Oakleigh Grammar – a Victorian school under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia – has responded to recent controversy around its decision to raise the flag of North Macedonia on school grounds on September 8.
Concerns around the flag were first raised last week by the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria in a letter to school leaders and Archbishop Makarios of Australia.
In the letter, which was co-signed by President Dimitrios Minas and Secretary Nikolaos Lalopoulos, the Association said “raising the flag of North Macedonia, a country that has on countless occasions and continues to undermine Greece’s historical claim to the ancient legacy of Macedonia, has infuriated the Greek community.”
“Raising the flag of such a country within a school with strong ties to the Greek community, especially one affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, has been interpreted as an endorsement of this nation’s attack on Greek history and its indifference to the sensitive nature of the issue at hand,” the letter stated.
The Association also alleged that Oakleigh Grammar has “few if any students claiming North Macedonian heritage” and strongly recommended the school issue an apology to “express regret for any offense or confusion it may have caused.”
In response, Oakleigh Grammar’s Chairman Chris Damatopoulos and Principal Mark Robertson issued a statement which stressed that “no offence or disrespect was intended” by the raising of the North Macedonian flag.
“In 2011, Oakleigh Grammar made the conscientious and bold decision to open its educational institution to welcome, nurture and care for all children and their families irrespective of their colour, creed or race, whilst continuing to treasure and maintain the strong pillars of Christian Orthodoxy and Hellenism which have been genuinely respected and cherished by our community,” their statement reads.
“To demonstrate inclusivity towards all children in the image and likeness of God, it was determined to fly flags of nations of origin of our students and staff on respective national days in harmony peace, and in recognition of our multi-cultural community. No offence or disrespect was intended.”
Mr Damatopoulos and Mr Robertson stressed that this flag-flying practice “has been embraced wholeheartedly by the community we serve.”