Dimitria ousted from Eaton Mall

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Greek dancers at last year’s Dimitria Festival, at Oakleigh’s Eaton Mall. Photo: Kostas Deves.

Monash City Council cites public safety issues to justify its decision.

Dimitria Festival, organised by the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne & Victoria and staged in the last three years at the heart of Hellenism in Melbourne, at Eaton Mall in Oakleigh, will be forced this year to request an alternative venue. This is as a result of a Monash City Council refusal to allow the organisers to stage their festival at Eaton Mall.

The ‘bad’ news, as president of the Pan-Macedonian Association Dimitris Minas described the decision, was forwarded to the organisation a month ago in a official letter from the City of Monash Council.

In its response the City of Monash Council stated that “the capacity of Eaton Mall to accommodate large scale events is compromised due to the amount of static and portable furniture positioned around the space”, and that the expected crowd of around 10,000 people “would create a significant public safety issue”.

The City of Monash has also refused Dimitria Festival to be staged on November 2 as requested by the Pan-Macedonian Association, and is proposing instead the festival be staged on October 26, the date of the celebration of St Dimitrios, at Warrawee Park, instead of Eaton Mall.

“We did not expect it. We do not know what to do now or where to go, we do not even know if we will be staging the event,” said Mr Minas speaking to Neos Kosmos. The President of the Pan-Macedonia Association is also accusing one local councillor for running a public safety campaign against the staging of the Festival at Eaton Mall.

The request to hold Dimitria Festival at the heart of Hellenism in Melbourne is also supported by the local Greek Australian businessman, who signed an official letter to the council dating back to May 12th.

Mr Minas is also claiming that the Monash City Council is showing a preference for the local Greek Orthodox Community of Oakleigh & District who is also organising its own two day Festival on the weekend of November 1. He adds though that he does not have an issue with the GOCOD but with the Council.

A few months ago Mr Minas met with the President of the local Greek Community Mr Angelos Sardelis in an effort to discuss the possibility of co-hosting one Festival instead of two but they did not agree. The Pan-Macedonian Association declined to work together with the Greek Orthodox Community of Oakleigh and District (GOCOD) because it does not wish for the Festival to be staged at Warrawee Park. ‘We have attempted in the past to stage this event in the park and the event was not successful. We have concerns after expending funds promoting the event that we would be once again in the same predicament” points out the Pan-Macedonian Association in a letter addressed to the Council.

The organisation adds that their… “event is purely an event staged for public awareness of the principles behind the Dimitria tradition and awareness for the Greek culture associated with this event” arguing that the spirit of the Festival could not be retained under the terms and conditions GOCOD proposed.
Dimitris Minas and Angelos Sardelis will be meeting again today in an effort to find a commonly agreed solution for the staging a combined Festival.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos, the President of the Greek Community of Oakleigh and District said that GOCOD knew about the objections of the City of Monash to hold events in Eaton Mall, ‘we were told that after the revamp of Eaton Mall we will not be allowed to stage a festival there. That applies for everyone not only for us”.

Councillor Bill Pontikis who has been assigned by the local Council to mediate between the Pan-Macedonia Association of Melbourne and Victoria and the local Greek Community in order to help them stage one Festival away from Eaton Mall speaking to Neos Kosmos said that the increased numbers of visitors has forced the local council to ban festivals and cultural events from the Mall.

In a statement to Neos Kosmos the mayor of the City of Monash Geoff Lake stated amongst others the following:

“Monash Council has been working with the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne & Victoria and the Greek Orthodox Community of Oakleigh & District to work out the conflicting dates for their festivals.

“Both wanted their festivals to occur on the same dates – the Pan-Macedonian Association on 2 November & the Greek Orthodox Community on 1 & 2 November.

“However the two organisations had differing ideas about what they wanted and how it would work, so a joint event doesn’t seem possible.
Any suggestion Council is favouring one group over the other is wrong.

Council values what each group brings to Oakleigh and the Monash community.

We’ve offered the Pan-Macedonian Association Sunday 26 October as an alternative date.

Having understood that the Saint Day being celebrated by the Pan-Macedonian Association is St Dimitros which is 26 October, our recommendation is that the Pan Macedonians have the date closest to their celebration.

We also believe for reasons of safety that Warrawee Park is the best place for festivals like these to be held, rather than Eaton Mall”.

“It would be a shame if the festival didn’t go ahead but it’s really up to the Pan-Macedonian Association to make that decision,” he concluded.

source: neos kosmos

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