Greek Community of Melbourne notes financial loss at AGM, but sees value in spending


By Mary Sinanidis

The Greek Community of Melbourne’s (GCM) recent Annual General Meeting (AGM), held at Alphington Grammar on Sunday, February 18, painted a complex picture, revealing a significant financial loss but ambitious plans for the future. 

During the constructive meeting, GCM President Bill Papastergiadis delivered a detailed report on the organisation’s activities in the past year, including a focus on the new community hub at Russell Street, and the GCM’s creation of a subcommittee which works closely with NUGAS to engage more constructively with Greek youth in Melbourne.

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
The Annual General Meeting. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Members of the Greek Community of Melbourne attended the AGM at Alphington Grammar.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
There were many absences at this years AGM.

Professor Marinis Pirpiris, GCM Treasurer, emphasised the organisation’s strong liquidity despite a $2.9 million loss – following a $12,864,697 profit the previous year.

This loss stemmed primarily from hosting two Antipodes festivals (October 2022 and February 2023) and numerous cultural programs. While acknowledging other expenses like payroll, security, and educational programs, Professor Pirpiris defended the festivals’ importance in the community’s identity. 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
L-R: PwC partner and auditor George Sagonas, accountant Manuel Tsimiris, Dr Marinis Pirpiris, Nikos Koukouvitakis, Bill Papastergiadis and Nick Dallas.

“When you ask any person outside this room, ‘What is the Greek community?’ some of them may say education, some may say cultural offerings, including those who are academics,” Professor Pirpiris said.

“But most of them, including our politicians, will say it’s the cultural festival we hold every year. It is very important for our identity. Not only for the Community but for all our organisations. And that is where a lot of our investment has gone.” 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Many people attended this year’s AGM.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
The AGM.

That investment into the festival comes at a year when educational offerings faced a $945,000 shortfall, churches lost $350,000, and the Greek Film Festival noted a $5,000 loss.

Professor Pirpiris did point to the GCM’s assets, including the Greek Centre, Alphington Grammar School and churches valued over $110 million and another $1,378,749 sitting in cash with combined liabilities at $806,779.

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Food for Thought Network President Varvara Ioannou and Food for Thought Network Board Member Christina Roma.

Educational offerings

The educational losses were attributed to COVID-19 and the modernisation of the curriculum to attract and retain experienced educators. 

“The Board’s investment will provide our students with a language and cultural experience that is innovative, exciting, and inspiring,” Professor Pirpiris said, adding that there is hope that enrolments may rise again.

Varvara Ioannou, President of the Food for Thought Network, told The Greek Herald she particularly admired the creative approach the Community was taking in teaching Greek language to children through sports. She praised the establishment of the inaugural women’s soccer team.

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Food for Thought Network President Varvara Ioannou and Food for Thought Network Board Member Christina Roma.

“There is much to celebrate and cherish!” she said. 

“Looking ahead, I envision the Antipodes Festival extending throughout the year to involve more local groups. Additionally, I advocate for greater representation of and active participation of women on the board and the implementation of inclusive reverse mentoring programs.” 

She also pointed to the Community’s informative lecture series with 40 lectures of the highest calibre organised by Nick Dallas. Historian Christos Fifis complained that these are not well attended. 

“There aren’t many people there and the average age of those present are 45,” he said. 

Mr Fifis also requested the reasoning behind the purchase of the Russell Street space

“In my opinion, it was not needed. It doesn’t offer anything. If it is sold, we can create a hall in Alphington or St George or St Dimitrios or Brunswick,” he said. “This would be more useful than in the centre when we already have a building of 13 storeys.” 

Mr Papastergiadis focused on the benefits of the Russell Street presence in the heart of the city to house the GCM’s archive, events, presentations and even a conference hall and community book selling. 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Michalis Michael asks a question.

Constitutional concerns:

As the AGM continued, a number of members also raised issues around the GCM’s recent proposal to make changes to its Constitution.

Mr Papastergiadis eased members concerns by confirming that following a robust consultation process, the Community only received six submissions on the proposed constitutional changes. These submissions have been delivered to the GCM’s lawyers and an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) is expected to be held in approximately three months with a draft Constitution that will take these submissions into account.

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Theo Markos asked a question at the AGM.

Savvas Grigoropoulos told The Greek Herald he would like to see a constitutional change to protect the independence of the Community. 

“I’d like to see a legal motion to prevent any other organisation meddle in the affairs of the Community by adding a requirement of 95 per cent approval of all members before this could happen. That would be one way to protect the sovereignty of the Community from either the Archdiocese or any other organisation,” he said. 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
GCM General Secretary Nikos Koukouvitakis, GCM President Bill Papastergiadis, and Convenor of the GCM Education Program Nick Dallas.

Mr Fifis congratulated the board for their meetings with heads of state like Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, “but what is happening with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) office that had been promised to operate in Melbourne.” 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Christos Fifis says you can’t keep blaming COVID 19 for shortfalls.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Christos Fifis.

Mr Papastergiadis said, “As you know things in our home country don’t move at the speed they should.” He gave assurances that pressure had been exerted, officials had agreed, and an announcement will be made over the next month. 

Motion withdrawn

Kostas Karamarkos withdrew his proposal to name the library of the Greek Cultural Centre “Andreas Papandreou Library” following a counter-motion by Antonis Paschos and Dimitris Matheas that it be named the “Andreas Papandreou-Mikis Theodorakis Library.”

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Kostas Karamarkos put forward a motion.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Kostas Karamarkos peruses the GCM Annual report with Michaelis Michael.

“In the name of inclusion and consensus, I withdrew my motion to honour just Andreas Papandreou. This defeated motion was supported by 24 members and opposed by 28,” he said.

Mr Karamarkos told The Greek Herald that the resolution was “too close” to call. 

Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Juliana Charpantidou signs in Maria Bakalidou, Principal of the Greek Orthodox Community Schools of Melbourne and Victoria.
Greek Community of Melbourne AGM
Alphington Grammar Principal Vivianne Nikou.

“Ideally, it should have gone down to a proper vote, but when they dare oppose the history of their own organisation and dare to vote against the person who saved the Community and against Mikis Theodorakis, what can you say? Nonetheless, I accept the process and the outcome,” he said. 

Opponents to the motion cited that they didn’t want to choose a political name and others also pointed to alternative options from within the Greek Australian community.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.




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