In blistering summer heat, thousands ventured out to visit the annual Lonsdale Street Greek Festival, searching for a taste of the motherland and to show their solidarity to Greece’s new direction.
The two day festival saw bi-partisan support for Greece’s plight, with opposition leader Bill Shorten embracing the sentiment, saying that “tonight we are all Greeks”.
He spoke of the contribution Greek migrants have made to Australian society and celebrated “modern multicultural Melbourne”.
“The Greeks of Australia are the great migrant dream,” he said.
President of the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV), Bill Papastergiadis spoke of a changing Greek Australian community, on that is undergoing a “renaissance period”.
“It’s cool to be Greek,” he said.
While the festival is designed to showcase the Greek community and it’s cultural traditions to the wider Australian community, this year, the festival took on
a more political aspect, with organisers piggybacking on worldwide demonstrations supporting Greece’s new government and their push for a better bailout agreement.
“We are behind our brothers and sisters to agree on a better bailout agreement,” Mr Papastergiadis said.
Greece’s ambassador to Australia, Haris Dafaranos voiced the Greek prime minister’s thanks to the Greek Australian community, saying that the voices of support from the Greek diaspora count for a lot.
An issue close to the Greek community’s heart also surfaced during the opening ceremony, with both Bill Shorten and Bill Papastergiadis calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The GOCMV also announced in three weeks it will house replicas of the Parthenon Marbles in the new Cultural Centre, hoping to give the injustice more publicity and inform everyone that enters the centre of the ongoing situation.
Away from the politics, the festival’s headline act, Dimitris Basis performed to a rapturous crowd. Knowing his audience, he performed a lot of Greek favourites, devoting at least half of his set to the best Greek musical works of the last century.
Throughout the two days, hundreds of local Greek Australians took to the stage, performing musical numbers and traditional dances. There was even a traditional Pontian wedding dance performed to a curious crowd.
While may kept to the stage area, the biggest crowds gathered at the food stalls, with lines snaking down the length of Lonsdale Street for much of the two days.