are not using the mechanisms that they have available to them.”
He went on to say, “I don’t care that AHC goes to Canberra, it’s a good thing; but if they want to talk politics at least they should talk to the [Greek Australian] politicians.”
One of the Melbourne delegates invited by the AHC to participate was Bill Papastergiadis, president of the Greek Orthodox Community for Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV).
When contacted by NKEE he refuted claims that the effort failed. “I did not see conflict, but I was there only for one day. All these people are volunteers and they are very active in keeping their community associations alive.”
Mr Papastergiadis said he focused on the teaching of Greek language.
He also pointed to the negative impact Ute-gate had on the process.
“I met with Harry Jenkins, [Speaker of the House], who was surprised that Greek was no longer featured in state curriculums,” said Mr Papastergiadis adding, “the impact Ute-gate had can not be underestimated, it was difficult to meet all the right polticians, as they were mainly in parliament dealing with this issue.”
Federal MP Steve Georganas was involved with last Monday’s meetings and has always assisted AHC in its lobbying efforts.
From what NKEE understands, most of the 19 politicians of Greek background who are currently serving in state and federal parliaments, were not involved in the AHC’s lobbying or agenda setting.