By Anastasios M. Tamis*
One of the most imposing problems faced by the leadership of Hellenism of Australia was the deficiency in succession, the absence of young people from the clubs, from the community organizations. The basic question remains, why young people, our Australian-born children, do not participate in communal events, social and cultural events? why they do not staff the fraternities? why they do not take the place of their parents? why they fail to continue the mission of their fathers and grandparents, who founded the Hellenic community orgnaizations? Is it really an attitude of indifference, is it an arrogant defiance, a lack of patriotism, a careless insolence on their part? Is it that they do not want to have anything to do with Hellenism, with Hellas, with their cultural origins and ancestry?
What is it that we offer them? What is the socio-cultural regime we invite them to attend and serve? What are the motives and the drives by which we motivate them to come alongside us, to replace us in power, administration, at the helm of our communal affairs, as leaders? In other words, why should they come as our successors? What are the incentives and the elements of motivation, the reasons by which we will be able to convince them, to entice them? And even more simply: What do we offer them to win them over to become heirs, our beneficiaries, and our successors?
The tradition, habits, the objectives, motifs and goals for which the community associations and organizations of our Homogeneia in Australia were founded in the period 1950-2000, ceased to apply long ago even for us, much more so for our children. The idea of the village, the need to preserve it, the desire for the villagers to be all together, to assemble, to share our memories, to marry our children, the provision of solidarity, of mutual aid for the destitute, the sick and the unemployed, all these things for which our clubs and organizations were founded and operated for almost fifty years, are now over. The historical and social criteria, the data have changed, the expected ideals have changed, tradition, principles and obligations have changed. The founders, the pioneers have consistently fulfilled their obligations. They have responded to the demands of those times. Now the needs are different. Now there is a need to enable young people to integrate into the major society, to claim certain positions of influence in their professional lives, to build their own families, utilizing other means and resources, to live as equal citizens, not as immigrants, in the country that had welcomed their parents.
Young people could return to the Greek community organizations and there could be succession only if significant incentives for dependence to the Greek community services are created. They could take the lead of the community institutions, only if young people would have the opportunity to undertake the provision of new services, to offer better facilities and amenities that would resolve the social needs of the members, would bring them coherently and interactively alongside the specific community body and with each other. Young people could return to the organizations if the organizations were up to date with the contemporary and prevailing needs of their members, if the Communities will focus on the betterment of the life of their children and grandchildren
It is well-attested that there are tens of thousands of Greek households in the state capitals of Australia. The majority of parents in these households belong to the creative age of 25-50 years. Working parents live in constant concern and anxiety of securing a nursing center for their infants, a pre-school center, a care center for their children, after-hour facilities during the hours they work. The state subsidises the operation of such centres; the local government subsidises their operation and parents pay exorbitant amounts per day as tuition fees. How many such Greek or Greek-speaking or bilingual centres are operated in Australia by Greek community bodies? Three or four throughout the country, for the needs of tens of thousands of children of Greek origin! If the leaders of the Greek community organizations which possess hundreds of properties and which by now have already concluded their circle of life were keen and prepared to donate their estates and wealth to the central and historic Greek Communities, and the latter in return were compelled to establish bilingual preschool centers, nursing centers for infants, bilingual child minding shelters and after-hour services for the needs of working parents, can you imagine how many new parents would return to the communities to help their own children, and will join the Communities to become frontrunners of serving the needs of their own children?
If the Greek clubs made their fortunes available to the communities and in exchange for acceptance, the Communities established in each state capital academies of sports, soccer, basketball fields, training clubs for boys and girls, swimming centers, cultivating athletic knowledge and performance for school-age children, instead of being constantly pre-occupied with their mobile phones and playing electronic monstrosities on their screens, can you appreciate how many young Greek professionals and scientists would return to community organizations to be part of this socio-cultural metamorphosis, assisting their offspring? If the community orgnaizations transferred their properties and their bank capital to the historic Greek Communities of the States and in return the Communities established bilingual theatrical workshops in each capital, where they could actively cultivate both the Greek language and their talent in the theater; if they could establish and operate fully equipped cultural centers, with theatre and cinema halls, restaurants, rooms for members, bars with drinks and not gambling parlors and gambling cafes, can you appreciate how many young people would have returned back to the community institutions?
If the Greek community entities handed their fortunes to the secular and ecclesiastic social welfare organizations administered by the Holy Archdiocese and the historic Communities and in exchange, these organizations and the Archdiocese established in every state capital city drug rehabilitation centers, youth centers, welfare centers for the homeless of Greek origin, the needy and the destitute, can you appreciate how many young people would become members of the Communities and of these welfare organizations, enriching their ranks with invaluable human resources, thus acting as successors of those pioneering Greek fathers, who founded the now bankrupt fraternities and ethnospecific associations?
*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).