The 2010 Antipodes Festival was launched over the weekend with the Glendi celebrations attracting thousands of people to the heart of Melbourne.

Lonsdale street was dressed in blue and white in a proud display of Greek culture with the next generation of Melbourne’s Greek community taking centre stage in all aspects of the Glendi.

Co-chairs of the Antipodes Festival, Mr Leonidas Vlahakis and Ms Tammy Iliou, and president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Mr Bill Papastergiadis, welcomed the thousands who braved the threatening weather to go to the Glendi.

Victorian Premier, Mr John Brumby, opened the festival on Saturday night paying tribute to the contribution of the Greek community to Australian society and the social fabric of multicultural Australia.

Mr Brumby reiterated his support for the inclusion of the Greek language in the national curriculum.

“It would be unthinkable if Greek is not accepted as a language of national importance,” he said drawing wide applause by the thousands of Greek-Australians who attended the Glendi. Mr Brumby congratulated the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria for making the Antipodes Festival “one of the most popular and successful festivals in Australia.”

The inclusion of the Greek language in the national school curriculum, currently under review, was the main focus of most speakers’ addresses on Saturday night.

The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria is circulating a petition in favour of keeping Greek among the languages being taught in schools across the country. Victorian Leader of the Opposition, Mr Ted Baillieu, greeted the crowd in Greek and spoke strongly in favour of keeping Greek in schools.

“Greek is too precious to lose,” he said while adding that he has written to the Government asking to include Greek in the national curriculum.

Federal Shadow Minister for Innovation, Ms Sophie Mirabella (nee Panopoulos), representing the Federal Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tony Abbot, also spoke in Greek and urged the attendees to sign the petition.

Minister for Finance Mr Linsday Tanner, delivered a message on behalf of Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd, praising the Greek presence in Australia and the ties that unite the two countries.

Among the officials participating at the launch was the Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle;Victoria’s Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Jenny Mikakos; Labor MP, John Pantazopoulos; Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Nick Kotsiras; Federal MPs, Mr Petro Georgiou and Ms Maria Vamvakinou; the mayor of Whittlesea, Ms Mary Lalios; and the Consul-General of Greece, Mr Christos Salamanis.