Greek Community of Melbourne members discuss Constitutional reform proposals at meeting

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On Sunday, June 2, the Greek Centre buzzed with debate as just under 30 people gathered to discuss the Greek Community of Melbourne’s (GCM) planned Constitutional reforms. Former GCM Secretary Costas Markos took attendees on a historical journey, revealing how the constitution has mirrored the Greek community’s evolution.

From a religious-focused association open only to Greek Orthodox men to a body representing Melbourne’s thriving Greek community, the need to modernise is clear.

GCM Board Member Costas Stefanidis said the current Board had allowed a period of five months for members to make submissions on the Constitutional reforms. Only six submissions were made. All submissions were sent to legal counsel for review before the GCM Board discusses the amended draft constitution on Thursday, June 13.

GCM Board Member Costas Stefanidis takes the floor. Seated in front of him are Kostas Karamarkos, Vasso Zangalis and Theo Markos.
GCM Board Member Costas Stefanidis takes the floor. Seated in front of him are Kostas Karamarkos, Vasso Zangalis and Theo Markos. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.

Following this, a draft constitution will be sent to all members. They will then have an opportunity to ask questions of Piper Alderman, the legal team, marking the conclusion of a lengthy process.

The decision to implement reforms was made during the Annual General Meeting in February 2023, followed by a call for submissions from July 2023 to the end of October 2023 (following an extension from September).

Last year, as part of the process, emails were sent to members. A Greek translation of the Constitution and English version compiled from several existing versions were made available on the GCM’s website. Copies were also mailed to members along with a notice to review the documents.

Submissions laid out for people to peruse
Submissions laid out for people to peruse.
Eleni Stamenidis, Rita and Anna Manessis came wearing their keffiyehs following a pro-Palestinian rally. “We are not members, but thought it would be a great way to reach out to the community at this even
Eleni Stamenidis, Rita and Anna Manessis came wearing their keffiyehs following a pro-Palestinian rally. “We are not members, but thought it would be a great way to reach out to the community at this event.”

A message from the GCM sent to The Greek Herald states that, as part of the engagement process, members were also invited to meet the Board of the GCM to discuss the Constitution before making submissions. Only one member took up the offer.

To further inform members, GCM newsletters on April 26 and May 31 provided updates regarding the process and upcoming consultations, including a meeting with lawyers present and an Extraordinary General Meeting to follow.

A lady reads the Community's Constitution
A lady reads the Community’s Constitution

Theo Markos, one of the organisers of Sunday’s meeting, said the objective was to encourage dialogue. Following an interesting historical presentation of the GCM’s constitutional history, attendees were invited to propose reforms. Suggestions included introducing a 50 per cent quota for women on the board and using gender-neutral language. Other suggestions included recognising First Nations people in the preamble, exploring a complete rewrite of the constitution, removing religious elements, limiting board member terms of office, declaring conflicts of interest, and introducing a life membership category.

Costas Markos gave a fascinating account of the history of the Community's Constitution.
Costas Markos gave a fascinating account of the history of the Community’s Constitution.

Though some suggestions were included in submissions already made, any additional items may have come too late.

Dr Michalis Michael, who had submitted his reform proposal within the deadline, said he would welcome a constitutional working group to ensure a unified document circulates that combines proposals.

Michalis Michailidis reading through his notes.
Dr Michalis Michael reading through his notes.
Michael Michailidis and Theo Markos share thoughts about how the review should take place.
Dr Michalis Michael and Theo Markos share thoughts about how the review should take place.

A message from the GCM Board advises The Greek Herald that it has been committed to a process that provided more than ample time to make submissions and allow its members to confer with it. All submissions were sent to their legal team.

Theo Markos
Theo Markos

At the open meeting on Sunday, Theo Markos said he was pleased there would be an opportunity for people to meet with the legal team to ask questions. From there, 75 per cent of members would need to vote for the reforms to pass.

He said that for something to change, “we need consensus and to sit together at the table.” He told The Greek Herald he was happy with the turnout at the open meeting and was pleased to see some new faces.

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