Pharos Working Party holds talks with Victorian government to save Greek in public schools

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Advisers for the Victorian Minister for Education met on Tuesday, October 4 with members of the Pharos Working Party to discuss the Pharos Modern Greek Strategic Plan, and how the Victorian Government can lend its support to help secure the future of Modern Greek language for future generations.

A number of prominent Greek community members were present at the meeting, including advisers for the Minister for Education; Anita Ladas, MGTAV President; Emeritus Professor Joseph Lo Bianco; Dr Stephie Nikoloudis, Modern Greek Studies Coordinator La Trobe University; Theo Markos; Kate Hill, Coburg West Primary School parent; and Sonia Zymantas, Lalor North Primary School parent.

After giving some background information as to how the Pharos project began and how it resulted in the formation of a Working Party and a subsequent Modern Greek Strategic Plan, Ms Ladas emphasised the huge amount of support received by the broader community regarding taking action to secure the language into the future.

“Nine different associations and organisations within Victoria have come together to implement projects from within the Strategic Plan, not to mention the extensive number of individuals from all walks of life who are also volunteering their time to the cause, as well as interested parties from other states within Australia,” Ms Ladas stated.

Ms Ladas explained that the Pharos Working Party has divided into subcommittees and each subcommittee is responsible for a project within the Modern Greek Strategic Plan. As part of Phase 1 ‘Building Capacity,’ the Working Party is focused on maintaining and expanding current school and university programs.

To this end, a main discussion point during the meeting with the Minister’s advisers was ensuring that Modern Greek programs within public schools receive adequate support in order for them to survive and flourish.

“The formulation of the Strategic Plan, as well as the community coming together to save the Greek Program at La Trobe University, has indicated a strong need from the broader community to maintain all existing Greek programs, as well as establish new ones,” Ms Ladas said.

The Pharos Working Party is trying to save Modern Greek in public schools.

“We have expressed this community need to the Minister’s advisers, seeking the Government’s support moving forward. We are hopeful that the Victorian Government will be responsive to our community’s needs.”

In addition to this, the establishment of CLIL-based programs and scholarships in the tertiary sector were noted as important goals, alongside securing a salary to assist the Pharos Working Party and the MGTAV in its execution of the Modern Greek Strategic Plan.

Professor Lo Bianco echoed Ms Ladas’ sentiments, explaining that Pharos was backed by solid research and a united Working Party committed to its cause.

The Professor asserted that “action is needed soon to ensure that Modern Greek survives and prospers in public schools and that both Greek and non-Greek background students can have the opportunity to learn the language and interact with the culture.”

Regarding support for government schools with Greek programs, Mr Markos referred to the community’s previous involvement with a number of Greek language programs in the public school system, making reference to Wales Street Primary School, Northcote High School and Strathmore Secondary College.

Mr Markos provided a brief update on the recent challenges faced by the Greek language programs at Lalor North Primary School and Coburg West Primary School, highlighting the strong support they each have within their own school and local communities, as well as acknowledging the efforts of the current government to ensure their continuity and growth. Mr Markos also stressed the need for further collaboration to continue strengthening these programs.

Parents Kate and Sonia (from Coburg West and Lalor North respectively) gave reports on how much learning Greek has benefited their children, stressing the importance of supporting these schools to maintain strong and viable Greek programs for their children to attend.

Overall, the atmosphere of the meeting was positive, allowing members present some hope moving forward.

Minister Hutchins’ advisers indicated that the Victorian Government is in favour of supporting community languages and expressed an interest in learning more details about the proposals put forward. With the promise of supporting the Greek programs at Coburg West PS and Lalor North PS in the immediate future, the Minister’s advisers indicated that they would brief Minister Hutchins on the meeting and discuss the prospect of supporting the implementation of the Modern Greek Strategic Plan.

As Dr Nikoloudis explained: “It is the first time that we have a detailed Strategic Plan for Greek based on research undertaken by a scholar who is an expert in the field of language revitalisation. We strongly believe in the benefits of a multicultural and multilingual Australia. We know what needs to be done, but we need some government assistance to support our work.”

READ MORE: Andonis Piperoglou named inaugural lecturer for Melbourne University’s Hellenic Diaspora Studies

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