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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 5 March 2016
8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 5 MARCH 2016 NEWS FEATURE ‘There is still an element of Nick Bolkus talks exclusively to Neos Kosmos about his career in politics, the benefits of multiculturalism and immigration, and reveals his own paradise THEODORA MAIOS When Nick Bolkus found a real passion for politics, he knew the road to parliament wouldn't be one for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, he set the scene as one of the most senior and longestserving federal politicians of Greek background in Australia, and never let the stumbles in the road mark the end of his journey. Born on 17 July 1950 to parents who migrated from the island of Kastellorizo in the 1920s, Bolkus studied law at the University of Adelaide and for more than two decades had a distinguished political career representing South Australia. He served as a minister in both the Hawke and Keating ALP governments for over eight years. We meet at a Greek café in Adelaide's CBD, just around the corner from his current office, where he runs his own consulting business. "I love it here," he says of the great lifestyle in Adelaide. "All these years, I had to put up with people talking SA down. Now I say, 'if you don't like it here, then don't come'." Although he always viewed himself as Greek, when Bolkus entered politics he figured out pretty quickly that "coming from one side of the tracks was not going to make it easy to be totally accepted on the other side". "Growing up in Australia in the '70s, there were different environments and a real awakening regarding multiculturalism and migrants' rights," he says. Looking back, the former minister remembers that he was seen pretty much as an outsider in the political system, with Canberra being much the same as the rest of Australia. For him, the key to surviving and ultimately succeeding in this environment was the early realisation that, in order to reap the benefits of both cultural backgrounds, he had to respect his cultural identity while embracing his Australian reality. "I guess through discovering everyone else's background and history, I got to appreciate my own; there are advantages in both Greek and Australian cultures and we shouldn't turn our back on either. "People drown in their own cultural context at times," he says. According to Bolkus, Australia was very racist in those early years, and although the country has matured a lot as a nation over the last 30 years, there is still an element of direct and indirect discrimination. "Take the media for example," he says. "I feel as though the good 'migration' stories never make it on the news and that many cultures (Greek included) miss out on both public broadcasters." DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM y k s - Serving as a minister with specific responsibility for immigration and multiculturalism, he feels proud of how Australia has progressed over the years and the way in which Australian governments have handled the refugee crisis overall. "The country should continue to embrace those refugees who meet the right requirements and come into In the ruins of the Senate in Syria. the country legally; if they are in accordance with the country's security guidelines, then we should be proud to have them because multiculturalism results in a tremendous enrichment of Australian society," he adds, citing the granting of 25,000 permanent residencies to asylum seekers back in November 1994 as one of the highlights in his political career. h Philip Ruddock, Mikis Theodorakis and Nick Bolkus in Crete. A great believer in the global economy and the benefits of young generations moving around and sharing cultural experiences, Bolkus remains a big advocate of the working holiday visas for Europeans. I (wrongly) assume that he must feel relieved that the working visa between Greece and Australia has finally been ratified. "Not really," he says out- right, adding that he still can't overcome a feeling of bewilderment that something he started in 1993 has actually only eventuated 23 years later. "For me, it is outrageous - absolutely ridiculous - that so many generations of young people could have come from Greece over all those years and created valuable and critical links in the global economy. i h ddi h h ill Nick Bolkus (C) in Senate swearing in. With former Greek prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis and German chancellor Helmut Kohl in Crete.
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