Victorian Premier praises Greeks at Shrine of Remembrance but few present

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By Mary Sinanidis.

“I thank you all for accepting our invitation for honouring this event with your attendance and your presence,” Tony Tsourdalakis, Chairman of the Victorian Council for Greek National Day, said at the Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday.

The event, kicking off celebrations for the 202nd anniversary of the Greek War of Independence, was one mainly attended by invited guests and officials. There were many empty seats – even less than last year – and hardly indicative of the robust Greek Australian community Melbourne is famed for.

Invited guests included Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews; Victoria’s Opposition Leader John Pesutto; Maria Vamvakinou MP, representing Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese; Lee Tarlamis MP; Nick Staikos MP; Archbishop Makarios of Australia; Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis; Greek Community of Melbourne President, Bill Papastergiadis; and other dignitaries. The emcee was Sophia Siachos.

(L-R) Nick Staikos MP, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Lee Tarlamis MP.
Official guests at the event.
School students with the Consul General (centre).

Premier Andrews took the opportunity to thank the “biggest Greek diaspora outside Greece, the proud and magnificent Greek community of Melbourne and Victoria” – though few ordinary Greeks were present giving the false impression that Greeks aren’t as “interested” in the celebration as in past years.

Some present blamed the windy weather, others blamed the fact it was for a March 25 celebration being held on March 18, and others still wondered why the event had not been publicised resulting also in the absence of several multicultural media outlets as some had not been notified.  

Smaller crowd than usual at the commemorative event.
School students.
More school students.

“We can’t imagine Melbourne and our state of Victoria without the contribution that Greek families have made and continue to make, a fairer state, a stronger state, a more prosperous state,” Premier Andrews said.

“Today is an opportunity to thank them and acknowledge the many ways in which they make us not only the multicultural capital but the centre of critical thought, of innovation, of economic growth, of prosperity, a state where equality matters, where inclusion is important, and where our multiculturalism is not tolerated but celebrated. The Greek community can be rightly proud of all that they have contributed to all that we cherish as a state.”

Mr Pesutto, Victoria’s Liberal party leader, is no stranger to Greek Australian events due to having married a Greek Australian.

“I married a Greek, so I am used to Greek rule in my own home,” he said. “The contribution Greeks have made to Australia cannot be understated, and I know and share the comments the Premier made. […] So I say to all the young people here today. Today’s celebration does not just honour and dignify the past, it shines a light on the way forward,” Mr Pesutto said.

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