Greek Consular Reception In honour of the 200th Anniversary of Greek National Independence Day
Premier; Chief Justice; Ministers; Your Excellency, the High Commissioner of Cyprus; Leader of the Opposition; Lord Mayor; MPs; members of the Consular Corps; religious leaders; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
Kaye and I are delighted to join the Honorary Consul-General, and all of you here tonight, as we celebrate this important milestone in Greek history.
I at once acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands, and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
The emergence of a modern, independent Greek state – after four centuries of occupation by the Ottoman Empire – is a story of bravery and triumph.
When in the spring of 1821, Bishop Germanos raised the revolutionary flag at Agia Lavra, it symbolised the beginning of a decade-long struggle for freedom.
Even after Greece was recognised as an independent state, significant work was required to rebuild and reorganise.
At that time, the Greek people drew on thousands of years of traditions – traditions which are still, to all our benefit, imprinted in our contemporary democratic institutions – and a strong faith to face their immense challenges.
This same determination – fearlessness – was evident in those Greek people, over successive decades, who decided to call Australia home.
Indeed, this State has benefitted significantly – culturally and commercially – from the influence and input of the Greek diaspora.
Just last week I was in Longreach to officially open the impressively conceived Airpark Roof at the Qantas Founders Museum, where I was reminded that Qantas’ first caterer was proud Kytherian, Harry ‘Pappa’ Corones of Charleville’s eponymous ‘Corones Hotel’.
I have many fond long-standing memories of visiting Charleville in my youth – and not all of them are contained to that Hotel!
I am also pleased that Government House can claim a small connection to the enterprising Greek spirit, in the wonderful accomplishments of Greek born Contessa Diamantina di Roma, wife of Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Bowen.
Lady Bowen, who, on arrival was described as “an exotic bird of paradise”, soon demonstrated a determined capacity for hard work through her charitable endeavours, which have had a lasting positive impact on our contemporary State.
The progressive outlook of the Greek community, alongside a deep connection to traditional customs and values, ensures that Queensland’s expatriate communities and vibrant Hellenic organisations continue to thrive today.
While the events we are celebrating this evening occurred two centuries ago, they give us strength for the difficulties we confront in today’s world – and I want to publicly express the genuine well wishes and concerns of all Queenslanders for the people of Greece as they continue to confront COVID-19.
This morning I was deeply honoured to lay the first wreath on the Shrine of Remembrance in Brisbane’s Anzac Square in recognition of the tens of thousands of Greeks who lost their lives during the struggle for independence.
It was for me a most moving and poignant experience. Incidentally, the vice-regal Rolls Royce broke down mid-event and had to be towed by the RACQ.
The upside: I got to spend an extra 20 memorable minutes, while alternative transport was arranged, with members of Queensland’s wonderfully uplifting Greek community!
As the year-long program of bicentenary activities unfolds, Queenslanders will experience what makes Greek culture so rich as they enjoy lectures, concerts, festivals and of course, indulge in the delicious flavours of Greece.
I will shortly have the great honour of proposing a toast to the President of Greece, to honour this significant occasion for Greece, the Greek diaspora in Queensland, and our State more generally.
I further extend my heartfelt congratulations to the Honorary Consul, Mr Jim Raptis, the organising committee, and all here tonight, for your contribution to making Greece Twenty Twenty-One – Queensland Celebrates a year that promises to be spectacular and memorable. Thank you.