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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 March 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2015 3 NEWS Victorian MP voices language concerns Speak Greek commended to federal parliament MICHAEL SWEET Maria Vamvakinou has called on federal parliament to back efforts to promote and protect the Greek language, and to support interventions to halt the decline of Indigenous languages in Australia. Labor's Member for Cal- well raised the motion last week, acknowledging UNESCO's recognition of Inter- national Mother Language Day on 21 February - the date chosen to launch Victoria's Speak Greek in March project. In her speech, Ms Vamvakinou said that of the 418 languages other than English spoken in Australia today, at least 151 of them were used in her electorate. "Sadly, we find ourselves in a dire predicament where we are lamenting the decline of our Indigenous languages. They are increasingly becoming extinct," said the federal MP, who said that Indigenous languages are continuing to decline in Australia across all age groups. "Worldwide it is estimated that more than a half of the 6,000 languages spoken today will be replaced by the dominant languages," said Ms Vamvakinou. "This means that 3,000 languages will no longer be spoken by the end of the 21st century, and that all their cultural, ethnic and ecological heritage, that are unique to its speakers, will also be lost." Ms Vamvakinou added that while Australia was fortunate to have a rich diversity of languages "we must not remain complacent. Rather we should do what we can to maintain, service and support our languages as national cultural assets". Ms Vamvakinou commended the Speak Greek in March campaign to the parliament. The project - now in its third week - was developed in Victoria to encourage a greater use of the language amongst Greek and non-Greek speaking Australians. Hellenic Initiative chief in town US model for diaspora philanthropy to start down under MICHAEL SWEET A year after discussions took place to mobilise an Australian arm to The Hellenic Initiative (THI) - the philanthropic organisation established in the US to assist crisis relief and business entrepreneurship in Greece - THI's executive director Mark Arey visited Melbourne and Sydney this week to prepare for the launch of THI Australia. Darwin-born Andrew Liveris, president and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, is the chairman of THI in the United States. Its board members include solicitor and chair of South Sydney NRL club Nick Pappas and Perth lawyer Nicholas Mitaros, who will be closely involved in rolling out the new Australian initiative. Since its conception in 2012, THI, based in New York, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to Greek Maria Vamvakinou outside a library in her Broadmeadows electorate. PHOTO: MIKE SWEET. It’s all Greek to Spring Street MP addresses state parliament in mother tongue Philhellene Mark Arey, executive director of The Hellenic Initiative in Melbourne this week. NGOs to provide crisis relief in the country, along with business entrepreneurship and venture capital programs, with the funds being provided by hundreds of individual USbased donors. The idea now is for the same approach to be adopted in Australia. At a media briefing event at Melbourne's Greek Centre, Mr Arey told Neos Kosmos that his visit was to discuss the "pitfalls and opportunities" facing THI Australia, and that the US not-for profit's mission had always been to develop a global response to assisting Greece as it deals with the ongoing impact of the economic crisis. "We've distributed something like $US2 million into direct crisis relief, and in investment in entrepreneurship - outside of the [$US7 million] Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards which is a zero-interest loans program, and we've committed something like $US750,000 to help Greek entrepreneurs," said Mr Arey. "What we hear when we go to Greece is always the same - 'we need capital and we need liquidity. We need to be able to borrow money'. And what PHOTO: MIKE SWEET. THI is about is building those bridges." Last year THI invited fifteen new Greek companies to the US to explore venture capital opportunities. As a result, three of the start-ups received nearly $US 5 million worth of investment. Through its crisis relief programs THI has funded NGOs such as SOS Villages Greece, Praksis and Doctors of the world. THI is expected to make an announcement in June concerning the structure and programs of THI Australia and its board composition. Labor Member for Oakleigh Steve Dimopoulos addressed the Victorian parliament in Greek this week, commending the Speak Greek in March project to fellow MPs. Reflecting on the month-long campaign, Mr Dimopoulos took the opportunity to remind Victoria's politicians that the Greek language - which has been in continuous use for over 4,000 years, is made up of around five million words. Mindful of the limited time available to Legislative Assembly members in his slot on Wednesday evening - in a brief speech the Oakleigh MP chose 140 of those words to present the aims and achievements of the Speak Greek campaign. Mr Dimopoulos spoke of Victoria's "long and proud" association with the Greek community and how the language is being taught more widely across the state than ever before. The MP said that a community's embracing of its cultural heritage was of vital importance and that lan- Steve Dimopoulos, Labor Member for Oakleigh. guage played a central role in continuing an appreciation of cultural identity. Mr Dimopoulos praised the work of former SBS general manager Mike Zafiropoulos in coordinating the Speak Greek in March campaign and spoke of the project's future - beyond March 2015 - as a device for nurturing the language. State Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott thanked Mr Dimopoulos for raising the matter. Responding to the MP's request, Mr Scott proposed to meet with Mr Zafiropoulos and Mr Stefan Romaniw, the former head of Community Languages Australia, to discuss the Victorian government's future actions in support of the Greek language.
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