“I am particularly pleased to welcome Demetris Dollis in Asutralia, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Greece but also a proud child of Australia”, stated S. Australian Premier, Mike Rann welcoming Mr. Dollis, adding that “I have known Demetris for many many years. Together we visited Greece in 1995 and 1996. Together we gave great struggles for Cyprus, the historical truth on Macedonia, Greek language. The appointment of a government position to Demetris made all Australians proud and not just Greek – Australians”.
Similar comments were made for Mr. Dollis by state Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, which are states he visited, but also from other members of the federal government.
The visit of the Deputy Foreign Minister in Australia was concluded on Saturday in Melbourne.
During a meeting of the Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs with the director of the Australian Prime Minister’s office, Julia Gillard, in Canberra, the immediate cooperation of both governments was decided in order to overcome obstacles hindering the procedures for the provision of retirement pensions by both governments to Greek beneficiaries.
The Greek Deputy Minister discussed issue of Greek language teaching in Australia with the Australian Minister of Education, Peter Garett and as a result ways to achieve immediate communication of both governments were agreed on, in order to avoid possible bureaucratic delays during the formulation of national teaching language policy in Australia.
In his discussions with members of the federal government in Australia, as well as state governments, Mr. Dollis discussed issues of common interest and “paved the way” for further improvement on Greek – Australian relations. Discussions were focused on commerce, tourism, culture and other common interest issues.
A new era in the relations between Athens and the Archdiocese of Australia began with Mr. Dollis’ visit in Australia. During a press conference for Diaspora Media, Mr. Dollis denied the rumors regarding the so-called “tension” on the relations between Athens and the Australian church authority, stating that “the Greek government respects, honors and supports the Archdiocese of Australia”, according to Neos Kosmos.
Mr. Dollis was also categorical in his statements regarding the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, focusing on the need to self-finance SAE and the representative character of the organization, stating that nobody disregards the need for the existence of body to represent Diaspora Hellenism, which will consult the respective Greek government on issues regarding Hellenes abroad, as indicated by relevant legislation, adding that “unfortunately, some people create or attempts to create the impression that the Council of Hellenes Abroad has the power to intervene in the policy of the respective Greek government. I have repeatedly stressed that SAE, cannot be supported after 15 years in existence, by Greek state funding. SAE must find its own financial resources, so as to cease its financial dependence on Greece. To stop being a state-funded advisory body. Ultimately, SAE’s self-funding will ensure its independence.
SAE must become a representative body of all Diaspora Greeks, not only those who belong to collective bodies, meaning communities, local organizations and other collective bodies. We cannot be talking about representativeness, while knowing that only a percentage of Hellenism is part of SAE”.
When asked to comment on the fact that Athens is slowly implementing the pension agreement with Australia, hoping that many recipients will pass away, Mr. Dollis was categorically opposed, characterizing it as “unreal and unjust”. “You know and we are aware”, he added, “that there are practical issues hindering the processing of applications from Greeks in Australia for the provision of pension in Australia. During my meeting with the director of the Prime Minister’s office, Julia Gillard, we thoroughly discussed the issue and decided to handle it on ministerial level, so as to quickly overcome the obstacles causing delays in the provision of retirement pensions from Greece and Australia to Greek recipients”.
Mr. Dollis assured the re-launched of the Hospitality Program for Greek Children, which was interrupted this year due to the current financial situation in Greece. “The Hospitality Program for Greek Children Abroad in Greece will be re-launched in 2011, enriched and improved”, he mentioned.
On the issue of Greek language he stated that “the establishment of Greek language and Greek culture is a priority of the government. I stressed this to the Australian Minister of Education, Mr. Peter Gareth, with whom I had a meeting. I told Mr. Gareth that Greek language teaching in Australian state schools, was and remains a priority issue for Athens and informed him that Athens will submit memoranda to ACARA Commission, the Commission in charge of the National Language Teaching Curriculum, both federal and state governments, with its proposals on the status of Greek language in the Australian educational system”, adding that “With Mr. Gareth we agreed that both governments will have immediate communication in order to avoid bureaucratic delays in this critical period for the formation of national language teaching policy in Australia”.
Furthermore, within the context of supporting Greek language teaching and culture for the Diaspora, Athens is making use of detached teachers abroad and underlined that Greek teachers who do not speak the language of the country they are assigned to, will not be sent abroad.
On the much debated issue of the Diaspora vote, Mr. Dollis explained that the right to vote will be taken care of within 2011.
“The Prime Minister and other members of the government support the right of the Greek Diaspora to vote, either in their permanent residence locations or by post. Within 2011 procedures will advance in order to determine voting location and we believe and we are confident, that the long-standing demand of Diaspora Greeks, to participate in electoral procedures will be met and satisfy Hellenes abroad”, stated Mr. Dollis.
Meanwhile, over 60 community organization representatives attended the event in honor of Mr. Dollis organized by the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria. Representatives of Diaspora bodies had the opportunity to meet Mr. Dollis and discuss issues regarding Greece and the Greek Diaspora.
Mr. Dollis thanked the Community for the event, stressing that “from now onwards, the Greek government will efforts in order to set its collaboration with the community on the appropriate basis and programming”.
On his part, the President of the Community, Vassilis Papastergiadis, welcoming Mr. Dollis to the Community, underlined that it is very important that a former member of the Greek community is today the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, responsible for Greeks Abroad.
Mr. Papastergiadis also underlined that the community strives for a better and more constructive collaboration with Athens, not only for the good of the historical community, but also for the Greek Diaspora.
Source: ANA – MPA