2035: The end of the Greek community of Australia as we know it (Part Four)

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In my previous three articles, I argued that 2035 will mark the biggest and most radical transformation that Australian Hellenism has experienced, with the final biological exodus of the 270,000 Greek migrants (Greeks and Cypriots), who settled in Australia in the post-war period.

I also pointed out that, just as in the first post-war years, no methodical, or systematic approach had been taken by the historical Greek communities and their institutions for the successive arrival of ships with Greek immigrants, resulting the early years of survival to be extremely difficult, whilst organised Hellenism and its institutions were completely unprepared.

Currently, we face persistent problems and enormous and almost unforeseen social changes that await the next generations of Greeks after 1935.

The difference is that in the 1950s, pre-war Hellenism and its institutions (Church and National delegation) were in a primitive state and functioned without serious infrastructure of organisation and constitution; while in 2035, Hellenism has a structured infrastructure, great economic, social and political flourishing, and is undoubtedly considered one of the most powerful communities in Australia. However, this strength depends on whether Hellenism is able to utilise and positively assess the huge fortune and enormous wealth the preceded first generation of immigrants had left behind – the one bequeathed by the previous generation of their parents, after 2035.

The legacy passed on to the children and grandchildren of the first, self-sacrificing, pioneering immigrants, after 2035 consists of remarkable buildings, complexes of buildings, shops, houses, mansions and galleries, clubs, shopping centres, unnecessary nursing homes, plots, stadiums, farms, camps, unfunctioning churches, unclaimed bank accounts and shares, abandoned and grassy factories and many others that were built with much effort and unbearable sacrifices, which were bought and acquired by the organised and community-based Greek immigrants who preceded them. Over 800 buildings and as many property premises, scattered throughout the capitals of the States. Their total value, conservatively, exceeds two, perhaps three, billion dollars.

These buildings, if not properly and creatively utilised, will become dilapidated and collapsed estates, or will be expropriated for immediate needs by the Commonwealth, or even be confiscated by local municipalities if safety reasons arise for the public. Any unclaimed deposits in banks will pass to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to be used for other purposes and objectives for the public needs, other than those for which they were collected and deposited. An indifferent, apathetic and uninvolved diaspora of successors is in danger of being held responsible for the leveling that may follow, when in 2050, the members of the Diaspora will experience severe decline and decay.

As the only deterrent solution to the incoming degeneration, I will propose the unification and utilisation of properties over the next ten years and their management in ways and methods that will lead to a dynamic, participatory and well-organised diaspora of Australian citizens of Greek origin, carriers of collectible Greek cultural identity.

I made this proposal in 1990, 1997, 2004 through my publications, as well as articles in Greek and Australian newspapers. The strange and absolutely oxymoronic and “schizophrenic” is that we all agree with the Union, we all know that with a perfectly coordinated, united, consubstantial and unbroken formation, Hellenism in every State of the Commonwealth will be great, it will flourish and be consolidated for the years to come, strengthening not only Hellenism of Australia, but also the homeland of our origin, Greece.  Everyone is shouting this, everyone is accepting it, and all our leaders are trumpeting it.

However, when it comes to action, each of us has a face, a voice and a lot of vinegar. The remaining, perhaps for the next ten years, suspicious immigrants who brought in their suitcases both jealousy and envy from our homelands, erupt divisively. Why do you request the property of our clubs to change hands? Will Professor Tamis consume our properties? We will lose what we have built? They throw out irrelevant excuses, sowing fear. With absurdities that their property is supposedly endangered by a possible union, by a coalition of Greek unions. With improbable nonsense and gossip that our properties will be consumed by the historic Communities or even “the priest,” irreverently implying the Ecclesiastical Authority.

However, I would like for a moment our readers to think about the following scenario: To organise a coordinating body in each State, because each State has its own peculiarities, by impartial, entrusted, respectable leaders of Hellenism. This will constitute the Prytaneion (Rectorate), which will administer and plan the issues concerning Hellenism. The State Prytaneion may consist of 15 members,  well-represented and well-respected, acknowledging also, the historical role of the Communities and the Church. With the responsibility and coordination of the Prytaneion, in each State, will prepare and draft, with due care, a Strategic Memorandum of Collaboration. Each Prytaneion’ Board will comprise members with expertise on legal, social, demographic, historical, political and economic issues.

In the Memorandum, the Collective Arrangement will be designed, where the legally and administratively secured shares will be named, always proportionately, according to the amount of the financial displacement of each member-entity. Some properties, if productive, will be exploited to make them more profitable. The “red” properties will be sold. The resulting amount will surely exceed many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Half of the capital could be allocated to the purchase of new, comfortable, functional facilities, large buildings, as befits a united Hellenism. The other half of the capital will be remunerated in money markets and banks, and interest rates and equity dividends, which will exceed several tens of millions, will be used to run services for Greeks and their children. With the huge reserve capital, three or four magnificent buildings will be acquired, always based on the decisions of the State Prytaneion, in the capitals of the States, in which the communities of Greeks of the future will operate. These buildings will have cinemas, lecture halls, members’ clubs, welfare and counselling centres, youth and sports centres, youth protection centres, doctors’ offices and clinics for the destitute and the homeless. All costs will be covered by interest rates and government programs. Any surplus will be reinvested in the infrastructure of the Greek Prytaneion in new buildings with new or additional services, such as a special Forum for Greece and its National issues, a Forum for the protection and dissemination of Greek-language education, a Forum for Sports, a Forum for the operation of academic programs and Research, a Forum for the Study and teaching of Greek Culture.

How many of our leaders, who would agree with what we propose above, are or may be ready to say yes to such a Union? How many are willing to abandon suspicion, mistrust, philopsy and take a step forward? How many can see themselves, beyond the narrow borders of their village and periphery, and see the Panhellenic vision, Light and Voice? There are clubs that sit on hundreds of millions of cash which remain inactive. I, boldly, declare to them that their wealth is significant and worthy only if they serve a united, collective and consubstantial Hellenism with a future.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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