Photos and report by Mary Sinanidis.
A few years ago, the Pallaconian Youth Club was languishing, much like several other Greek clubs, witnessing the younger generation getting absorbed in mainstream culture and losing interest.
However, on Saturday, December 2, those concerns became a distant memory as the club buzzed with vibrant energy during an Arts & Culture night.
Newly elected Pallaconian Youth President Angelica Spiliopoulos-Angsiting expressed her perspective on the challenges of attracting youth to the club. She emphasised the need for a fresh approach.
“We should create a new space, and not necessary follow the same rigid and structured methods,” she noted.
Angelica, a member of NUGAS and head of La Trobe University’s Greek Club, where she studies social work, is well-connected with other young Greeks who share her passion for their heritage.
“You have to move with the times and consider the diverse intersectional identity that the younger diaspora embodies,” she added.
Helen Angsiting, Angelica’s mother, supports her daughter’s commitment to Greek events, humorously acknowledging that Angelica did not get this dedication from her.
“I avoided Greek events when I was Angelica’s age. Perhaps she’s acting in the opposite way as a form of rebellion,” she jokes.
Former Pallaconian Youth president Miltiadis Paikopoulos expressed confidence in Angelika’s leadership.
“For four years I wanted to see who the next person to succeed me would be. Angelica is very switched on and she’ll be able to bring more of the new generation to the club as people age out,” Miltiadis said.
Angelica highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Pallaconian committees.
“Our main president is in the kitchen right now,” she says walking me to the kitchen where Pallaconian President Chris Paikopoulos, Miltiadis’ uncle, is cooking up a storm.
“Get out of my kitchen,” he yelled at us like Chef Ramsey on heat. The food looks great, but no pictures please.
Out of the kitchen, attendees glide among an array of artworks by Marie Petridis, Stephanie Dellaportas, Thanos Matanis, Hristina Tsingas and Olga Antoniadis.
Serres-born Hristina, a psychology student, started her line drawings as a form of mindfulness during lockdown. Pontian Olga is inspired by the divine feminine form, whereas art teacher Marie, whose heritage is from Crete and Laconia, is inspired by the Greek islands.
The club, which was started in 1961 for immigrants from Laconia, is now all-encompassing and embracing of all youth.
Greek-Australian Cultural League (GACL) President Cathy Alexopoulos is present to scout for local talent.
“I’ve encouraged a few of the artists to submit works for the Antipodean Palette,” she confided.
Panarcadian Club President George Kotsirilos and Vice President Betty Dimitropoulos are also present.
“We don’t have a youth club,” Betty said.
“We are the young ones,” George joked.
Betty said, “We shouldn’t force it. I only came back to being part of a Greek club later on in life.”
Pallaconian Youth Club member Katerina Tsarouhas recited a poem underlying the significance of preserving Greek language by Laconian Poet Nikiforos Vrettakos.
“I chose this poem because keeping the Greek culture and language is important to me. I’ve noticed it is dying out,” she said.
Her brother, Chris, showcased his musical talents with the bouzouki, while Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) dancers kept guests entertained with four lively dances, including two interactive festive carnival dances.
The organic preservation of culture was palpable, momentarily transporting attendees from Australia to the heart of Greek traditions.