When Peter Clements, mayor of Australia’s second largest island, Kangaroo Island, visited Mytilene last summer for the 14th Islands of the World International Conference, he was taken aback by the hospitality and the genuine way in which he was welcomed by the Greeks.
“The conference held at Mytilene last year, although organised under challenging conditions both economically and politically, was a remarkable experience. It’s no wonder Australia has always got on well with our friends from Greece. They are so affable and easy to get along with,” says KI’s mayor, who during his stay on the picturesque island had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Spiros Galinos, as well as a plethora of academics and islanders.
“Over a million refugees have poured through Mytilene from Turkey in the past years, many of whom were still on the island being looked after by the Greeks. I don’t mean to be political, but Australia needs to take a lesson from Greece in humanity. The Greeks, even during their country’s worst economic downturn in history, still have time to assist refugees in finding a home and look after their welfare.
“I take my hat off to these wonderful islanders, because although it was pretty obvious that the state of the economy was not good during our visit, such a thing was not reflected in people’s attitude,” says Clements in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
Unsurprisingly, the refugee crisis was one of the discussion points during his meeting with the mayor of Mytilene, together with the global economy and the tourism industry.
“I met with him and I must admit that he made my work here on Kangaroo Island look like a walk in the park. I was very encouraged by his strength of character and purpose.”
According to Clements, the 15th Islands of the World International Conference (International Small Islands Studies Association, ISISA) will be held on Kangaroo Island in South Australia between 2 and 7 July 2017.
The theme for next year’s conference will be ‘Small Island Communities, Models for Global Survival’.
“It is a multi-disciplinary conference that will explore how small island communities can contribute to global survival through empowering communities for peace and productivity, preparing people for the world of tomorrow, nurturing the human spirit, protecting nature, feeding the world and developing solutions for self-sufficiency.
“It will be a conference of academic excellence that offers participants the opportunity to be connected with and be immersed in an island community and its environment, and we are sincerely hoping that other people from the Greek islands will join us as academic providers of information and as observers.”
Clements says that during last year’s conference, which was hosted by the academic staff of the Mytilene campus of the University of the Aegean, it became most obvious to all attendees that the Greek professionals’ and academic’s knowledge, history and experience could be extremely vital and quintessential for what it can offer to the rest of the world. Therefore, he is desperately trying to raise funds for scholarships to bring people to Australia, and he is aiming to get two professors, Ioannis Spilanis and Thanasis Kizos, from Mytilene to attend, as well as two postgraduate students.
“Although it is difficult in these times to raise sufficient funds, it would be great if some of our well-known Adelaide Greek businessmen could assist us with some funding, therefore we are now appealing to the Greek community in Australia to come to the rescue,” says the mayor.
“Australia has a long way to go in its humanitarian approach to the rest of the world and I would like to think that Kangaroo Island could open its arms to people who are less fortunate in these global circumstances. We have a very healthy and growing economy on the island, with possibly one of the world’s most liveable communities, but we already have accommodation and labour shortages which are expected to increase significantly over the next few years as we deal with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new projects,” he said.
“The island needs more people.”
For more information please contact Kangaroo Island Council on (08) 8553 4500 or visit the council’s website at www.kangarooisland.sa.gov.au