Over 70 representatives of Greek organisations across Victoria gathered to take part in a meeting organised by the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) on Wednesday to discuss their future plans and those of the wider Greek community.

Hosted at the Greek Centre, issues high on the agenda were development plans for Bulleen and a new Cultural Centre, which amongst other things includes an exhibition space dedicated to the archives of Greek organisations.

Meanwhile other important initiatives included the creation of a Club of Organisations on the third floor of the GCM, the establishment of a Greek Diaspora Department at Melbourne University, and providing GCM membership to Greek community organisations.

GCM President Bill Papastergiadis kicked off the meeting with a warm welcome, during which he stressed that joint planning and action is the way forward.

“We are at the crossroads as a community. Much of the hard work undertaken by many of the community groups in Victoria needs to be acknowledged but at the same time a more collective approach towards the greater good has to be put in place,” he said.

“The unity that we have seen amongst all of our community groups in recent years now needs to be actioned. In that regard, we have a number of proposals which we believe all of the community groups should participate in which will produce results for the greater good.”

The president emphasised the intention that all Greek community groups in Melbourne continue to exist, and that the proposals on the table would enable these organisations to continue to flourish, one of which is the Bulleen project which will be a hub for all groups.

“We will have telephone line access for each community group, provision of mail out for their membership lists along with production and facilitation of any meetings they require,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

Aside from the $15m investment into building the centre, the GCM has been developing educational programs and activities with the collaboration of the Greek Ministry for Education, promoting Greek culture through festival events, and is continuing to invest in services and facilities.

This so far includes renovations to the foyer, the installation of audiovisual systems, along with the transfer of GCM offices to the 12th floor, moving the library from the Consulate General to the Greek Centre, and the creation of the club of organisations on the third floor, much of which has been made possible thanks to the donation by the Association of Argos Orestiko.

“Argos Orestiko will be able to use Level 3 and the facilities of the Greek Centre along with other organisations,” said GCM General Secretary Kostas Markos.

“We hope that the historic donation of Argos Orestiko will be followed by other community organisations.”

The sentiment was shared by GCM benefactor Haris Patras, who said the donation lends to his vision for a “united Greek voice” in the Greek community.

To assist in this endeavour, President of the Thessaloniki Association Pavlos Mavroudis reiterated his proposal that all organisations to change their constitutions accordingly in order to become GCM members and transfer their property to the GCM in the instance that they cease operating.

“Now we have a great opportunity to join the GCM and to assist the realisation of its vision for the future. All together we can do it,” he said.

Also in attendance was Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Christina Simantirakis, who in a short greeting praised the initiatives and the creative efforts of the GCM.

The meeting gave representatives the chance to respond to the proposals of the collective approach, with the general sentiment being one of optimism for the future further demonstrated by representatives of the Zakinthos Philanhtopic Society, Simeon Zougras and Vassilis Vithoulkas, who presented a cheque for $5,000 towards the centre’s efforts.

“Our point now is not to see your hard work lost, but to recognise your achievements and see you [all] continue to operate,” said Mr Papastergiadis.

“Our goal is to create a powerful and effective community; a community that can protect and promote our national and cultural interests. That is why we are asking for your co-operation.”