The Australian Macedonian Advisory Council (AMAC) is asking a Victoria University (VU) study to change the wording of an online survey, that they deem offensive.

After taking offence to content of a survey for people of Slav-Macedonian background, conducted by a VU research centre, Con Kouremenos, from AMAC, wrote a letter to the academics heading up the program.

The study, which is one of four, was constructed by a team of academics from the University of WA, University of Adelaide, Latrobe University and VU.

Mr Kouremenos said AMAC was concerned by the involvement of the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) in the research survey titled Are you of Macedonian or of Macedonian Background?

Mr Kouremenos also highlighted an issue with question 15 of the online survey, which asks the respondent to what extent it agrees with the statement “Australia should recognise Macedonia’s constitutional name without delay”.

“The UMD is not even an Australian organisation, we find it weird they’re trying to lobby the Australian government when they’re not even Australian. We were just trying to say we’re against the point, at the moment Australia recognises that country as FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), that’s the name the UN uses,” Mr Kouremenos said.

Associate Professor Danny Ben-Moshe from Victoria University told Neos Kosmos the UMD has an Australian arm and question 15 is just one of many questions that was of interest to them.

“UMD are a partner in the study, I’m not sure what the problem is with the question. If the inference is that it’s an illegitimate question I don’t understand why that would need to be explained because that is a real issue for that community,” he said.

“In almost every consultation we had, with each different community, they all raised different issues that they wanted to have in the survey. I can point to dozens of questions across all the four surveys, because to the particular community groups we consulted with, these were issues they wanted information on,” he said.

AMAC identified terminology used in question one, which asks for the respondent’s place of birth and gives the option ‘Aegean Macedonia (in Greece)’, as highly inappropriate.

“The term “Aegean Macedonia” is a term coined by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in order to legitimise its claims on the Greek province of Macedonia and, in particular, the port of Thessaloniki,” AMAC stated in a press release.

“You can’t refer to Aegean Macedonia as a country because it’s in Greece. It would’ve been fine if it said the state of Macedonia in Greece, some people are from the border, but it’s not the right way to put it. It’s got a bit of a nationalistic connotation,” Mr Kouremenos said.

Prof. Ben-Moshe said he had responded to AMAC explaining that the term ‘Aegean Macedonian’ was introduced into the survey after extensive consultations with that community.

“When we went out and consulted on and piloted the survey, people were saying ‘I’m not Greek, I am from Aegean Macedonia’. I am not passing judgment on that. I’m not saying it’s right, wrong, good or bad; my view is completely irrelevant. My interest as a researcher is how do people self define?” Prof. Ben-Moshe said.

“After consultations and the pilot process, we were basically obliged to apply recommended terminology as part of the process of self definition…there is the option of ‘other’ in the survey, it might be that 100 percent of respondents put Greece as their place of birth, that’s entirely up to the individuals,” he said.

Mr Kouremenos said AMAC is hoping the university will change the wording of the survey. “At the moment a lot of those questions are pretty ambiguous, but most of the other questions were okay,” he said.

However, Mr Ben-Moshe said these processes and practices are normal in academic work of this nature, and that the university certainly would not be contemplating doing anything that would undermine these academic principles and practices.