It is with deep concern that the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) must make the following statement.
UMD strongly condemns the personal attacks and death threats following the appointment of Cr. Emilia Lisa Sterjova as Mayor of the City of Whittlesea.
Emilia’s accomplishments and position are nothing but a cause for celebration for all Australians. Being elected the youngest female Mayor in Australian history at the age of 22, Emilia has accomplished something we encourage our daughters, and young people in general, to do: get involved in politics, make a change.
However, it is precisely when our young people stand up and get involved that they become the most vulnerable. In a world where climate change denial has led to the bullying of young climate change activists, it is not surprising that those who seek to deny and suppress the Macedonian ethnic identity, act in just the same way.
Instead of embracing Australia’s multiculturalism and celebrating passionate youth and ethnic diversity, Mayor Sterjova has been attacked and bullied by members of the Greek community in Melbourne. Not for her policy and political achievements, but for simply identifying as a Macedonian. Such bigotry needs to be addressed, as there is no room for the Greek State’s own rhetoric against Macedonians, in Australia.
Threats calling for Mayor Sterjova’s resignation based upon her Macedonian identity are absurd, racist and ridiculous, and the death threats are even more concerning and appalling. Ethnic identification, identifying as a Macedonian, is a human right, just as identifying as a Greek is. These threats, comments, and the media articles and stories that will no doubt follow will be cloaked in the veneer of “political comment”, given Mayor Sterjova’s position. They are not political, they are blatant bullying: personal, discriminatory and most importantly misinformed.
The calls for Emilia’s resignation are not based on her policy and work as Mayor, they are based simply on the fact that Emilia danced with the Macedonian flag, used to symbolise and celebrate her own ethnic and cultural heritage, at the Victorian School of Languages graduation ceremony. A ceremony at which she spoke of the importance of cultural diversity, language, and the involvement of young people in politics. That is all. She celebrated an element of her culture, she did not deny or misappropriate a distinctly Greek culture. Although the same comment cannot be made regarding the Greek community’s recent actions and media “outcries” concerning the Mayor’s embracement of her Macedonian culture and identity.
The outrage from Greek organisations referenced Emilia’s actions as a violation of the illegal, unjust and unsustainable Prespa Agreement, if it was not already abundantly obvious that an Australian Mayor of Macedonian heritage celebrating her ethnicity and culture on the other side of the world, in Australia, is completely incapable of breaching the Prespa Agreement. UMD would like to point out that the Prespa Agreement is of absolutely no consequence to Australian Law, nor indeed, International Law in general; it is simply a bilateral agreement between Greece and Macedonia, and even in such cases would fail to cover a situation such as the one at hand. Australian Law, on the other hand, does have a lot to say about hate speech, death threats, discrimination, and defamation.
UMD, and the Macedonian community at large stand firm with Mayor Sterjova. We hope that Greek members of the Whittlesea community will do the same and turn their focus on, and contribute towards the Council’s progress and its youth empowerment. Rather than continuing the historical and, indeed tiresome, Greek denial of Macedonians’ existence.