Almost one month later, Melbourne celebrates Greek National Day with parade

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By Mary Sinanidis

Thousands of Greek Australians gathered at South Melbourne FC‘s Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park on Sunday, April 14, for the annual parade commemorating Greek Independence Day, officially celebrated on March 25. The parade was delayed due to the hosting of the Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in late March. 

Despite the date change, the participation of over 70 organisations, including schools, cultural groups, and community representatives, kept the spirit of the revolution alive. Students, dressed in traditional costumes or blue and white attire, proudly waved their flags and marched alongside their families.

Melbourne Greek Independence Day parad
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parad
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade

Maria Trantafyllou, a mother of two VSL students from Noble Park, said, “The children should know our customs and traditions. If we don’t keep these, they would be lost.” 

Her eldest daughter, Theodora, 12, admitted her participation depends on how early she must get up.

Like the previous year, lawyer/author/columnist Konstantinos Kalymnios recited the Oath of the Greek Revolution to begin the parade. It concluded with Cypriot organisations’ entry, commemorating the 50th year since the Turkish invasion of the island.

High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in Australia Antonis Sammoutis highlighted the ongoing struggle for Cypriot independence, telling The Greek Herald the continued occupation of Cyprus “is a stark reminder that the struggle for independence and dignity is never over. It goes on.”

Theo Theophanous, President of the Cypriot Community of Melbourne, emphasised the historical ties between Greece and Cyprus and their shared fight for freedom. 

“It is a little-known fact that Greek Cypriots fought alongside other Greeks during the War of Independence in 1921, and 580 lost their lives. We honour and remember them. But more than that, the struggle by Cyprus to once again be a free united country is also a struggle for Hellenism,” he told The Greek Herald

“On Greek National Day we stand with Greece and remember those who sacrificed but also to highlight our solidarity and demand freedom and justice for Cyprus and support for Greece.”

Both Theophanous and Sammoutis urge Greeks to stand with the Cypriot Communities and SEKA at Cyprus anniversary events planned in July. 

Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade

Asimina Skondra, conservative New Democracy party member of the Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad, admired the “spirit” of Greek Melburnians. 

“May Greek Australians continue to keep the spirit of the Greek Revolution and Hellenism in their soul,” she told The Greek Herald, adding that her experiences over the last few days have been “meaningful.” 

“Something that has made an impression on me at this parade is that apart from the children that we are used to seeing, there are older people with infants or wearing national costumes. That has moved me.”

Along with the former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Constantinos Vlasis, Ms Skondra is on this visit with socialist PASOK-KINAL Evangelia Liakousi and radical left wing SYRIZA party member Theodora Tzakri, President and Vice President of the Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad. 

Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade

Greek Consul General to Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, welcomed the delegation from the Hellenic Parliament.

“I feel obliged to welcome and thank the Hellenic Parliament for not only sending a Greek delegation but sending a delegation of various political parties, which is significant,” he said.

Mr Kakavelakis urged Greek Australians to register and vote in the next elections, whilst standing beside a banner on the postal vote.

“We did not create the revolution to become Greeks, we always were. What we succeeded was to create a Greek state and to become Greek citizens. And citizens are defined by their votes,” he said.

Beyond voting, community groups are also making efforts to build connections with Greece. Andrew Markakis, President of the 450-membered Victorian Hellenic Police Association (VHPA), told The Greek Herald that negotiations are underway to bring policemen from Greece to next year’s parade. Father Chris Dimolianos, a chaplain with Victoria Police, spoke about the importance of his role in supporting officers and their families.

Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Melbourne Greek Independence Day parade
Visiting guests from Greece.

Organisers hope to further engage young people in future celebrations. Angelica Spiliopoulos-Angsiting, Youth President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, pointed to more than 15 university students “devoting their time on a Sunday” to participate in the march. She marched with both the Brotherhood and NUGAS. 

“Youth know that without the epanastasi (revolution) we wouldn’t be here to enjoy what we do,” she said. “We are privileged to be here to celebrate our freedom, and this is in our attitude.” 

Following the parade, the crowd enjoyed lively conversations and grandparents and parents left the stadium’s stands to swoop to their children. Speeches were drowned out a little with post-parade chatter. Words like “freedom,” “contribution,” and “struggle” reverberated through the words of Liberal party member David Davis, Labor politicians Nick Staikos, Kath Theophanous and President Tony Tsourdalakis of the Victorian Council for the Greek National Day.

The event concluded with the singing of the Greek and Australian national anthems.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.

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