TGH Exclusive: Multiculturalism Minister Geoff Lee thankful for Greek community’s response to restrictions

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Greeks have played an active role in the diversification of Australia’s multicultural community, with 422,234 people in Australia being of Greek origin, according to the 2016 census.

The Multicultural Ministry in NSW have been the guiding force for communicating Australia’s response to COVID-19 to the various international communities.

Acting Minister for Multiculturalism Geoff Lee spoke exclusively with The Greek Herald, revealing how imperative the actions of NSW Multiculturalism have been for the Greek community in NSW.

“COVID-19 has been a time where we have worked very closely with the multicultural communities, especially the non-English speaking communities, to relay the importance of social distancing health orders, so we don’t see the spread of COVID-19 throughout our communities,” Geoff Lee says to The Greek Herald.

“I think multicultural NSW has done a really good job in terms of being able to translate information to get it out there to all of the communities, or as many as you can.”

Photo: Supplied

The Multiculturalism Minister was especially thankful for His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of the Greek Orthodox Church for being understanding during the COVID-19.  

He said that although it was a tough decision, the Greek community’s reaction was “fantastic”, saying they “understood the problem”.

“The biggest problem now, which I would reflect to the Archbishop and other religious leaders, is complacency,” Geoff Lee says.

“COVID-19 is still in our community and if we don’t remain cautious, we have the potential to happen here, what has happened in Melbourne. That’s the last thing you want.

READ MORE: Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP sends Easter message for Greek Orthodox Australians

“Our churches are open, our communities are back together, our sports are playing, but it can happen to us just as it happened in Melbourne.”

Minister Lee was appointed as the Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans on 17 September 2019. As the voice to all multicultural communities in NSW, Minister Lee is humbled at the immense progress that has been made in Australia’s history with accepting all communities.

“I think NSW is an example to the rest of the world of what a society can be, where we have so many people from around the world come to Australia, to call Australia home,” Minister Lee says.

READ MORE: NSW Government announces $6 million in funding to support migrants and temporary visa holders

“I think multiculturalism is unique in NSW and Australia because we’re an example to the rest of the world how we can all have different heritages but still come together as Australians.”

Being the first person of Chinese heritage to be elected in the Lower House in NSW, Minister Lee says it’s an honour to represent the greater community.

“When I was at school, I was only the second kid that was Chinese in my school at Castle Hill. Now 25% of the kids would be Chinese.

“So it’s becoming no longer an issue, it’s becoming an acceptance”.

As the acting Minister for Multiculturalism, Geoff Lee has provided the multicultural communities in NSW with essential funding boosts, namely for migrants and temporary visa holders.

On June 4, the NSW Government announced a COVID-19 Community Support Grant program, which provides multicultural community organisations with immediate assistance for basic necessities like food, transport and language support for vulnerable people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and measures to control its spread have presented significant challenges to our multicultural communities,” Mr Lee upon the announcement of the grant.

“The NSW Government will provide urgent support to communities in crisis through this quick response grants program.”

The grant allocated $500,000 of the approved $6 million of funding given to the NSW Government to go directly to communities most affected by COVID-19. This includes the Greek Welfare Centre, Greek Orthodox Community of NSW and St Nectarios, Burwood.

“The NSW Government is determined to ensure we support our most vulnerable by providing funding for essentials like food and medicine,” Mr Lee said.

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