After a 15-month period, the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture (GCCC) will be unveiled tomorrow, as the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) enters a ‘renaissance period’ of Hellenism in Melbourne.
On the back of significant cultural undertakings, the GOCMV will use the launch of this building as a bridging between past, present and future Greek Australian generations.
The demolition of the pre-existing building, in the historical heart of Melbourne’s Greek precinct, Lonsdale Street, was completed in April 2013, with construction on the new building starting in June 2013.
The President of the GOCMV, Bill Papastergiadis spoke to Neos Kosmos about the launch of the 15 storey building.
Mr Papastergiadis referred to its erection as a reference point for a meeting of cultures, and as a symbol for Hellenism in Melbourne and Australia.
“The Community is developing a cultural centre for Melbourne and Australia really, that will be accessible not only to Greek Australians, but also to the broader population.
“We are opening the doors of our organisation and also our rich cultural heritage, which is developing as we speak, to the broader community, so that there is greater engagement and collaboration on the key matters which are referable to language and culture, which is what our organisation represents.”
The GOCMV will use four of the building’s 15 floors as its cultural hub, dedicating them to education – including offering classes in Modern Greek, Greek for beginners, Latin and Ancient Greek – exhibitions, a function centre and administration. Whilst the remaining floors will be leased out to bring in funds to generate fiscal support for the building and the Community.
Mr Papastergiadis was confident that the GCCC will serve as a regeneration of Greek culture and language, as Hellenism is inherited by third and fourth generation Greek Australians. The building will embrace some particularly important icons, including Parthenon friezes, throughout its 15 storey façade.
“It’s an iconic building no doubt, it’s a very well designed building and I don’t believe there are any other cultural centres outside of Greece of this size and magnitude by a community group.
“So it is in some ways a world first, and hopefully it will serve as a catalyst for other community groups, not only in Australia, but globally, in the global diaspora, to reinvigorate and to work towards building bridges with tomorrow basically.”
The building’s reality was born into culmination when the GOCMV decided to sell off some of its assets, which according to Mr Papastergiadis realised a few years ago. It then launched fundraisers, which to date have raised $2 million, and has been supported by federal and state government grants, which respectively donated $2 million towards its construction.
Mr Papastergiadis explained that whilst it has attracted community interest from within the diaspora, it has also attracted the interest of other ethnic groups, which have looked to the GOCMV as a pillar in ethnic and cultural preservation.
“The Germans have been particularly interested in our process and outcome and we had a meeting with the German Consulate General, who was enthralled and astonished by basically the achievement of this board in realising a project of this magnitude and size.
“[And] various parts of the Chinese community have expressed to us their observance of the unity currently within the Greek community which they would like to emulate.”
Mr Papastergiadis commented on the rich resurgence of Hellenism in Melbourne particularly, which is being led by the launch of the GCCC building and the already established Hellenic Museum, only a few blocks away. He applauded other community groups for helping create a nucleus and centre for Hellenism to continue to prosper in Melbourne and Australia.
“The significant achievements by the Hellenic Museum by bringing the Benaki exhibition to Australia and organising its own events will create a vibrant community and precinct.
“A precinct isn’t made up of one single organisation sitting isolated on its own, you need to create a hub and I believe we’re seeing that and we applaud that.”
The official launch, by the Premier of Victoria DR Dennis Napthine will take place at 4:00pm Sunday September 21 at 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
The launch will be accompanied by live music, dancing and entertainment .