Greece has been given an entrepreneurial lifeline from Australia, with 18 local companies offering exclusive six-month internships to young Greek nationals out of work.

The program is part of the Australian chapter of philanthropic group The Hellenic Initiative (THI) which was officially launched in Melbourne this week.

Spearheaded by Bank of Sydney chief Nicholas Pappas, THI Australia will work on building long-term business connections between Greece and the diaspora down under, and give unemployed graduates a chance to get ahead of the pack in the damaged Greek job market.

The program is made up of paid internships in Australia for six months. The Australian companies that have put their hands up to take part come from a wide variety of industries including financial services, the arts, law, and medicine.

ANZ will be offering 12 placements (six over two years), while Bank of Sydney and National Australia Bank will also provide a number of internships.

Greek Australian companies have also signed up to deliver the scheme, including private equity company Findex Group, seafood distributors Kailis Bros, and Eris Pharmaceuticals.

The Hellenic Museum has also provided an internship program for those wishing to explore the world of curating and artefact preservation.

Founding board member of THI Australia, Nick Mylonas said he was proud that the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, of which he is President, could assist THI’s Australian mission.

“There are incredible synergies between the two organisations and we will work hard to identify ways that the Hellenic Australian business community can help THI, and in turn, assist Greece, ” he said.

Launched in the US in 2012 by Darwin-born Dow Chemical Company CEO, Andrew Liveris, THI was conceived to help Greece back into recovery by providing crisis relief, entrepreneurship opportunities and economic development.

To date, more than 60 internships have been filled by Greek entrepreneurs through the program and more than 75 per cent of those have received a job offer after their internship. THI’s office in Athens has already received thousands of applications for the program.

“We’re only just tapping the surface,” Mr Pappas tells Neos Kosmos.

“This can go very deep. They come here, they work here, there’s a knowledge transfer that happens while they’re here, their CVs are boosted and they go back to Greece armed with this experience.”

Mr Pappas said that while Australian businesses have succeeded locally, being a part of THI could help them broaden their reach to Greece and give many a chance to crack international markets.

Attending the launch, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said linking Greece and Australia through business was a hugely worthwhile exploit.
Asked his views on local internships going overseas, Mr Guy told Neos Kosmos it was important for Australian companies to include “a bit of both”, opening their mentoring streams to international and local candidates.

The launch at ANZ’s Melbourne headquarters saw hundreds of the community’s most prominent members attend a $300-a-head inaugural dinner to show solidarity to Greece’s struggle and hear Andrew Liveris speak.

Timing sadly fell short as Liveris was whisked away on business to Shanghai but appeared via live video link.

“Whether delivering crucial aid, promoting promising entrepreneurs in Greece or welcoming young Greeks here in our businesses, we have shown that this diaspora is a powerful force,” he said.

THI’s co-founder, Greek American George Stamas, was able to fill Liveris’ shoes and gave a rousing speech that had the crowd captivated.

A venture capitalist and attorney, Mr Stamas spoke of the need for “filotimo and philanthropy” across the diaspora, and said a shared heritage “can bring us together at times of need”.

He also spoke of the misconceptions many Greek Australians hold towards the Greek American business community.

“My sense is that Greek Australians somehow think that Greek Americans really have their act together, and somehow carry the culture of Greece in a way that sometimes Greek Australians are a bit envious of, and nothing can be further from the truth,” he told Neos Kosmos.

He also announced THI in the United States will be contributing $50,000 to the Australian division to get it up and running.

During the dinner a number of Greek Australian businesses donated upwards of $10,000 each to assist THI with its crisis relief programs and entrepreneurs’ investment fund.

Full list of Australian internship program partners:
Bank of Sydney
Cox Howlett Architects (Perth)
Decmil Group Ltd (Perth)
Directed Australia (Melbourne)
Eris Pharmaceuticals (Melbourne)
Findex Group (Melbourne)
Fluor Corporation
Greek Media Group (Melbourne)
Hellenic Club/Alpha restaurant (Sydney)
Hellenic Museum (Melbourne)
Hickory, building and construction (Melbourne)
Kailis Bros (Melbourne)
Merit Partners Charted Accountants (Darwin)
Moray & Agnew Lawyers (Melbourne)
National Australia Bank
RSM Bird Cameron Chartered Accountants (Perth)
William Buck Chartered Accountants & Advisors (Sydney)