I would like to thank Dean Kalymniou and Alex Economou for their articles relating to the future of Hellenism in Australia and the position of the many Greek organisations. Beyond anything I believe we have a future. Organisations such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Community are strong. As Dean mentioned a number of us over 4 years came together in an unofficial working group called Hellenism Victoria that met every few months.
We made new friends and we learned much. With friends such as Kosta (Samos), Xristo (Kos), Kosta (Rhodes) Joseph (Periklis), Peter (Pontian Akrites), Natasha (Oakleigh Greek Orthodox College), Anastasia and Nelly (Neos Kosmos), we were able to organise events such as the Spirit of Hellenism Award, a competition encouraging students to research and document migration stories, which beyond anything filled our own hearts with love. We are all proud of that time and what we contributed.
That Dean and Alex in 2022 are writing about the question of what will happen in our future, a question Profession Tamis began discussing in 1980, shows we still have to work things out. Maybe the question will always exist because we will always be looking to see how we can do things better. But one thing we learned at Hellenism Victoria is that Hellenism is a patchwork – every organisation, social club, church, newspaper, dancing school, language school, café, or restaurant, contributes. We tend to think in absolutes, will we or wont we exist, but we exist in degrees. If only one Greek café remained in Melbourne we would exist in that little corner, just a degree of Hellenism. But a glistening building filled with Hellenes and philhellenes in every High st is a much better goal for us to have (and why not a John and Susie Rerakis Philhellenes in every corner!)
The closure of the Pontian Community Building left me with sorrow as I remember it as a haven of Hellenism, a place to visit when I needed my Hellenic soul to be recharged. It was the same when Medallions closed, and Salapatas, and Melissa Smith St. With each we lost a degree. The opening of Nikos Cakes in Fairfield recharged my soul. Degree up. But I am an old man set in my ways. I am Greek and will seek out the Greek. Why Kosta and Alex discuss this is because it is young hearts and souls that we want to paint blue and white.
So there is much to consider. But what we raise as an issue is one to give us hope. Each organisation is individual and will move with the ideas of its members and board, and that is as it should be as every club was built by its members. But we can only create waves with many drops of water. Many wonderful ideas have been raised about the Hellenism of tomorrow, ideas that would act as waves of Hellenism moving together.
· Clubs creating an ‘Oakleigh’ of the north and the west. This would involve waiting for an opportunity of a redevelopment (e.g. like the upcoming Northcote Plaza redevelopment) and purchasing properties to be leased to Greek themed businesses at a discount – in effect guaranteeing multiple Oakleigh’s.
· The creation of a Hellenic Foundation (operating somewhat like the Onassis Foundation), with clubs that can no longer operate moving their management to this foundation that would use the income to fund Hellenic projects in the name of that organisation (competitions, scholarships, arts, movies, etc).
· Clubs aligning themselves with their local church and creating many local Hellenic communities.
· Clubs that remain active retaining their individual structure but publishing events in a unified calendar, allowing a patchwork of events to be a Melbourne-Hellenic lifestyle, something that began at Neos Kosmos.
Each of these ideas is positive and each would work. Any action by any club is a positive step for Hellenism. The challenge for clubs is to select the vision they deem best and to move towards that with other clubs who share the same vision, so we can use our sheer size, a gift from the first migrants, to develop many strong Hellenic movement.
Personally I believe we are at the stage where we must move past asking what will happen and facilitate the conversation we have to have and the action. That is a tough road as it needs us to deviate from the status quo, to set aside past slights and to have hard conversations and difficult actions. Some actions may be unpopular and we may need to reassess attachments, but each club that moves will add itself to Hellenism in Victoria.
I consider that this all begins with clubs knowing each other. In meeting each other we make friends and we work together; 1 + 1 = 3. We learn and grow and we develop. With Hellenism Victoria community clubs took the lead, but to truly move forward we need a facilitator beyond the syllogous – an organiser to agenda the big questions for discussion, to make possibilities clear, and to allow each club to move along their chosen path. My personal belief is an organisation like Neos Kosmos could organise this roundtable to help us move through conversation to action. It is an independent body with people filled with love for Hellenism. In a similar scenario I see the Greek Community or Greek church as also able to facilitate the roundtables. Any development on this front would be welcome by the clubs.
A good friend said to me that each club gives what it can from its own silo. Every club has its members and its home, but in our silo’s we are alone. Together our soul is filled and our energy awakened. We need a roundtable. We will move forward, the Orthodox Church and the Greek Community will exist, but our work is to make sure Hellenism in as strong as can be.
I enjoyed so many nights at the Pontian Community in Brunswick and I never was able to thank them, but I do thank them, as I thank every organisation and every volunteer for their efforts. The Minimalists posit ‘love people, use things’ and I think this is apt for where we are. We have a great number of assets in the Hellenic community, but assets only exist to support the people. No one sees a glistening building that is empty.