Properties owned by Greek Australian organisations worth several hundreds of millions of dollars remain idle and at risk of being lost to the community if we do not change course, warn prominent community leaders.
Many of the hundreds of community organisations that were created to serve the needs of the first generation of Greek Australians managed to acquire and own their own property.
According to figures provided to Neos Kosmos by Professor Anastasios Tamis, there are close to 700 Greek organisations registered in Victoria alone and 125 of them represent the Macedonia region.
Mr Tamis claims that almost 70 per cent of the organisations have their own property or properties.
It is claimed their total worth exceeds 500 million dollars. For example, last week the home of the Rhodian Brotherhood in Fairfield was sold for 1,950,000 dollars.
Today, however, most of these organisations can no longer meet the needs of second and third generation Greek Australians.
Often they cannot even form committees. And their properties are completely or to a large extent not fully utilised.
So as a community, warn community leaders, we ought to change course and set new priorities. They say we should commence an honest debate about how we can plan effectively for the future so we can fully utilise these significant assets to serve the needs of present and upcoming generations of our community.
Otherwise, we risk losing them permanently, since their constitutions (which are all almost identical) provide that if an organisation ceases to exist (and many are close to that stage) their property goes to an Australian institution.
Mr Tamis has written an article for the Greek edition of Neos Kosmos, which will be published next Thursday.
In his article, Professor Tamis says that most organisations have reached their expiry date, and calls for new institutions under the auspices of the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV).
He calls the various community organisations to support the GOCMV to help pay for its new Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture. He also pushes for the development of an idle site the Community holds in Bulleen and hopes to see a Greek childcare centre, a Greek prep centre be built on the land.
With the recent passing of Gough Whitlam, his adage of “it’s time” is one which is now, more than ever, applicable to the Greek diaspora in Australia, according to the president of the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis.
He says individually, Greeks have contributed in many ways to the fabric of Australian life. Commerce, the arts, science, sport, industry and academia have been the better for the input of Greek Australians. There were spectacular achievements made in just one generation since the mass migration in the 1950s and ’60s.
Organisationally, Greeks maintained their sense of identity and family through the formation of clubs with regional relationships to the first generation’s place of birth. Over 150 such organisations have been set up in Melbourne alone. They played a critical role in many of the first generation’s lives. These organisations also acted as a springboard for the development of initiatives to assist others, whether it was personal or from a broader community perspective. Many of these organisations helped forge and influence government policies e.g. on education, welfare and even as far as foreign policy.
Mr Papastergiadis stressed to Neos Kosmos it is time to move forward:
“It is fair to say now that ‘it’s time’. Many of the reasons that formed the basis of these organisations being set up have passed with the passing of many of the founders of these clubs,” said Mr Papastergiadis, and in his statement to Neos Kosmos he pointed out the following:
“The next generation of Greek Australians define themselves in a more complex way and perceive their identity through many different sources. Regionalism by way of a relationship to a certain part of Greece is not as strong a motivator in developing friendships and relationships.
“However, the sense of identity and how it is defined has not been lost on the second and third generations. We are now seeing renewed interest and enthusiasm in broader Hellenic initiatives.
“I often say ‘it is now cool to be Greek’. This resurgence needs to be nurtured. The Greek Community of Melbourne, and many other organisations such as HACCI, the Hellenic Museum, Neos Kosmos, have reflected on developing programs that will embrace and enthuse the next generations.
“All of these programs, including the new 15-storey Cultural Centre, require an investment. They require collaboration and they require a ‘new way forward’.
“We are now saying that we need ‘a new way forward’. We have organised a meeting with all of the community groups to talk to them about a new way forward, one where we can share the journey and listen to the first generation’s interests. At the same time, this collaboration will enable us to invest in critical programs that are needed on language and culture. The many Greek clubs can play a role in this and we want them to be part of the next wave of Hellenism.
“Now is the time to invest in language, in culture. Time is of the essence,” concluded Mr Papastergiadis.