Sydneysiders enjoy traditional Greek paniyiri on Australia Day

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Despite the extreme heat, Sydneysiders flocked to the inner-west suburb of Marrickville on Australia Day for a traditional Greek paniyiri.

The free paniyiri was held at the Addison Road Community Centre from 11am and was organised by the Greek Festival of Sydney and the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales (GOCNSW).

On the day, festival attendees gathered around tables and chairs in the shade to escape the heat, as they enjoyed free live music and Greek food such as lamb on the spit and loukoumades.

There were also plenty of activities for the kids with a KindiFarm and painting.

One attendee from Afghanistan, Marwa Moeen, told The Greek Herald on the day she arrived in Australia 16 months ago and she was really excited to enjoy Greek music and try Greek food for the first time.

“I’m enjoying this. Look at the musicians, the people… wow I love it. It’s my first time seeing this event and I recommend people to come every year and celebrate this beautiful day with beautiful people,” Marwa said.

Dennis Miralis and his family were also enjoying the tender lamb on the spit when The Greek Herald asked them how they were enjoying the paniyiri.

“My parents used to bring us here back when we were young in the 70s and my kids are also very heavily involved in the Greek community and Greek theatre, so it was an opportunity to bring them to a piece of Greek Australia that was very similar to when we were growing up,” Dennis said.

“It’s very family orientated, the music’s very enjoyable, very impressed with the lamb souvla – it’s not often you see lamb on the spit in public places in Sydney anymore. So it’s great.”

Besides the mingling and Greek music, there were also a number of speeches by some of the official guests in attendance.

These guests included the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Ioannis Mallikourtis; Senator Andrew Bragg, representing the Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton; NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP; Inner West Councillor, Marghanita da Cruz; Mayor of the Georges River Council, Nick Katris; President of GOCNSW, Harry Danalis; President of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris; Secretary of GOCNSW, Michael Tsilimos; and Press Counsellor at the Consulate of Greece in Sydney, Costas Giannakodimos; among other representatives of Greek community organisations.

Emcee Themi Kallos introduced some of these guests to the stage to speak. Mr Danalis spoke first and thanked everyone for attending the paniyiri, which was held as part of a larger program of events celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Greek Festival of Sydney this year.

Next to the stage was Mr Mallikourtis who stressed the importance of organising events which celebrate the Greek culture.

“I think that today’s choice to organise such an important event on Australia Day is a clear symbolism of the fact that the Greeks of Australia have become an integral part of Australia,” Mr Mallikourtis said.

Senator Bragg spoke next about the significant role played by the Greek community in Australia.

“I think it is a great thing that you [Greeks] can come to a peaceful, harmonious country like Australia and maintain the culture of your forebears and be proud of that and add that to our great national story. So I want to thank you for your fantastic contribution to Australia,” the Senator said.

Mr Coure also gave a speech and said the NSW Government will “continue supporting Greek festivals into the future” because no one “puts on a better festival than the Greeks.”

Councillor Cruz concluded the formal speeches with her own where she encouraged everyone to enjoy the day and praised the Greek community.

With these speeches coming to an end and with a small drop in temperatures, people slowly stood from their tables out of the shade and moved onto the dancefloor for a few Greek dances. There were smiles all round.

Any funds raised on the day will be donated to the Greek Community Home for the Aged.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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