As member of the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria and as an Australian politician, my role is primarily about improving and making a positive difference for our local community. It’s something I’m proud to say we have been achieving in Victoria over the last 4 years. As Australians of Hellenic heritage, we also care deeply about the birthplace of our ancestors.
As a member of the World Hellenic Inter-parliamentary Association (WHIA), I often fall into conversation with my Hellenic peers about Greece and its relationship with us, the Hellenic Diaspora. As Australians of Hellenic heritage, we all care deeply about the birthplace of our ancestors.
At some point of the conversation the question will arise, always with sense of frustration ‘Why is Greece unable to use its own Diaspora the way Israel does?’
I have to admit that our Hellene Diaspora does face some challenges in making a difference to the future direction of Greece. Most of these challenges are structural but not deeply, some are cultural but mainly light, and others simply bureaucratic.
But we still persist and many of the Hellenic Diaspora have and continue to make great contributions to Greece. I would not be on the WHIA if I felt otherwise.
I recognise Israel – a similar nation in the same region as Greece, inhabiting the same historical precincts from antiquity to now, and conjoined intellectually in many ways – particularly in the impact the intellectual Hellenic and Jewish Diasporas have had in developing both their nations – leverages off its Diaspora better than Greece does.
The Jewish Diaspora in Israel as politicians, policy makers, business people and activists, the deep links between the Jewish Diaspora outside and Israel is enviable for many of us Hellenes.
I reflect that over the last 70 years or so, because of Israel’s relatively recent formation as a country, and the national security issues confronted by Israel since its inception, means it has experienced more challenges than Greece has. This possibly helped to mobilise and energise the Jewish Diaspora.
From the Greek perspective, following the Financial Crisis, there has been an increased interest and involvement in not only the Greek economy, but also its place in Europe and further in the East, in the Balkans and Middle East.
We as members of WHIA recognise the independence of Greece however we have a role to play – as policy makers, as advisors but also personally, as proud Hellenes – to strengthen Greece’s place in the world.
I believe this role will get even stronger. From an Australian perspective we are uniquely placed – not only do we have a significant Greek population, but we have second, third and even fourth generations who continue to have a connection to Hellenism, through language, culture, travel and business interests.
Not unlike our Jewish peers and their relationship to Israel, we Hellenes are connected to the nation, as well as the idea of Hellas.
Australia and Greece share recent history, through World War II and the significant post-war immigration. And because of our connection, broadening our support will benefit both Australia and Greece. We are lending our support and the WHIA is one of the important ways we can assist Greece.
A great idea that I strongly support is the WHIA recommendation for a one-stop shop for potential investors who can arrive in Greece. This would mean the assignment of a dedicated caseworker to assist with legal, economic and other issues.
As we know, every country has individual laws, regulations and local issues that can be difficult to navigate for outside investors. Greece is no different.
Even if you do speak Greek, doing business in Greece can be challenging. So creating a one-stop shop would be an enormous boost for investors and more importantly for the Greek economy and its people.
We, the WHIA, the Greek Diaspora, all know that Greece has the ability to be a significant economy in Europe especially as a natural and historic bridge between East and West.
Greece is filled with great minds, replete with tremendous ingenuity, a ready workforce and access to markets. Importantly, we as a Diaspora, represent so many diverse cultural bases, and capacities.
We come from the US, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Germany and Kenya. As Greek Australians, many of us have tremendous experience with Asia including, China, India and Malaysia. Imagine what we can be for Greece as conduits to some of the most powerful economies in the world.
We can muster the collective cultural, entrepreneurial and intellectual capital to make Greece a powerful economy again.
- Steve Dimopoulos is the the Victorian Parliamentary Secretary to the treasurer in the Leglislative Assembly and member for Oakleigh.