The process of what to do with the assets of Greek associations and brotherhoods facing difficulties because of shrinking memberships and financial difficulties should begin with a legal survey of their constitutions that should be funded by the larger peak organisations within the community says Theo Theophanous, former Victorian minister and president of the Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria.

Mr Thephanous told Neos Kosmosthat there were a number of hurdles that needed to be overcome and these related to the associations’ constitutions and legal structures.

“Even if you get past these issues, the associations still have to be willing to pass on their assets and become part of a wider peak organisation,” Mr Theophanous said.

“Someone with a legal brain has to go through each constitution, which means that person would have to be provided with access (to those documents) as the constitutions are not universal and are unique to each association/brotherhood.

“Perhaps the large Greek community organisations need to undertake this at their own cost – to look at the constitutions and to identify the options going forward from there.”

“This needs strong leadership and needs the peak community organisations to get together and look at the problem together, but it needs to be done.

“If we leave it, the issue will fester and the associations will slide away and become redundant and will lose their considerable assets. Some associations have no management structure so their assets have become unnecessarily depleted. It is something that needs to be addressed now.” Mr Theophanous said.

He said options could include amalgamating with other associations or join with the larger organisations, such as the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria, his own Cyrus Community of Melbourne, The Pontian or Cretan associations.

“It has to be done on an interactive basis: it is a process of negotiation and a complex one that will involve each brotherhood.

“The first step is to get the legal effort up and running and once that is done, then hold meeting with these associations to see if there is a will to bring themselves under the auspices of bigger community organisations.”

The process of looking at the constitutions would not take up much time, he said, with a competent lawyer being able to complete the task for each association within weeks.

“The needs vary from association to association – some are faced with imminent collapse while other have struggled to survive for years.”

Mr Theophanous there were constitutions that stipulated the transfer of assets to nominated charities but even with such a framework in place, there was the possibility the constitution may not “disallow” the management of the assets to be handled by the larger community organisation.

“There are a lot of possibilities, but the first step is to have a legally trained person look at he constitutions.”

He said that the issue was one that was faced by other ethnic communities besides the Hellenic communities of Australia and the government could be called on to facilitate the process by providing a legal framework that would allow for the transfer of an association’s assets to the larger community organisations even if the association constitution did not to allow for this to happen.

“The larger Greek organisations could get together with other ethnic organisations to approach the government to facilitate legislation or regulations to allow for the declining associations to transfer their assets to the larger organisations, irrespective of their constitutions.

“But this would take quite a bit of organising. Another way would be to approach a multicultural body like the Multicultural Commission to seek an amendment to the Multicultural Act to facilitate this.”

Mr Theophanous, said ethnic organisations had in the past worked together to promote multicultural events and to seek funding.”

He said the process would be easy for some associations, but it would be it was likely to be a difficult one for the hundreds of associations involved.

Neos Kosmos

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