Over the past nine years with president Bill Papastergiadis at the helm, the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) has significantly evolved and developed to become a driving force in the celebration and maintenance of the Greek diaspora in Melbourne.

Since the unveiling of the Greek Centre of Contemporary Culture in 2014 in the original Greek hub of Lonsdale Street, it has become a bustling venue bringing Greeks and philhellenes in touch with the Greek language through engaging classes, and it also hosts events year round, many of which are free to attend.

With a new year kicking off, the community is well prepared and excited to commence another year with the impending 31st Lonsdale Street Greek Festival running over two days in February and the anticipated opening of the centre’s dedicated gallery space not far behind.

“When we first set up our building we proposed to dedicate a number of levels to culture and education for our parikia, and not only Greeks but all Australians. So one of the levels is going to be a dedicated gallery space,” Mr Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos.

“One section will deal with the history of the Greek Community of Melbourne and another part will have revolving exhibitions, both local and international.”

A dedicated curator is working on a number of exhibitions and programs involving up-and-coming artists, which the president expects will be “an amazing opportunity to showcase the extraordinary talents of Greek Australians but also of Greeks globally”.

The centre will further build on its offering to the community with a library. The GCM has entered into an agreement with the National Library of Greece – the first the library has made with an external body.

Boasting an impressive catalogue of material that has been digitised, including original copies of the bible, it will be made available via screen to members and students of the GCM, and the general public.

“We’re talking about, arguably, some of the richest work globally, particularly from the Classical period,” said Mr Papastergiadis.

The library will also house physical books providing a platform to showcase authors from the global Greek disapora.

With the GCM having a history of offering intergenerational support services, this year they are taking it one step further by offering a club space for first-generation Greek Australians to meet, have discussions, and play games. The first club to gain access is Argos Orestikon following their impressive $1 million donation to the GCM in 2017, and the opportunity to use the amenities will also be made available to other clubs who offer significant support.

“What we are doing is simply a continuation of the hard work and effort of the first generation. It’s important to recognise the contribution they made to our community structure and also to our lives and I think this is a fitting tribute,” said the community president.

These are just a few in a long line of plans the GCM has in store for the community over the next 12 months, including a series of seminars, festivals, conferences, and physical expansions with three schools due to open in emerging suburbs, and the expansion and refurbishment of Alphington Grammar School.

Meanwhile, acknowledging the change in demographics with recently arrived migrants from Greece, Mr Papastergiadis said the GCM is also working on programs for greater inclusion.

“We have never been more collaborative or more open to working relationships between different community groups and I think this is going to deliver excellent results,” he said.

“You need to evolve and you need to be innovative – that’s the only way that you’re going to attract new members and be relevant in our society, and I think the GCM has demonstrated that it has been prepared to continually reinvent itself and meet the needs of our community.”