The Greek Communities of the Diaspora (GOCM&V) have a very long history. In the 18th and early 19th centuries there were important Communities in Italy, England, France, Romania, Russia, Vienna, Switzerland. Even in India. Many of these Communities contributed to the awakening of Hellenism and finally in the preparation and organisation of the Greek Revolution of 1821. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the main thriving Greek Diaspora Communities were those of Egypt. They provided their members with schools, hospitals, social services. These Communities derived their strength from the financial support of their more prosperous members.
The conditions in Australia are, in many respects quite different, but, nevertheless, Communities like the Melbourne one could learn a lot from the organisation and functions of the Greek Communities of Egypt. The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCM&V) is in a position to be able to bring together the members of the Greek community and Greek community organisations. Quite correctly the Community Council gave Mr Andrianakos’ name to the new multipurpose hall of Alphington Grammar School, for his generous donation for its construction. However, it should have done also something similar for the very important donation of the Association “Argos Orestikon” and other noteworthy donations. This was the practice of the Communities of Egypt.
The GOCM&V has a long history in bringing together members and organisations of the larger community and to promote issues concerning Hellenism. In 1968 the Community was one of the main organisations that convened in Melbourne the 1st Conference of Greek Studies and paid the expenses. That Conference, among other things, created the Greek Community Appeal Committee for the entrance of Modern Greek at the University of Melbourne.
The pre-1972 Community administration and the then leadership of the Archdioceese were against the creation of the Greek-Australian Welfare Society “Pronoia”, each for their own reasons The new 1972 Community administration gave “Pronoia” accommodation in its own premises and this continued for many years after. Up to then the newly created “Pronoia” was forced to seek accommodation in the then small premises of the Greek-Cypriot Community. In 1973 the Community made available an office in its building for the accommodation of the Melbourne Greek-Australian Students’ Association, which later became part of the NUGAS Association. In 1977 the GOCM&V, on the occasion of the celebration of its 80th year, co-operated with the Greek Australian Cultural League of Melbourne to organize a Greek Short Story competition. Since 1976 the GOCM&V was one of the main orgaqnisers of the “Greek Week Festival”, every March. Since 1987 the GOCM&V created the Festival “Antipodes” to celebrate the Greek Independence Day. Members of the administrations of the GOCM&V and “Pronoia”, such as George Papadopoulos, Dr Spiros Moraitis, Nick Polites, Savvas Papasavvas, Dimitris Ktenas and others played a very important role in the creation and acceptance of the policies and philosophy of multiculturalism in Australia.
Buildings and property assets, of course are important and necessary for carrying out the Community tasks. However, on the other hand, the philosophy of “the Community institution”, that is, the spirit of the voluntary participation of active members, the open procedures, the debate and the participation in the discussion of the issues and decision making is of equal, if not more importance.
Bob Hawke in a letter to the President of the Greek Community, Savvas Papasavas, in March 1987, praised the multicultural aspects of the first Antipodes Festtival:
“…The success of the Festival is a splendid example of what can be achieved by our ethnic communities when they make creative and independent efforts on their own behalf. It could be no clearer proof of the strength and vitality of multiculturalism in Australia than the spirit created by the Festival”.
The tasks of the GOCM&V are to bring together its members and the organisations of the wider Greek Community but also to co-operate with other ethnicities and the mainstream community to promote aspects of the Greek Civilisation, as it is done with the Greek Community lectures and the Greek Film Festival, and to support the development of the multicultural spirit in the mainstream community. The procedures should be open for the information and the representative participation in the debate and the decision making, especially on issues concerning the role and the future of the Community.
It’s not a positive development that at the Community General Meetings, a minimum time is devoted to discussion of issues concerning the Community and that in the last three elections of 2010, 2012 and 2016, all 19 Community Council members were elected from the same ticket. This is in accordance with the electoral system but the continuous abuse of it creates an anomaly which destroys the democratic process and the community spirit and edangers the future of the Community. This development affects the good governance of the Community and leads to alienation of members, to the creation of indifference and apathy. This is the reason why the participation of independent candidates in the election amounts to an act of resistance. A resistance against the danger of indifference and apathy.
* Dr Christos N. Fifis is an Honorary Associate of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LaTrobe University