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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 29 November 2014
4 AUSTRALIA OPINION GEORGE ZANGALIS The ethnic vote and today’s elections The ethnic vote is a reality and it counts a lot. Much more than the attempts by the contenders for office to buy it with handouts and promises of a few thousand dollars for festivals, buildings and bilingual street signs in ethnic precincts, greeted unfortunately by some of the recipients with applause and that's about it. No, that's not the end of it nor can it be. These handouts are but a few crumbs in view of what we need and rightfully are entitled to as citizens and tax payers. The great majority of Greek Australians, like most people, do not get up in the morning thinking and planning which festival or lecture to go to, but how to face up to the neverending demands of a battler’s life. Not that a rich cultural life does not count for them too. The issues of work, unem- ployment, especially among the young people, pensions and generally social security and welfare, public transport, the environment, of culture and language maintenance are unquestionably of major and burning concern, about which we must have a voice and presence in the political process, as a community as well, if we want to be relevant to the needs and aspirations of Victoria's more than 200,000 Greek Australians. The situation in all the public services mentioned, and to which working class people seek access to as they have no money to buy them in the private market, that globalisation relentlessly pushes them to, has grown worse in the last few years with the Liberals’ ascendancy to power in Canberra and Melbourne and their catastrophic cuts in funding. It is extremely important to state time and over again, because the well-established few give the impression that all is well or perhaps not too bad, when in fact 85 per cent of Greek Australians in the workforce are wage earners with an annual income not above $40,000, that 30,000 Greek Australians in Victoria alone are pensioners re- ceiving only 27 per cent of a workers wage, that wages continually fall behind the uncontrollable cost of living and profits, that the lion's share of public money for education goes to schools for the rich, and the doors are closed to higher institutions for the children of workers and generally those on low incomes, that 90 per cent of the children of Greek Australian origin go to government schools, poorly funded and increasingly less multilingual and multicultural, in glaring contradiction to the multicultural character of our society, in fact amounting to discrimination. Bilingual and multilingual personnel are hardly employed in hospitals and none at all in essential services such as the ambulance and fire brigade. The argument that there is not enough money to attend to such needs is as deceptive as it is insulting to fair-minded people. The rich and powerful not only receive multibillions in government handouts but make even more billions by tax avoidance, mostly legally if you please. There is also no shortage of money in feeding the war machines fighting in other people's lands. Victoria now has the highest number of unemployed and soon many more thousands will be added with the closure of Holden, Ford and Toyota, victims of the worldwide capitalist antagonisms in pursuit of even higher profits through low wages and dark age working conditions. And the prospects for new jobs are just not there. Investment in the alternative - natural - sources of energy that has some capacity for new sustainable jobs is bitterly blocked by the deniers of climate change and protagonists of coal. Declarations about creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the next two or three years are not convincing to say the least. Unemployment is certain to rise. The ethno-specific community services and institutions cannot survive without taking up the collection and in the best of circumstances their admirable services can only cover a small proportion of Greek Australians in need. Most must make do in the haemorrhaging public institutions. The situation is no different in the other great issue of language, culture and ethnic identity maintenance. Multiculturalism has no real meaning unless it is integrated and with adequate ongoing funding in all of the nation’s social and political institutions and especially the education system. The teaching of Greek has almost been exited from the government schools, not because there is no demand for it but because schools are not funded for this. All serious studies confirm this is the major reason. The afterhours private and community schools and full-time colleges become even more expensive and again in the best of circumstances cover no more than 8 per cent of Greek Australian students entitled to access Greek in their government day schools, open also to the wider school community. Universities have not produced even one Greek language teacher in the last 10 years. The reliance on the Greek state to help along, always of a minor contribution, has been further weakened with zero prospects of any improvement, given the deeper crisis there. What happens in all these vital spheres of life should always be of the outmost concern for all of us and our New community centre set in stone Members of the Greek Orthodox community of Box Hill and districts gathered together last Sunday to witness Mayor of Whitehorse Andrew Munroe lay the foundation stone of the new community centre. Located next to the Box Hill Greek Orthodox Church, committee members were also joined by Attorney General Robert Clark, Father Constantine Apostolellis and Father Dionysios Rallis. The new centre, worth an estimated three million dollars, will include a multipurpose hall, facilities for the community's Greek school and will house a childcare centre. Works on the centre are expected to be completed by August 2015. ATHERTON ROAD PODIATRY CENTRE Dr. Nikolaos Nikolopoulos B. Pod. (Hons)., MBusSys., LLM (LP) Podiatrist Member Australian Podiatry Association (Vic) 22364 Atherton Road Podiatry Centre 24 Atherton Road, Oakleigh Vic 3166 Ph: (03) 9568 1011 Fax: (03) 8888 5031 Members of the community gathered at the site. Greek community organisations. For it is there that tens of thousands of Greek Australians agonise, struggle and dream for a better life. They are our own children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents. It would have helped a lot if an event was organised where political leaders presented their policies for scrutiny and critique to a gathering of Greek Australians. The ethnic vote is, as usual, a complex one - class, social and polyethnic. Vote for me because I am a fellow ethnic has never counted for much, nor should it. And what we can do now in my opinion is to help defeat the Liberals to at least avoid the worst. Those who want to select between Labor, the Greens and other progressive candidates should ensure their preferences finish up with Labor who have by far better people policies from the Liberals, the only other party which can form government. Come Monday the struggle for a better life and a better world will be as important and overwhelming as ever. SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2014 The foundation stone of the anticipated Box Hill community centre. Committee members of the Greek Orthodox Community of Box Hill and Districts, along with Attorney General Robert Clark (C), Father Constantine Apostolellis and Father Dionysios Rallis.
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