The Richmond Library’s decision to reinstate the Greek Story Time program has been met with widespread appreciation from Melbourne’s Greek community.

The program, which runs every Wednesday during school terms from 11am-12pm, has been a cherished cultural and educational tradition for parents, grandparents, and children alike.

The abrupt discontinuation of the program earlier in the year without consultation or evaluation had left Greek teachers, parents and grandparents are preparing for a fight after Yarra Council quietly axed the program back in January.

Kindergarten and Greek language teacher, Vicky Petalas, 50, who has been hosting the free storybook program at inner-city Richmond library since February 2022, said she was notified via phone and then e-mail that the program was axed.

However, the recent reinstatement has reignited enthusiasm among attendees, many of whom travel from various parts of Melbourne to participate.

“Myself, and the parents that come and join me, we’re very excited and so looking forward to it,” Petalas told Neos Kosmos in an earlier interview.

“We were really stressed because we weren’t sure what was going on, but we’re happy now that we’re starting again, and we believe that we will have a great year.”

The program’s popularity highlights the importance of multicultural initiatives in the community. It serves as a vital space for preserving Greek language and culture, especially for preschool-aged children of Greek heritage.

Despite the program’s success, there have been concerns regarding the administration’s handling of the sessions. Issues such as reprimands over program timing and lack of communication from library staff have been raised by participants. Attendees have expressed a desire for clearer guidelines and communication from the library, stating:

“We request that the rules and regulations of the Richmond Library Story Telling Programs are clearly stipulated to us, so that we are not being disciplined as was witnessed on the second session of 13th March where the teacher, was firmly spoken to, as to ensuring that all the Greek resources were collected by 12 noon.

“The program has always been ready to go before 11am, but usually continues after 12:00 and sometimes till 12:30, as parents and children are highly engaged and enjoying themselves. The teacher is only paid for one hour and gives her time and energy, for much longer than an hour, as well as putting in time and effort to plan and prepare hands on activities which are current and relevant for the children, sharing the Hellenic Language and Culture. Several of the parents and grandparents are teachers themselves. They highly value and recognise the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by the Greek teacher.

“If she chooses to stay longer with the children, she shouldn’t be reprimanded for doing so, creating unnecessary stress for her and the parents. We encourage the Yarra Council to attend, evaluate and engage regularly with our Greek Story Time program to identify and duplicate the educational benefits provided by such a highly successful language program. In fact, we are surprised to see that there are no other similar Language Story Time programs offered, as there are at the Northcote Library, for example. We are happy to assist in the establishment of more such language story time programs, identifying and reflecting the main languages spoken in the area.”

To which a Yarra City Council spokesperson responded:

“The Greek Stories and Play program at Richmond Library is an important, community-led program that will continue to be supported by Yarra Libraries. Earlier in the year, this program was put on pause briefly while we recruited for a facilitator for the program. To meet the expectations of all library members and our community, we want to ensure that all of our programs run on time and work with our program facilitators to achieve this outcome.”