Embracing change with women in charge: The rise of next-gen Greek community leaders

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By Mary Sinanidis.

Concerns among older diasporans about the potential abandonment of their clubs as their generation diminishes are unfounded. All they need to do is give space to a vibrant young generation that is actively engaged in preserving their heritage while injecting a fresh perspective into community events.

Angelica Spiliopoulos-Angsiting, new president of Pallaconian Youth in Victoria, emphasises, “You’ve got to move with the times.”  

As the first female leader of Pallaconian Youth, she introduces other young leaders like Joanna Angeletos, launching the Lemnian Youth Club this year, Argyro Pollakis who is planning the Kefalonian club, and Eleni Tzimas, rekindling Papaflessas Youth. They are all there to support Angelica at the Pallaconian’s arts and culture night.

A photo of these empowered young Greek women reviving and leading clubs is a refreshing sight. Challenging the still male-dominated landscape of older generations in club factions, the younger generation is eager to reshape the status quo and infuse events with a contemporary twist.

Amid sculptures and photographs, Angelica notes that young people are exploring new avenues to express their identity. While she says she respects the legacy of the “rigid and structured” approach of early immigrants, she believes in allowing today’s youth the freedom to explore. This approach played a crucial role in reviving the Pallaconian Club when it lay dormant from 2015 to 2017.

The GCM dance troupe entertained guests with an interactive performance. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.
The GCM dance troupe entertained guests with an interactive performance at the Pallaconian Youth’s arts and culture night. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.

Inspired by the success of Pallaconian Youth’s arts and culture night, Eleni envisions similar events for Papaflessas Youth, including meet-and-greets, dances and school holiday programs. The future teacher emphasises the importance of drawing young people through initiatives like the creation of her committee’s Instagram page.

Joanna shares her journey of reviving the Lemnian Youth Club, spurred by her father’s involvement in the Lemnian committee in 2011. She would ask her father whether there would be any more Lemnian events, but people seemed to have grown apart. She took matters into her own hands when she taught at a Greek school and met another teacher of Lemnian descent.

 “We started talking about a youth club which hasn’t operated for 20 years, though there were unsuccessful efforts made to start it up again six years ago,” Joanna says.

“Our panigiri last Sunday was a huge success because it was like a panigiri you’d find at any village in summer with traditional food and dancing. My village is Romanos and I went to a panigiri there and we tried to emulate this.”

Argyro looks at the other three and knows she has her work cut out for her.

“I’m still at the early stages of my journey of starting a Kefalonian community for youth,” she says.

“I came to Australia from Kefalonia in 2016, and I am one of many new arrivals who want to feel closer to our homeland and more at home here. We want to express our culture and traditions and share these with the world.”

The next generation is different to the first wave of mainly uneducated migrants, unable to speak English, working in factories and needing clubs to socialise and survive.

To move with the times and cater to new challenges, a different approach is needed, but the enduring elements of Greek events – dancing, good food and bouzouki – remain constants. And that’s something all generations can agree on and continue to enjoy!

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