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Neos Kosmos, Melbourne

The National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research.

La Trobe University's Bundoora Campus. Melbourne. Australia.

An excellent centre for Hellenism

By Giorgios Hatzimanolis

The National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research. - Tamis Professor La Trobe

Professor Tamis with his new book 'The Greeks in Australia.'

Nestled in the tranquil surroundings of La Trobe University's Bundoora Campus, The National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research offers an ideal environment for those interested in learning more about the many facets of Hellenism. The Director of the Centre, Professor Anastasios Tamis, recently invited members of Neos Kosmos staff on a guided tour of the Centre. Realising I knew very little about the Centre, which is regarded as the largest research centre for Hellenic Studies outside of Greece, I decided to make the drive to Bundoora.

The two-hour tour by Professor Tamis and his staff, who made every effort to explain the many departments of the Centre, offered an insight into its daily operations, but also gave me a better understanding of the Centre's significance to Melbourne's vibrant Greek community.

The Centre's most impressive attribute is undoubtedly its amazing archive of historical material, including photographs, newspapers and videos, which document the history of Australia's Greeks. The size and volume of the archive is extraordinary and a must see.

Armed with a digital camera and a Dictaphone I photographed and recorded my tour, including these comments by Professor Tamis about the Centre.

What is the National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research, La Trobe University?

The NCHSR, La Trobe University, was established in 1997 as a result of a La Trobe University Council decision, the generosity of Dr. Zissis Dardalis and the vision and support of the University's Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Michael John Osborne. The Centre is also known as EKEME, which is its acronym for 'Ethniko Kentro Ellinikon Meleton kai Erevnas.'

Since its establishment the NCHSR has arguably become the largest research and cultural Centre of Hellenism outside Greece, with both a national and international reputation. Its staff comprising academics, researchers, computer analysts, administrators and postgraduate students are joined by a number of renowned scholars and research fellows around the globe.

Why was it established?

The NCHSR was established to promote the Hellenic culture, history and civilisation to Australians of Hellenic descent, as well as to mainstream Australian society. Its objectives coincide with its philosophy and belief that the study, research and maintenance of Hellenism in the Diaspora, and the development of strong cultural and academic links between the Hellenic metropolis and Australasia can enrich life in this country as well as enhance the cultural, social and economic contribution of Australians of Greek heritage towards the societies in which they reside.

The NCHSR's mission is to achieve international recognition as a unique Centre poised to contribute to the academic study, preservation and dissemination of Hellenism. The objectives deriving from the above may be summarised as follows:

· Maintain and develop the Greek language, culture and the Hellenic civilisation.

· Study and promote the history of Greek expatriation in the Diaspora.

· Establish a leading international resource centre on issues of Hellenism for those living outside Greece.

· Provide the facilities for retrieving original archival documents and photographs depicting the settlement of Greeks around the globe.

· Become an internationally recognised centre for quality research, and

· Provide a strong link between the Greek communities of Australia, La Trobe University and Australian society at large.

Are you satisfied with its progress?

Given the fact that we commenced our operations from ground level I would have to say yes, I am very satisfied. Currently it is the only university institution in the Greek Diaspora with an Institute for Cypriot Studies and Research, an Institute for Macedonian Studies and an Institute for Asia Minor and Pontic Studies. I am also satisfied because the University is demonstrating a keen and sincere interest and contributes substantially towards its welfare and existence.

During the last seven years we brought over 30 distinguished scholars and academics from all over the world, we managed to publish 18 publications on the Greek language, culture and the history of Greek migration, we managed to publish nine books written by Greek Australian poets and prose writers, we held over ten seminars, one international Conference and organised over 45 lectures, inviting prominent scholars to contribute.

Furthermore, we managed to digitalise over 250,000 documents of the Australian Greek migration and settlement, we collaborated closely with the Greek Communities of Sydney, Canberra, Western Australia, Darwin, over 50 Greek organisations classifying, documenting and indexing their archives. We organised three Australia-wide student competitions on the Aegean, Cypriot and Macedonian civilisation attracting a total of 11,000 students from over 800 Australian schools of whom 80% were of non-Greek-background. We trained over 50 Greek language students with special seminars organised at the Centre and in collaboration with the Victorian Government we trained over 60 young Greek Australian to find employment.

Currently we collaborate with the Universities of Crete, Athens, Thessaloniki, Wursburg, Concordia, with the National Centre of research in Greece, the Centre for Ecumenical Hellenism, the Institution Maria Tsakos in Uruguay, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece and the Greek Parliament. In addition we are the 'balcony' of many Greek institutions to present artists from Greece, their work and their lectures. In this capacity, we presented in Australia the Aegean Exhibition with the Greek Ministry of the Aegean, publishing two books - one for Aegean Immigration and Settlement in Australia and one about the Cypriot civilisation.

Will the Centre remain viable in the future?

This is our ultimate goal. This will depend on the generosity of the Greek Australian business community and the support of the Greek and Cypriot Governments. The Australian Government and La Trobe University participated generously contributing a 99-year lease, with the possibility for another 99 years for six buildings and the obligation to cover all maintenance expenses of over 500,000 annually. The operating costs of the NCHSR (currently at over $800,000) will remain to be covered by the Greek Australian community, the Greek and Cypriot Governments as well as services and books published by this Centre. During the last eight years we managed to raise the funds and sustain this Centre. I anticipate that the current support that we enjoy will continue.

Currently the EKEME is the most-well known Centre in Greece as well as in Australia. We have a responsibility towards our future generations as well as our heritage to maintain the EKEME, in an era where most of our Greek organisations are eradicated in the integration process.

Has the NCHSR received support and recognition from the Greek Community and Greek and Federal Governments?

As it was already outlined this Centre has received the generous support of the Greek business community. Furthermore there are over 600 life members and members joining the Societies of Friends for Hellenic Studies and Research in all states. This proves the substantial support that this Centre is deriving from our vital association with the Greek community. The Greek Government has supported many of our research projects and supported all student competitions. Greek Ministries have also awarded grants in support of our operation and research.

Can you detail the Centre's upcoming projects?

There are many ongoing projects. Currently we are working on 28 research projects with institutions from Greece and the rest of Europe, the USA and Latin America. We anticipate to publish extensively (our publication on the Greeks in Latin America will be presented in Greece in November), we organise the National Students' Competition on Macedonia with the code name 'Alexander the Great,' we bring prominent scholars, including Professor Petrohilos (Latin), Professor Leontsinis (History), Professor Glykofridis (Philosophy), Professor Kostopoulou (Economics), Professor Xatziathanasiou (Engineering), we maintain the co-ordination of the 'Programa Paideia Omogenon' for Oceania in collaboration with the University of Crete, we continue with our stream of lectures and seminars for the whole of 2005, we organise together with the University of Athens the International Conference in Kythera about the Kytherians, we participate with the University of Wyrzburg on the Movement of Philhellenes, we organise in January 2006 the Exhibition of the Greeks in Australia in Athens with the 'Oikoumenikos Ellinismos,' we collaborate with the Greek Parliament in February regarding another Exhibition on the Greeks in Australia, while we actively participate in 11 conferences with our academics and researchers. One of the most consistent contributions of this Centre is the digitalisation of the Greek Immigration and Settlement Archives.

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