The Cypriot communities of Oceania gathered together for their first annual conference in four years, discussing a wide range of topics including their plans for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion and their stance against the visit of the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to Australia.

The conference including participants, Federation of Cyprus Communities and Organisations of Australia and NZ, the Pan Australian Justice for Cyprus Coordinating Committee- PASEKA and the World Organisation for Young Overseas Cypriots of Australia and New Zealand (NEPOMAK) took place last weekend in Sydney.

The conference, which was held at the Cyprus Club in Stanmore, opened with a launch event on Friday evening with representatives from the various organisations joined by diplomats and politicians.

Cyprus Community of NSW Dance Group performing at the launch event on Friday. Photo: Supplied

Among the speakers and noted guests were the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in Australia, Antonis Sammoutis, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Ioannis Mallikourtis, Michael Christodoulou, President of the Federation, Michael Christodoulides, Vice President of PASEKA, Stephanie Demetriou, President of NEPOMAK, Judge of Greek Cypriot background Melissa Perry, former President of the NSW Legislative Council Amanda Fazio and former member of NSW Upper House David Clarke.

Following the speeches, attendees were entertained with a performance by the Cyprus Community of NSW Dance Group.

The Federation President labelled it a “very successful” event to open their first conference in four years, having been postponed in recent times primarily due to the pandemic.

He remarked that this year’s event saw representation from every single community within the federation, which greatly pleased him, before elaborating on the major discussion points raised in the subsequent Saturday and Sunday meetings.

Christodoulou stated that the Saturday proceedings featured discussions of each group’s activities in the past 12 months as well as plans for the next year.

“Most organisations have started planning what they are going to do in their respective states for the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion,” the Federation President told Neos Kosmos in what he stressed was a key topic of this year’s conference.

Photo from the Annual Conference meeting. Photo: Supplied

The event also featured as a presenter the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, Michael Kolokossian, who addressed the delegation about their activities.

“We wanted to hear from them in regards to how they operate, how they go about lobbying for their various issues/causes…We both accepted to continue our relationship and conversation in the future and learn from one another,” Christodoulou said.

The discussions then turned to the current visit of Ersin Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot leader of the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.

“As you can appreciate, we have not been very happy with the visit of Mr Ersin Tatar, who pretended to be a statesman and a representative of an official government,” Christodoulou said in regards to the leader of the pseudostate “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (which is recognised only by Turkey).

“We approached members of both major political parties to make sure he is not addressed as a president of a recognised republic and I do not believe that either political party, both in Canberra and in NSW, welcomed him as the president of a legitimate republic.”

Sunday’s events saw the conversation centre on issues of the communities, including their direction and future plans, with discussions focusing on areas like the elderly, women’s programs, the issue of modern Greek education, and minor changes to the constitution.

Christodoulou added that the various participants agreed to nominate two people to be recognised by the President of Cyprus when they attend the next World Conference in Nicosia this coming August.

The two individuals are former Secretary of PASEKA, Christina Charalambous, and former President of PASEKA, Georgia Alexandrou, both of whom unfortunately recently passed away. Neos Kosmos

Photo: Supplied

“We all unanimously accepted and proposed that we should ask the President of Cyprus that he should award those two for their services to the Cypriot communities here in Australia and New Zealand,” Christodoulou said.

The Federation President also revealed that they have engaged with a producer in Cyprus to develop a short film about the missing persons for the last 50 years.

“We feel that it is something to assist in our deliberations and also promote the issue of the missing persons,” Christodoulou said while adding that he personally has three cousins who are still missing.

He expressed that they have also asked the Australian government to improve the services for the High Commission, including hiring more staff, while also requesting them to build a residence for the High Commissioner on the land next to the High Commission that was purchased years ago.

Christodoulou has been reappointed President of the Federation, with Michael Christodoulides appointed as Alternate President and Stefanie Demetriou as Secretary, with Chris Koulinos becoming the new PASEKA President.

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