Opinion: All Aboard the Greek Gravy Train!

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By Zografos Zappas

The Greeks of Australia should be proud of the Associations and Charities that they have created over the past 100 years.  There are literally hundreds of such entities, and all of them, for many years have ensured the survival of our culture, language, and the cohesion of our community.  That is, until, the last 10 years or so, as we have witnessed many such entities falling apart or more to the point, being torn apart.

Many Associations have sold off buildings and assets the past few years, yet we have not seen the end result of this in many instances.   Have new buildings been purchased?  Has the money been used in other ways?  Transparency is paramount in Associations as the committees or boards are just caretakers of assets and monies that belong to the members.   These assets and cash should be utilised to provide services to the members and the wider community.  All fully accountable.

I have always held the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOC) as the premier body, as the “leadership” entity, that sets the pace for the Greeks of New South Wales, the Associations and Charities that are the foundation of our community as a whole.    Its been around a long time, but it appears that it too, has increasingly becoming irrelevant.  

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I understand that at the Annual General Meeting to be held this coming Sunday, they intend to sell off the Lakemba site.  The potential sale of this community asset, that underlies the Greek Community as a whole, leaves  nothing that can be used as a gathering place for all Australian Greeks in New South Wales. 

The community wants to see a plan, a strategy, a statement, that it can feel comfortable with. A timeline that will ensure a replacement facility is in place as soon as possible, and that it will happen. A secure commitment. These facilities bring the community together, without them, the community, the Greeks of New South Wales, our youth, begin to disperse and to lose their identity. There is an underlying incumbrance on the GOC NSW to let the entire community know what it is doing. Every single Greek in NSW is a member of this entity, because this is the reason it exists. 

The NSW Government sees GOC NSW as representing the entire Greek Australian community of NSW. This is evident through the significant funding it receives from the Government. Yet only a handful of members and proxies will determine the future of this community group.

Then, following this is an Extraordinary General Meeting to propose a special resolution to put a plan forward to establish a Public Fund that has Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, enabling it to receive gifts, bequests and donations from the public that are tax deductible. One must question what drives the need for such a Fund at this point, when the NSW Government adequately provides funds to support the activities of the GOC. GOC is already a Company limited by guarantee and therefore can apply for DGR status. Why a new fund? The community must ask this question.

All of a sudden, there is a requirement for funds that can be used for purposes that fall within the scope of the objects of which the Association was established. Money that will be managed by the Executive, which consists of 4 people, the President, the Vice President, the Secretary, the Treasurer, without Board approval.  What sort of craziness is this?   

There are many questions the community must ask. What is the process to select a real estate agent? Where will the proceeds of the sale of Lakemba go? What happened to the proceeds of the sale of the Oxford Street property?  Who manages these funds? The Board? Or the Executive?  Further, in the event of the new Fund being wound up or dissolved, where will the money go?  Money that rightfully should belong to the members, and that the members vote on where it should go. The motion clearly states that: “(viii) If upon winding up or dissolution of the Association all remaining assets of the fund after all liabilities have been satisfied shall not be paid or distributed among members of the Association or Fund but shall be given or transferred to some other institution or institutions .. “. This should be a decision of the members, not the GOC NSW, not the Executive and not the Board.

I am struggling to understand the ideology behind these moves, without a concrete plan. Without a shared or common vision. In the middle of a global pandemic. The timing is wrong. The resolutions are wrong. The thinking is clouded by the inward focus of these people who have been in these roles for far too many years, too many decades. 

It is time the entire Greek community held COG NSW accountable, and all the other Associations and Charities accountable, for failing to be transparent, for failing the vision of the founding fathers.  We have come a long way as a community since our parents and grandparents stepped foot on this land, but in the past 10 years or so, many of us have become entitled and are failing the Greek Australian community. 

The GOC represents the entire Australian Greek community of New South Wales. You, me, everyone.  We all deserve a say as to what happens; we all deserve a say as to who and how GOC is run. The gravy train stops with us all becoming members. 

Click this link below and join today:  https://www.goc.com.au/forms/Application_for_membership_2012.pdf

We posed some of these questions to the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW and by the time this article was published no reply had been received.

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