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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 June 2015
NEWS 4 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 JUNE 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Macedonian history email gets MP in strife Parliamentarian’s dip into contested narratives receives Skopje spin MICHAEL SWEET In her ongoing efforts to change Australia's position of the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, federal Labor's Alannah MacTiernan entered the realm of highly-contested historical interpretation this week, saying it was not clear if "the original Macedonians can be described as 'Greek'". The comments, written in an email to an unnamed Greek Australian who expressed his concern over the MP's position on the naming issue online, were subsequently published by the Skopje-based 'Macedonian English Language News Agency' as Ms MacTiernan's response to "voiced arguments by Greek politicians from her Labor Party". Speaking to Neos Kosmos, however, the MP refuted any suggestion that the remarks had been made in relation to any Australian politician. "There's no doubt I wrote the comments, but to say they were made in response to something a Greek Australian politician said is complete nonsense," said Ms MacTiernan. "It's a fabrication." The MP added that after press coverage of her visiting Woolongong last month, where she expressed her support for recognition of the name 'Republic of Macedonia', she had been inundated with critical comments - by email and through social media, many of which were abusive - from Australians of Greek heritage. In her retaliatory email to one critic, she was spurred to respond: "In classical accounts, [the original Macedonians] conquered the Greeks and unified them into the Macedonian kingdom, which was then Hellenised," wrote the member for Perth, before adding that "the Battle of Chaeronea, where the Macedonians defeated the Greeks in 338BC, was said to mark the end of Greek history and the beginning of the Macedonian era". Ms MacTiernan went on to equate the notion of Hellenic Macedonian identity with that of Irish Celts and the effects of Viking invasion, saying that "cultural victory of the vanquished is not unusual - the Vikings invaded Ireland but quickly embraced Celtic culture". The MP added that the gene pools of Greek Macedonians "and those from the republic are likely to be very similar", and that she did not see herself as "choosing between Australian Greeks and Australian Macedonians". Ms MacTiernan's latest intervention in the debate over Macedonian identity - and Australia's relationship to it - is unlikely to bring the two sides together anytime soon. Victorian coordinator of the Australian Hellenic Council, Mr Peter Jasonides, described her comments as "inept and opportunistic", and suggested Ms MacTiernan should "distance herself from playing the partisan political game, and look at history in a nonpolitical way, as it has been written by internationally recognised historians, and not by propagandist spin-doctors". Asked to comment on the accuracy of Ms MacTiernan's historical analysis, Emeritus Professor John Melville-Jones of the University of Western Australia, an independent expert on Balkan history, told Neos Kosmos a number of the statements made by the MP were either one-sided interpretations or exaggerations. "I wouldn't be able to give her a pass in Ancient History," he said. "The suggestion that the 'gene pools' of Greek Macedonians and those from the republic are likely to be very similar is an exaggeration. This may be true of some places, for instance Florina, but it certainly wouldn't be true of the whole of Greek Macedonia." Federal MP Alannah MacTiernan in Perth last month. PHOTO: AAP/SARAH MOTHERWELL. Ancient Greek to the rescue Including Ancient Greek in the national curriculum could see an influx of students take up the language HELEN VELISSARIS With Modern Greek about to be launched as part of Australia's national curriculum, many are contemplating the place of Ancient Greek in the syllabus. Work has already begun on creating the program for next round of languages that will be offered in the national curriculum, and Ancient Greek is one of them. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) says they have received funding from the government to develop the year 7-10 program for Ancient Greek, Latin and AUSLAN (sign language). But a working program is still far off. "It is anticipated that the curriculum for Ancient Greek will be published in December 2016," an ACARA spokesperson told Neos Kosmos. The inclusion of Ancient Greek as one of the eleven languages being offered has not been met with much support from some parliamentarians. Labor senator Sue Lines suggested that it was a waste of taxpayer's money considering only 42 year 12 students across the country are cur- Ancient Greek might become as popular as Latin at year 12 level. rently learning Ancient Greek. The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) offers ancient Greek classes to year 7-9s, VCE students and adults. GOCMV's coordinator for classical languages and adult courses, Alex Giannadakis, says there is scope for Ancient Greek to become more popular but admits it has a lot of hurdles. The language first has to be picked by the school's principal. "I don't think principals will be happy to include Ancient Greek in their curriculum," he tells Neos Kosmos. "The big problem for the principals will be how to find teachers. In Victoria there are just 4-5 teachers." "And I don't think students will choose that subject by themselves, because it has a lot of grammar." Education ministers in the states and territories argue that introducing languages in the primary school stage will increase numbers of students taking it on till the final year of high school. Mr Giannadakis says the complexity of the language will make it tough for students to enjoy it at an early age. "I don't think it should be included for primary school students," he admits. "My opinion is it should start from year 7, but if we teach simple things, for example, just for the students to get an idea of the classical language and to make it as simple as possible then yes, it could be taught in primary school." He believes there is hope that schools already teaching Modern Greek might be more open to including Ancient Greek as well, enabling it to be marketed along the same lines as Latin, an already popular language at year 12 level. With very high mark-up rates, Ancient Greek might have the potential of attracting many students outside the Greek Australian community. Mr Giannadakis says Ancient Greek is useful to students of any cultural background. "You will have a better vocabulary, you will learn to organise your thoughts because Ancient Greek is a very organised language, it's a very logical language, and when you go to visit museums and archaeological sites you will be able to understand what the signs say."
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