On the eve of OXI (No) Day, the Hellenic Australian Lawyers (HAL) held their annual Oration in Adelaide to commemorate the life and contribution of the late Honourable Justice John William Perry - who was the first Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia with a Hellenic background.
The Oration focused on the crucial topic “Unification of Greek Communities and its Importance to Maintaining Hellenism in Australia for Future Generations”.
Bill Papastergiadis delivered it, OAM - Melbourne Managing Partner at Moray & Agnew and the Greek Community of Melbourne & Victoria President.
Bill spoke to his personal insights and with profound optimism for the future of Hellenism in Australia, drawing on the experiences, successes and practical initiatives of the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria.
He emphasised that numerous organisations in Melbourne pay an essential role in the broad successes and that the Greek Community of Melbourne is just one part of this rich cultural matrix.
Dealing specifically with the Greek Community of Melbourne, Bill referred to the expansion of educational initiatives, exchanges and programs encouraging Greek language and culture through all levels of schooling and higher education; the promotion of cultural celebrations and identity, including the recent Antipodes festival held in the Melbourne CBD and the Parthenon marbles replica; investment in community infrastructure programs and the importance of developing relationships and agreements with State, Federal and Hellenic Governments, which has paved the way for outcomes such as the bilateral tourist working visa agreement and the negotiations on the double taxation agreement.
Bill argues that the Greek diaspora has a critical role in ensuring the relevance of the community for future generations and that this can only be done by a mindset focused on progress and action:
“These activities allow [us] to build connections [and] demonstrates our commitment to engaging with others and addressing issues that are relevant to our internal and wider community interests…Developing trust and demonstrating relevance to this new generation will be vital to our survival”.
In attendance at the Oration was the Deputy Minister of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic, the Hon. Nikolaos Chardalias, and Vice Admiral Efthymios Mikros, with the express consent of Her Excellency Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of the Hellenic Republic, accompanied by the Presidential Guard of the Hellenic Republic.
This not only re-enforced the recognition by the Hellenic Republic of the diaspora’s importance to the story of Greece but also served as a reminder that despite our distance to the homeland, Greeks worldwide are united in the Hellenic spirit – the spirit which is celebrated each OXI (No) day.
As Bill emphasised, Greece’s continued dialogue with the diaspora, from the high levels of the Hellenic government to the local community support, is key to cultural survival:
“The idea of the homeland in the diaspora has changed with the passing of generations. The prevailing attitude is no longer nostalgic, filled with a melancholy [or a] sense of loss, but rather, there is now a growing sense of vitality and energy that comes from the diaspora. An energy that needs to be tapped into…Greece must continue to open itself to the rest of the world …[and] adopt a pluralistic and multicultural view of itself which is one of the key benefits and learnings we [have] gained living in the diaspora.”
Reflecting on the event, HAL Co-Chair Peter Tantalos stated:
“Through events such as these, and with leaders like Bill Papastergiadis championing Hellenism and charting the path forward, we can ensure that the Greek diaspora maintain their cultural spirit and actively engage with their communities to ensure the preservation of Hellenism for future generations.”
*The Hellenic Australian Lawyers (HAL) is the peak representative body of Hellenic Lawyers in Australia and provides opportunities for Hellenes and philhellenes to engage in a professional environment that celebrates Hellenic ideals, philosophy, law, and culture, while also advancing cultural harmony and diversity in the Australian legal profession.
The Honourable Tom Koutsantonis MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Energy and Mining representing The Honourable Peter Malinauskas MP, Premier of South Australia.
Mr George Psiachas, The Consul General of Greece for Adelaide
Photos Copyright Nick Bourdaniotis / Bourdo Photography