On September 8, Oakleigh Grammar, the Greek Archdiocese school, raised the North Macedonia flag to celebrate that nation’s Independence Day, but controversy followed.
The Grammar school responding to questions from Neos Kosmos, the Chair of the school, Chris Damatopoulos, and principal Mark Robertson co-signed a letter in which they said that in 2011, it made “the conscientious and bold decision to open its educational institution to welcome, nurture and care for all children and their families irrespective of their colour, creed, or race.”
The authors said it continued to “treasure” and maintain the pillars of Christian Orthodoxy and Hellenism”.
However, in a tilt to Australia’s educational policy of tolerance and diversity and the “40 different” cultures represented in the school’s student population, it said it was committed to “inclusivity”.
“Today, we stand proud of Oakleigh Grammar’s diverse, multicultural family of over one thousand staff and students, representing over 40 nationalities.
“To demonstrate inclusivity towards all children in the image and likeness of God, it was determined to fly flags of nations of origin of our students and staff on respective national days in harmony, peace, and in recognition of our multicultural community,” Damatopoulos and Robertson said.
They emphasised that no “offence or disrespect was intended”. They said, “The practice has been embraced wholeheartedly by the community we serve, in Christ, Love and Unity”.
In a furious response to the flag-raising, the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne, Victoria, sent a letter to the school and Archbishop Makarios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, condemning the actions of the school.
In the missive, the Association said that raising the flag of North Macedonia, “a country that has on countless occasions and continues to undermine Greece’s historical claim to the ancient legacy of Macedonia, has infuriated the Greek community”.
It suggested that raising the flag of North Macedonia in a school with “strong ties to the Greek community” and affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was “interpreted as an endorsement of this nation’s attack on Greek history and its indifference to the sensitive nature of the issue at hand”.
While the letter recognised that a “few if any students” may claim North Macedonian heritage, it suggested that their rights should be subject to the “Greek community, whose values your school is supposed to reflect, the school would not be in a position to operate”.