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Opinion: Now Is the Time for Leadership

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By Zografos Zappas

The current crises are no laughing matter. Not only are we all exposed to the possibility of serious illness, we face an economic tsunami, which is drowning the economy more and more each passing day. Now is the time for Australia’s Greek communities to come together and deliver a unified approach in assisting those that may require help to get through these crises. 

This economic crisis is having an impact on all our lives, on people we know, people we love, on our families, in every part of Australia, in every part of the world. The economic impact is being felt even more so on small business, our elderly, and above all, on Greek citizens who have recently moved to Australia, here on work and study visas. The reality for many of these people is a rerun of the Greek crisis. Many have lost their part time work, many cannot pay their rent, and cannot go back to Greece, and they are not eligible for any Government assistance.

Many local Hellenes are also feeling the pain. The stress of losing their jobs, or having their hours cut, or their pay cut is devastating for many. Small businesses are in disarray. Many of our elderly are feeling vulnerable. If there was ever a time for action, for collaboration, it is now. Now is the time for filotimo. Now is the time for our community leaders to build a unified Greek Community response based on a foundation of filotimo, based on a foundation of support, guidance and love. Not since the great immigration period of the 50s and 60s, when Hellenes left their homeland for a better life in Australia, have we witnessed anything like these crises.

Across Australia we have hundreds of Hellenic Organisations, Associations and Charities, and thousands of volunteers who work within these places. Yet, to this point in time, not a whisper can be heard from any of them.  Where are the leaders? Where are these larger organisations now? Many of whom do such a wonderful job, and have done so for many years, supporting many and varied charities and foundations for years?

From what we understand, leading the path is the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) who have begun the process of building support services for our Hellenic citizens in Melbourne that do not qualify for any of the Australian Government programmes. They have sought and secured the support of the Acting Minister for Immigration, Mr Alan Trudge, and implemented a hotline to help these people. Greek Orthodox Community of Adelaide have implemented a referral service to offer support, and have been working in consultation with state government agencies to ensure all Covid-19 information is available in greek for the elderly, while in Canberra, they have recently purchased iPads for their senior citizens to enable direct communication with their families during the isolation period.

We have heard nothing from our Sydney community leaders. We are aware that several leading Greek Associations have received correspondence from concerned citizens asking what plans they have to assist and support fellow Hellenes who are here on working and student visas. To date there have been no responses.

Now is the time for these community leaders, and for our Australian Greek philanthropists, to stand up and join forces, collaborate and drive a unified response that tackles the needs of our elderly and fellow Hellenes. 

The Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOC), one of our biggest organisations, needs to be a leader in this process.  GOC needs to bring together, under a collaborative umbrella, all the Associations and philanthropists, who can assist. Where is this representative body  of the  “Greek Orthodox Community of NSW”? Shouldn’t its primary mandate be, infact, the ‘community’?

GOC NSW seems to have been internally focused for many years, unwilling to support the community, a community that has been blessed with a third wave of immigrates in the past few years. Where is the support, which is the primary reason, they were established in the first place? Have they lost touch with the community over the years with what their real purpose is? The reasons why they were established in the first place by our visionary early Hellenic migrants. 

Now, in a time of collective need, where Covid–19 has impacted everyone , for us to join together, and be pulled together by an umbrella that we can all support.

Now is the chance for them to bring about unity. Now is the chance to build the house of Hellenic filotimo.

Australia, our home, will feel the pain for many years to come, and we can expect illness, and poverty, homelessness, stress and mental illness to be felt by many in our communities. Those of us that can, need to stand up and lend a hand, starting with those Associations and Organisations we have supported and worked with for many years. The entire Australian Greek community is watching and looking forward to what comes next from these organisations and their leaders. Now is the right time to do the right thing. Now is the time to give back.

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