A new working holiday visa agreement that has been in the pipeline for almost six years between Greece and Australia has received approval this week by the Greek government.
The agreement is part of an initiative that has been championed by a committee formed by the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) and other Greek community organisations in 2011.
“Three years ago Olga Kefalogianni (Greece’s former Minister of Tourism) came to Australia to sign the documents but it’s taken three years to make its way through parliament,” GCM President Bill Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos.
“It is a good result for both countries because at the end of the day our countries share a rich history and this agreement will strengthen ties between both countries.”
The Working Visa Agreement was set in motion with the assistance of former Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, and grants all young Greek and Australian nationals aged up to 31 years the opportunity to work in the two respective countries for up to 12 months.
At this stage it is limited to 500 people from either country with the prospect of increasing the number of visas issued in future.
The approval comes just weeks after Greece’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Terence Quick paid a visit to Australia, which the GCM sees as no coincidence. Mr Papastergiadis said the GCM had once again taken the opportunity to discuss the matter in depth with the minister, and praised his swift action.
“I think Mr Quick had taken the issue on board, and he’s been proactive about making it happen. He’s a minister who shows particular affection towards Australia and is highly responsive; we’re really impressed with his can-do approach. A lot of this has to do with the action and activity of Mr Quick,” said Mr Papastergiadis. Currently in Greece, he added that the general sentiment in moving forward is one of optimism.
“They’re happy about it and they really want to push ahead with it as there was a lot of political will for it to happen and it’s something that both governments want. [Minister of Foreign Affairs]Julie Bishop had mentioned this when she met with Terence Quick recently in Australia; in fact it was the first thing she raised with him,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to enhance their cultural and social awareness in the two countries.”