Greek Independence Day march to be hosted at Lakeside Stadium

After a three-year pandemic hiatus, the 25 March celebration of Greek National Day in Melbourne will return with the traditional parelasi or march, albeit in a new location at Lakeside Stadium, the home of South Melbourne FC.

The change follows the 2019 protest events that led to a ban on the parade taking place to the Shrine of Remembrance, breaking a decades-long tradition and unique privilege that the Greek community enjoyed.

Since 1975, the Shrine policy does not allow parades on the grounds of the historical site for national days of all nations – including Australia’s, with the hosting of the Greek National Parade for decades being an exception, up until 2019.

During that year’s Greek Independence Day march, a loud minority group of troublemakers deprived the community of the annual event after exhibiting offensive and violent behaviour.

Greece’s then second vice-president of parliament and SYRIZA MP, Giorgos Varemenos, who was attending the event was heckled by critics of the Prespes Agreement.

Some began to shout “Greece, Greece Macedonia”, and called Mr Varemenos a “bum” and his government “traitors”, some even threw bottles at him. Eventually Mr Varemenos and other guests had to be escorted to safety by police and security officials to the sound of loud boos.

The parelasi was cancelled in the following two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Lakeside Stadium. Photo: Supplied/George Kouroumalis

On Monday 16 January, the Victorian National Anniversary Committee convened and agreed on Albert Park’s Lakeside Stadium as the best alternative site for the march, out of three candidate sites that were under consideration.

The Greek Independence Day parelasi will take place at the stadium on Sunday 19 March at 1pm in the presence of Archbishop Makarios, as well as state and federal government representatives.

Archbishop Makarios will also be presiding at the commemorative church service for the anniversary on Sunday at St Efstathios Cathedral.

A wreath-laying ceremony at Melbourne’s War Memorial is scheduled a day earlier on Saturday 18 March at 12.30 pm.

For the first time, the parade event will include additional celebrations, while students will have the opportunity to stay inside the stadium and watch the parelasi for the duration.

Tony Tsourdalakis, chairman of the Victorian National Anniversary Committee, thanked the SMFC President Nicholas Maikousis for giving the green light on the use of the club’s stadium for the event and called on schools, organisations and individuals to attend the national anniversary events as a unified and strong community.

For further information on the 25 March events email the organising committee greeknationalday@gmail.com.

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