A significant turnout (over 250 members) and general consensus were the main features of the annual general meeting of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) which took place on Sunday at the Andrianakos Center of Alphington Grammar.

The AGM was missing its president, Bill Papastergiadis, who was at the time at the hospital due to his mother’s serious health issue. The AGM Chair and board members, who knew, wished the president well.

The AGM Chair was assumed by vice-president Jim Bosinakis, who facilitated an orderly AGM and a consensual mood prevailed.

GCM board secretary, Nikos Koukouvitakis, read the minutes, which were accepted. Kostas Karamarkos sought to clarify when the Greek Film Festival of the Community began, saying that the film festival preceded Greek Week – an initiative of Mike Zafiropoulos.

The president’s report was presented by Bosinakis and it was also accepted without objections.

In his financial report, the treasurer, Marinis Pirpiris, underlined that after the COVID pandemic crisis pf 2020-2021, the finances of the Community improved.

As Neos Kosmos reported last week and was referred to by Pirpiris the GCM is continuing its legal efforts to get extra compensation from the state government for the Bulleen land which was compulsory acquired to extend an arterial road.

The GCM was compensated by the state government $10,728,898 and it was one reason why the Community’s balance sheet shows a spike of income from $3,913,426 in 2021, to $17,042,367 in 2022.

Former board executive, Theo Markos sought clarifications on the purchase of a building at 272 Russel St., Melbourne.

This building was purchased he said, as a hub for young people and seniors with money from the state and federal governments.

Markos questioned why this building was purchased at what he said was a higher price than a nearby building (later sold), and the reasons why it was purchased.

Both Pirpiris and Koukouvitakis gave assurances that the building will be used effectively. The treasurer said that the funding committed by the federal government for this purpose had not yet been received yet.

250 Greek Community of Melbourne members attend the Annual AGM in Alphington Grammar. Photo: Neos Kosmos

A question was raised by Ilias Diakolabrianou, seeking more details on church, evening schools, Alphington Grammar, and Antipodes Festival finances. The treasurer, Pirpiris replied that “Alphington Grammar regularly pays its rent to the Community and the Board of the Community is very committed to funding Greek language learning and the preservation of our culture.”

Much of the discussion during general matters was consumed in a proposal by Kostas Karamarkos who sought “public consultation on the amendment of the constitution”.

Karamarkos, said that the GCM constitution drafted in the 1930s “needs change to make it more relevant to our times”

“Let’s discuss which Community we want to have in the future, taking into account today’s and tomorrow’s realities,” he said

He pointed to the fact that the GCM constitution references church issues, “when history has decided on church issues and the Archdiocese has the responsibility.”

“Isn’t the Melbourne Community a democratic and secular organisation?” he asked.

Karamarkos added that the GCM constitution still considers Hellenism based on Christian Orthodoxy “whereas we are a multicultural society, with mixed marriages and article four still says membership should be confined to Greeks, those who have Greek parents and the descendants of Greek parents who are Orthodox Christians?

“I believe that everyone and everything fits in the Community, regardless of religious references for example.”

Karamarkos in his motion sought to develop a sub-committee at the AGM to review the constitution. However, while everyone seemed to agree on the need to reform the constitution to reflect a modern Greek Australian secular Community there was disagreement on the process.

The statements made in favour of a subcommittee being formed at the AGM was Christos Fifis, Savvas Grigoropoulos, Thodoros Markos and against George Demetriou, Fotis Kapetopoulos and Christos Kalavrytinos.

While they all agreed on reform, there was disagreement as to who will take the initiative, with George Demetriou, Fotis Kapetopoulos, Christos Kalavrytinos arguing that the board is elected by the membership to lead the consultation and change.

To avoid polarising the membership on the issue Karamarkos withdrew his motion, and the Board of Directors committed that amending the constitution “will be put on the table”.

Of note from the well attended AGM was a lack of younger members with the majority appearing to be from the first generation.

Neos Kosmos encourages the Community organisation to pursue an active membership drive and to encourage not just more members to join but young people.

Another issue discussed at the AGM was the language of the proceedings. Many older people did not understand English, while other members (not necessarily young in age) did not understand Greek.

A way should be found to institutionalise the use of both languages so that all members can participate.

It would be wrong for the meeting to be conducted only in English (as other parochial organisations do) but it is also not right that those who do not know Greek should not be able to participate. So, let the meeting be bilingual.

A final observation from this years AGM was an issue with the audio facilities in the hall with many members not able to hear the proceedings well. This should not be repeated in the future.