Greek parliamentarians were in Australia last week to commemorate the 1821 Revolution of Independence.

Konstantinos Vlassis of New Democracy, former deputy minister of foreign affairs for Greeks abroad; Theodora Tzakri of SYRIZA, former vice president of the parliamentary council for Greeks abroad; Evangelia Liakouli of PASOK, the second vice president, parliamentary council for Greeks abroad and Asimina Skondra from New Democracy, a member of the parliamentary council for Greeks Abroad were all here.

Local organisers need to be more strategic. 

Greek Australian community, church, and welfare organisations played the role of conduits and hosts.  They shuttled the visitors from across their organisations, which is understandable, to a point.  No doubt the hosts worked hard.  However, was it all strategic?  In the broader sense?

It’s good for organisations, and programs may evolve.  However, what is the larger and deeper social-political and cultural context of who we are, as the Diaspora? What of engaging with our internal social, cultural and gender diversity as a Greek Australians?

What of our place in Australia’s multiculturalism? And what of our place and role in mainstream Australian society?

What of our First Nations’ people, those who have been here for thousands of years?

Politicians from Greece could learn about how Australia deals with diversity as a bipartisan policy. They could use that knowledge to develop policies of cultural cohesion in a culturally diverse Greece and tailor it to their circumstances.  We could also learn more about contemporary Greece from them.

Why not events with Greek Australian writers, judges, academics, innovators, filmmakers, and artists?  Did our guests see institutions like the NGV, the Arts Centre, the State Library, hospitals, or universities?

Indeed, when institutions link with Greek politicians, things happen. Museum Victoria’s (MV) collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (NAMA), sparked by a former Victorian politician, brought us the ‘Open Horizons: Ancient Greek Journeys and Connection’ exhibition.

The exhibition was a true collaboration.  It included the governments of Greece and Victoria, two major collecting institutions, the Greek Community of Victoria, the Archdiocese, key individuals and the media.  It engaged all of Victoria in one of the most visited institutions in the state, the Melbourne Museum.

Importantly, it engaged the community; they provided their artefacts as family photos, our own visual story.  Similar to those images on ancient pottery of that Diaspora journey we started in 700 BCE.

The Greek politicians did go to our parliaments; it’s necessary.  Could that visit have included a forum in the people’s house on matters of importance to Greece, the Diaspora and Australia?  It is, after all, the natural space for dialogue, for the voices of constituents.

Greek visiting politicians need to know more about us.

The old chestnut, ‘You are more Greek than the Greeks in Greece,’ was used, I believe, at various events.  At the National Day Parade last Sunday, Vlasis from ND said that we are born of past ‘heroes’ and other homilies about our great nations, democracy and freedom, as school-children and organisations, in uniforms and folkloric costumes, paraded. That’s a necessary performance, and unavoidable. Good for the communities, schools, groups and associations.

But what of the larger story of migration and Diaspora?  Or, the Diaspora’s role in the birth of Greece.

Did our visitors know anything about us as Greek Australians?  If they did, it wasn’t evident.  If they call on the Diaspora to vote for the European Parliamentary elections in June, they should know more about who we are.

On the surface, at least, they don’t get us. They don’t get, what Nick Pappas from The Hellenic Initiative recently called, our ‘hybrid’ culture.

Are these politicians aware of Australia’s strategic value as a vital member of the ‘Five Eyes’ – United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Australia?  Our cultural, economic, political, and strategic role in Asia Pacific?

During Greece’s economic collapse, 2008 – 2015, when Charlemagne Europe turned on Greece, the Diaspora, (we) lobbied as constituents and leaders in industry and politics, in the US, Canada, GB and Australia to get Germany to back off.

We did thar as ‘hybrid’, Greek Australians, Greek Americans, or Hellene Brits.  Imagine how it would have been if Australian, American, or British Greek economists and thinkers dealt with Brussels or Germany: those born and educated in Australia, the US, GB, or Canada.

The Europeans would not feel like the only ‘adults in the room’, as the former SYRIZA finance minister and economist Yanis Varoufakis said in his book on the Crisis talks in Brussels.

Why?  Because we’re not Europeans, nor are we Greeks, and we’re not expatriates.  We are constituents, citizens of the nations we live in, not Ausländers in Germany, Sweden, or the Netherlands.

As a Diaspora, we are from the centre, as members the Five Eyes, a formidable, economically and strategically powerful alliance.

Australia as a nation is prosperous. We have a resilient, well-capitalised and profitable banking system, we are scientifically and technologically advanced.

We have a sophisticated tertiary sector and a good public health system.  Australia has vast resources.  Our agricultural capacity feeds much of Asia.

We are Anglophone, liberal democratic and multicultural.  Greece could learn much and lean on us in a respectful and equal relationship.

We don’t need Europe, or Greece, as much as we need Asia and the Pacific. Over two billion of the world’s population — a vast cultural, economic, and human potential. We love Greece as Diaspora and want Greece to succeed.

We know India and China as partners, and sources of vast migration to Australia.  We work as peers with other migrants, as Australians.

Recently Mitsotakis sought a more substantial engagement with India.  Would not Greek Australians be natural conduits to strengthening that engagement?

There was no engagement with our internal diversity as a community nor with Australia’s cultural diversity.  About what of our First Nations people?

Politicians from Greece, knowing how we deal with and manage cultural diversity, could learn a thing or two in an increasingly diverse Greece.

There was no engagement with our internal diversity as a community nor with Australia’s cultural diversity.  About what of our First Nations people?  Politicians from Greece, knowing how we deal with and manage cultural diversity, could learn a thing or two in an increasingly diverse Greece.

Our visitors had what Professor Yiorgos Anagnostou called the ‘Helladic gaze’, which places Greece as the metropolitan centre, and the Diaspora radiates out. For example, a little fact like George Miller (Milliotis), of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, one of the world’s most recognised Greek Australian film directors, would make a fine speaking point for the visitors.  And what of Greek Australian scientists, clinicians, barristers, judges, artists, performers, and business leaders?

At a recent Hellenic Initiative (THI) event, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, spoke elegantly (via pre-recorded video link) about the Diaspora and our role in Greece’s economic, social, and cultural recovery.  Did any of the visiting politicians get that transcript?  Notes?

There are better ways

In March, the National Theatre of Greece’s director, Yiannis Moschos, was here to see one of the National’s plays at the Adelaide Festival – itself a coup.  He then embarked on a networking tour and met key players in the community and the art world.

Moschos augmented Greece’s and our Diaspora’s standing in the mainstream of arts and culture.  Did the visiting politicians know this?  If they had Milliotis’s role, it could have been added to their speaking notes.

Lectures about being ‘more Greek than Greeks in Greece’ are naff at best, and patronising at worst.

We are Diaspora, and Greek politicians should remember that the Diaspora was the kernel of the1821 Revolution.