Pan-Lesvian Federation of Australia & New Zealand

 Exclusive Interview with Pan-Lesvian Federation of Australia and New Zealand’s President, Georgios Stavrinos.

With Victoria being elected to be the Chair of the Pan- Lesvian Federation of Australia and New Zealand for the next two years, newly elected President, Giorgos Stavrinos, provides us insight into the objectives and challenges he and Committee will face over the next two years.
V.V:  First of all, welcome back from Greece. Is it a case of “back to work” for you and the Executive Committee?
G.S: (Laughs) The honeymoon period is over, and we back to work. On a serious note, the Committee recently had a meeting and it was our first real opportunity to sit down together and set out our vision for what direction the Federation will take. It was a very positive Meeting and everyone is keen and enthusiastic to move forward. Our responsibility and obligation to our role (for the next two years) begins now.
V.V: Having been in Greece recently, how were you received, as President of the Federation, by Lesvos’ Officials?
G.S: During the holiday, it was opportune to meet with our Prefect, Pavlos Vogiatzis, and the Mytilene’s Mayor, Nasos Giakalis. Everyone was very supportive with our election as the Federation’s Chair, and assured us they will help our initiatives and endeavours in whatever ways they can. We have an official letter from our Prefect, which highlights his support for us. My meetings were all very positive, and we look forward to a co-operative and productive relationship with Lesvos’ Officials- at all levels- with the Prefecture and Local Councils.
Above: Two photographs from the recent concert in Mytilene- a Tribute to Giorgos Zambetas by the Municipal Council's Orchestra- where Palesviaki Enosis of Melbourne and Victoria's President, Giorgos Stavrinos, presented Mytilene's Mayor, Nasos Giakalis, with an Honorary Award in recognition for th Orchestra's visit to Australia in 2008. In the left photograph, Mr Stavrinos reads to to Mr Giakalis the inscription on the Award, in the right photograph, Mr Stavrinos addresses the crowd.
V.V: Over the next two years, are some of your priorities in your attempts to build a strong Federation?
G.S: We have several priorities. We believe it is important for the Federation to have establishing and maintaining strong ties with Lesvos’ Officials and authorities, and we are already setting forth the measures to reach this objective. One of the most important issues relating to us- as Greeks in the diaspora- is the maintenance of the Greek language, at all education levels whether it be schools and universities. We also need to promote and support visits to Australia and New Zealand from Lesvian public figures- whether it be our politicians, academics and artists. And a fourth priority is to promote Lesvian products. Lesvos is one of the most productive areas in Greece; there is a large range of products we are famous for- whether for our ouzos or dairy products. The Federation can play an active in the promotion and spread of our products in Australia and New Zealand. As a Federation, we can oversee some of these initiatives.
V.V. What is your vision for the Federation?
G.S: We have two years to actively work towards bringing Australia and New Zealand’s Lesvian community together. We are one of the largest Greek communities (in the diaspora), and I strongly believe our community can play an active role in so many areas- when we are united and all working together for common goals and interests.
V.V: You mention “so many areas”, what are some of these areas?
G.S: The Federation can play an important role, for instance, in Greek national issues- both in Greece and Australia. We are now in the process in becoming a member in the Australian Hellenic Council. Moreover, we are completing our application to become a Full Member in the Greek Parliament Abroad (S.A.E). We are now awaiting for State Members (of the Federation) to send us their nominated representatives- one per state- for the Australian Hellenic Council. Having membership in such significant institutions will provide the Lesvian community with a strong united voice.
V.V: In the past, there have been criticisms how the Federation is always dominated by larger groups- New South Wales and Victoria- and smaller groups- in Western Australia, South Australia and New Zealand- have been overlooked in such activities as officials’ or band’s visits. How will you try to rectify this?
G.S: We are all Member-States of the Federation, and are all equal among equals. It is true that in the past visitors from Lesvos have overlooked small communities (cities). This is one area of the Federation we will try hard to “fix”. We wish our future visitors we will have the time to visit all Member- States. In reality, though, it comes down to the availability of their time when dates are proposed. For instance, a band may not have the luxury to play only weekends when they visit Australia and New Zealand- this will take five weeks. To accommodate everyone, the band may have to play mid-week, or a Friday night in one state and Sunday somewhere else. It is not easy to accommodate everyone- as we do not know how much time our future visitors will have, but we do hope they can visit as many Member –States as possible.
V.V: With so many matters on your two-year program, what is first on the agenda as a social event?
G.S: In the immediate future, there will be an AGM- for all State Members to com to Melbourne to discuss our two-year program. It is important to begin working as a team- with all Members this year moving forward together. Both the Executive and our Member States have an active role to play in our success over the next two years.
In the longer term, we are organizing an andamoma (social meeting) next year, inviting all Member- States and their members- the first one will be in Melbourne. We believe it is important to build a strong rapport among Lesvians everywhere. An andamoma must happen on a regular basis- every year.  
V.V: Thank you for all your time. We wish you all the very best in your endeavours and initiatives to achieve your goals.
G.S: Thank you.     
October, 2009

All photographs courtesy of Giorgos Stavrinos