The Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) are calling on the Australian Government to start talks with the Greek state on a bilateral Health Care agreement between Australia and Greece.

Following months of lockdown, the GCM’s Greek Centre has once again swung opened its doors and one of the first to come through them was the Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs of Australia, Alex Hawke.

Minister Hawke, whose mother was Greek, had promised to meet with the Greek Community during a recent zoom meeting. He finally visited the Greek Centre during his first post-lockdown trip to Melbourne on Tuesday, 9 November, making good on his promise.

The Minister was met onsite by GCM president Bill Papastergiadis OAM and GCM Board members A/Prof Marinis Pirpiris, Chris Sikavitsas, Greek Centre Director, Jorge Menidis and members of the Melbourne-based Greek Australian media.

Whilst visiting the Centre, the Minister learnt of its connection to the broader historic Greek Quarter of Melbourne via the vertical precinct that houses a number of Greek and Multicultural businesses including the National Bank of Greece.

READ MORE: The Greek side of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke

GCM President Bill Papastergiadis, Minister Alex Hawke and Professor Alex Pirpiris outside the Greek Centre. Photo: Supplied

The Minister was presented with a commemorative plaque by Mr Papastergiadis.

“It is a great pleasure to have the minister for Multiculturalism, Citizenship, and Immigration with us here (today),” Mr Papastergiadis said.

“The minister himself is of Greek background. His mother was born in Greece, his grandparents were born in Greece and his affinity towards Hellenic culture, is telling.  The Morrison government and the Greek Community of Melbourne have had a strong relationship for a number of years and with the help of the Morrison government negotiations have commenced with the Greek state for a double taxation agreement. This is fundamental for developing the relationship between two countries who have been allies in world wars, have a shared migration, but now, equally, will have a strong economic footing between the two countries. Another topic that I’ll broach with the minister today relates to developing a bilateral agreement on health between Australia and Greece.”

In highlighting the ever strengthening Health ties between Greece and Australia, the GCM president also used the opportunity of the Minister’s visit to announce that the GCM would be hosting the Global Hellenic Medical Conference in September 2022.

The Minister, who welcomed the opportunity to meet with Melbourne’s Greek Community, said: “I want to thank the Directors here for the great work they’re doing for the Hellenic community in Melbourne.  Australia has had such a great history with Greece. Our partners, our friends, our allies through so many of the years of our history together. As Bill says, we continue to work closely with the Greek government. We are now opening our borders; Australian citizens and permanent residents can travel again. We’ve changed the definition of parents so that now parents can now travel of citizens and permanent residents. We know that travel between Greece and Australia has been such a part of the life of both countries for so many years band we are looking forward to travel arrangements starting again and seeing people going back and forth again.”

READ MORE: “See you next time in Melbourne,” Minister Hawke tells Greek Community President Bill Papastergiadis

On the ongoing calls for continued treaties with Greece the Minister said: “We will work through all of the issues with the Greek government, given our strong history, how long we’ve been partnering together; there are great arguments to fix these things that need fixing so that we can strengthen the relationships between our people on tax, in health, and all the things that are barriers for travel. I look forward to those negotiations continuing.”