Thursday, 25 March 2021
Statements on Indulgence
Greek Independence Day: 200th Anniversary
Today, together with the Leader of the Opposition, I acknowledge it's a special day for people of Greek heritage, including in this House but also right across the country and, indeed, in the homeland of Greece. Today marks the bicentennial of the modern Greek state. I extend congratulations to all the Greek people, in particular to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis—a very good friend of Australia. I appreciate his great friendship in the many issues we've been dealing with, particularly in relation to COVID-19. They have been a fellow traveller as we've been working through those issues. I greatly appreciate his input and his recognition, also very generously, of the way that Australia has dealt with these issues. He's taken a keen interest in Australians of Greek heritage, and I know that he would welcome this statement from our parliament today.
It's a wonderful milestone for this proud people of a very ancient land. Greece has given so much to the world: the wisdom of their ancients; the tales of their gods and heroes; the Olympic quest—something South-East Queensland is very thrilled about!—celebrating that Olympic spirit to be faster, higher and stronger; and, indeed, the first dawn of democracy now shared with so much of the world. Let's work together to ensure that more of the world can share in great democratic traditions.
Australia has been blessed by its fellow citizens who are of Greek heritage. It's a wonderful community, grounded in family and faith, and a people with a fierce pride—from the local Paragon milk bars to the neighbours who share plates of baklava to the contributions here in this chamber. In so many places in our national life the Greek influence has added so much to our great multicultural society. It's a joyous passion added to our national life.
Our Greek friends always add to our communities. They build them up and open them up. Importantly, through the great waves of migration to this country, they brought their fellow Greeks to this country and surrounded them in a welcoming way at a time so many years ago, particularly in the fifties and the sixties, when our migrant support services were not what they are today. It was the local Greek orthodox parish priest and the many others who worked in those faith communities who put their arms around those communities and ensured they got off to such a successful start in life here in Australia. Our Greek friends do this each and every day to this day. Attributes that originally were so Greek are now very Australian, and the two are meshed closely together. In recent days Archbishop Makarios has reminded me that on this bicentenary some of the customary celebrations aren't taking place, including that wonderful joyous gathering at the Sydney Opera House. But there will be smaller celebrations that are no less joyous.
I thank our Greek community for the sacrifices that they, like so many others, have made during this pandemic. I thank them for their contribution to our national life. I honour our Greek friends and the Greek nation. We have stood side by side in great conflicts and sought the same democratic freedoms, liberties and peace as we do to this day together. Happy independence day. Zito i Ellas!
On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I rise to wish all Australians with Greek heritage a very special Greek Independence Day. This is a proud day to be Greek. It is 200 years since the revolt in the Peloponnese saw a people rise to their feet and bring to an end centuries of occupation. Their cry of eleftheria i thanatos, freedom or death, has lost none of its power. Of course, our connection with Greece is profound. An Australia without Greeks is simply beyond imagining. We are home to such a large part of the Greek diaspora. Melbourne alone has the biggest Greek speaking population outside of Greece bar none. It's something we take great pride in as Australians. From our capital cities to our country towns, Greeks have done so much to shape the face of our modern nation.
I'm proud to say my own electorate of Grayndler, especially my home suburb of Marrickville, has long been a Greek stronghold. I was at St Nicholas parish church around the corner from my home just two weeks ago on a Sunday to once again commemorate mass there and to participate in the gathering that happens after in the church hall every Sunday, where they share food, stories and provide support for each other. Indeed, this place, I want to mention is enhanced by the members for Calwell and Adelaide, and they will certainly be celebrating today.
To my good friend Archbishop Makarios, I say you have done an extraordinary job in the short time that you've been in Australia, following on from the wonderful work of his eminence Archbishop Stylianos over a long period of time. To his eminence and all of the community and all of the parishes around Australia, I say zito i Ellas, long live Greece!