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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 March 2018
LETTER 24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 MARCH 2018 In response to John Vithoulkas’ opinion piece ‘Whose Hall is it Anyway?’ DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF THE GREEK COMMUNITY OF MELBOURNE We refer to the opinion piece, written by a John Vithoulkas in Neos Kosmos, which was published on the online edition of Neos Kosmos on 2 March 2018, under the title 'Whose Hall is it Anyway?', and which was also published in the Saturday 3 March 2018 edition of the newspaper. As a preamble, we note that the Board of Management of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) were not provided the opportunity to reply to the numerous claims made by Mr Vithoulkas in the article. As a matter of common courtesy and good practice one would assume that, before publicly making accusations and allegations, such as those that appeared in the article, one would interview all parties concerned. The board of management, for the sake objectivity, impartiality, and accuracy, wishes to clarify the following: In the first instance we address the allegations in respect to the meeting in which it has been falsely alleged that our representative requested the club to cease operation. The Community denies that this request was ever made by our representative, nor did they imply that the GCM was "kicking them out". To the contrary, the representative noted that our organisation welcomes all clubs and associations that use its facilities throughout the inner suburbs of Melbourne. It was also made explicitly clear that expelling the "elderly would never occur". The main discussion centred on the associated costs in operating both the churches and the halls and whether organisations use the facilities, on a day-to-day basis, could contribute towards the expenses by paying a minimal fee. For the avoidance of any doubt, it should be clear that it is not the intention of the Community to profit from the use of these facilities. It is incorrect and false to assert that the Community's representative yelled at anyone, especially the elderly. This can be confirmed by the priest who was standing next to its representative. It appears Mr Vithoulkas failed to confer with the priest prior to publishing his accusations. We note that for the past 30 years, that both the churches and their adjacent halls, which belong to the Greek Community, have incurred a financial loss every year. This fact can be confirmed by inspecting the annual audited reports that are submitted to the relevant Government authorities and which are publicly available. For example, the financial loss for the 2016/17 financial year, in respect to the operation and maintenance of the churches and the halls, exceeded $150,000. The Greek Community in fact subsidises the operation of both its churches and calls on an annual basis. The unfortunate reality is, that our organisation funds these halls by increasing fees on our schools and cultural services. The Greek Community of Melbourne is a not-forprofit organisation. Many of the board members dedicate over 20 hours per week on managing the education and cultural services. As a snapshot, in 2017 there were: • 13 campuses throughout Victoria teaching Greek to over 1,300 students • Over 80 students enrolled in our Ancient Greek Language Classes • 250 adults who attended Greek language classes for beginners • 45 free lectures to the public • Lonsdale St Festival cost $500,000 with an international singer • Over 20 nights of live Greek music at the Greek Centre • Collaboration with 40 Greek clubs/associations • Annual contributions to: Pronia, Fronditha, and the Central Greek Elderly Association Also, the Greek Community is in the process of building a clubroom for associations that will be located on the 12th floor of the Greek Centre and is finalising phase one of the Evangelismos reinstatement project. Taking into account the substantial losses of the St George Greek Orthodox Church, a suggestion was put forward as to whether a minor contribution can be made towards the associated expenses. These suggestions and recommendations were also conveyed to both the priest and the respective church committees. The Community's representative also asked to further discuss the matter directly with the office bearers of the club that uses the church hall on Tuesday. To this request, the representative was told, by those present, that no properly constituted club exists and that the former priest was the person responsible for arranging the Tuesday gatherings. It has also come to our attention that the City of Darebin has agreed to provide grants for the use of the hall by various community groups and associations. The Greek Community was not, until recently, aware that applications for the grants had been made and, despite the grants being paid by council, the Community has not been the recipient of the money. The Greek Community is currently investigating to which individual the grant money has been paid. Mr Vithoulkas also boldly asserted that our organisation "destroys community in pursuit of income". This is far from the reality. On a daily basis the Greek Community buildings are used by multiple organisationsGreek and non-Greek. The board of management determines the appropriate fees. On many occasions, many associations do not pay a fee at all and on other occasions a minimum fee, being only the cost price of providing the facilities, applies. The Greek Centre is a prime example of perhaps one of the most accessible community buildings in the city of Melbourne and thousands of individuals partake in activities that are facilitated within the Centre. The board of management is the accountable body for the day-to-day operations and management of the organisation and has a clear mandate to support and to serve both its members and other associations and clubs. Thousands of dollars are donated to various philanthropic organisations on an annual basis both in the form of outright donations and subsidies. The members of the current board of management have themselves donated over $500,000 toward the Greek Community in direct payments and in kind professional services. This is unprecedented. Contrary to Mr Vithoulkas’ assertion, the Greek Community and its board of management is a community sensitive organisation and has ample examples of its philanthropic contribution towards members of our community and the broader community. Additionally, Mr Vithoulkas, we follow due processes as required by legislation and are accountable to our constituents.
03 March 2018