Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos: Why Associations and Brotherhoods?

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Historically, Associations, Brotherhoods and Clubs played a vital role in the life of migrants.  These were essentially people displaced from their hometowns and villages, feeling isolated in a foreign land.  In order to maintain social interaction, speak their language and connect to their home of origin, Associations and even Sporting Clubs were formed.  These organisations played a vital role in the life of the migrant.

Entire generations have passed since those days, so why do these Associations and Brotherhoods continue to exist? Are they still relevant?  The question is “Do these Associations and Brotherhoods have a relevant purpose for current and future generations”?  The new generations have educational institutions, gyms, work environments, social media and many other forums to interconnect with. The core role of these Associations and Brotherhoods no longer exists.

 Associations and Brotherhoods are also faced with other challenges which have emerged over the passing of many years.  Almost all operate with volunteers and many with initial founding members.  Many operate under outdated Constitutions which don’t comply with new regulations and don’t protect the rights of the Members.  Laws and legal requirements have changed over the years but many of these Associations and Brotherhoods still operate under their initial guides.

We need to make these organisations relevant to today’s needs so they can continue to have a place.  The elderly which began these organisations are our living encyclopaedia to history.  It can’t be a case of “out with the old and in with the new”.  The ‘old’ are our foundation. These organisations must always cater to their needs as well as to future generations.

The days of the “dance and souvlaki stick” died a long time ago.  We need to close the door on that chapter.  Associations and Brotherhoods have to become relevant to today’s needs as well as being social hubs.

The elderly amongst our Community were once young, energetic and vibrant when settling in Australia and establishing these organisations as their social outlet, but as their numbers dwindle, so will the existence of these loved organisations.  Associations and Brotherhoods now need to cater to changing needs.  Many of those initial migrants have lost long time partners and struggling to adjust in isolation.  Dementia and Alzheimers is a growing pandemic amongst our Community, together with emotional challenges of depression and anxiety. This older generation did not focus on emotional issues.  Needs were different then.  The priority was to work, raise a family, provide and establish. Emotions were seen as a frivolous indulgence to be pushed aside in priority to duty. Unfortunately, emotions are stronger than any duty and eventually they creep up on us and drag us into dark, unfamiliar and frightening territory.  Many suffer them alone in silence.  It’s now appropriate for Associations and Brotherhoods to address and assist these needs of the Community to give further relevance to their existence.  It’s the next generation’s turn to take the baton and run with it. An Association needs to be a place which educates with information, be a hub for social activity, promote cultural events and keeps the passion of future generations alive so our heritage continues to live through each generation. Very few have progressed to the next stage.

I am the current Vice President of the Athenian Association under the progressive Presidency of Kathy Valis.  Together with our team, we have overhauled our Constitution, have recognised that we can no longer reserve membership only to those of Athenian origin because Athens is Greece’s Capital and encompasses everyone.  Therefore, our membership now reflects that.  Our Mission Statement is to offer membership to all with the purpose being to promote and highlight the history and culture of Athens.  As well as our Annual Dance, we host cultural events which are free of charge to the public and look to working closely with other Associations and Brotherhoods.  Having a progressive team with open minds is the key to the future.

I am currently running for the position of Secretary with the Mytilenian Brotherhood of NSW alongside Myrsini Bougoukas as President and an excellent team of forward thinking, like minded, hand-picked people. On the back of the success of Taste of Lesvos, our vision is to unite ALL members under one strong Lesvos Association and deliver wonderful and exciting outcomes, promoting our heritage for our Members whilst addressing relevant Community issues.  I am confident with our combined talents, led by Myrsini and her knowledge and passion for the island, we can achieve that.

The election process has not been without its many challenges.  I am seeing much of the old mindset which keeps Associations and Brotherhoods going backwards.  I’ve witnessed the same old tired tricks of hanging on to power but have seen no reason as to why they want it other than ego and self interest.  It has been a challenge to view the Members’ Register when the Constitution clearly states that it is to be available at all times to any Member who wishes to view it. We have had to battle for every step. Consequently, we have discovered many inconsistencies with the Members’ Register, meaning that the rights of Members are being compromised for the sake of those wishing to hold on to control.

Deciding to have elections in and amongst the Easter period and with election day being on St George’s Name Day – one of the most popular Name Days on the Greek calendar suggests those who have chosen that day, did so wanting to ensure the least number of members are able to attend voting. Why?  How can this be acting in the interests of the Members when you are using exclusion as a strategy?  There’s been an election committee appointed, meant to be independent yet one of those “independent” people has relatives running for a position on the Committee. We are already faced with an outcome based on a flawed election process and not by the decision of Members so we can only hope that the Members attending take these points into consideration and vote in their own interests and not in the interests of those seeking election.  People and Community and delivering results has been my lifelong passion and whilst I have the privilege of working alongside creative and energetic people, I will continue to contribute with pride to all that preserves our culture and assists within our Community.  Myrsini Bougoukas, together with myself and our proposed team look forward to seeing you on election day this Sunday between 12pm and 4pm at the Mytilenian House.

Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos.

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