The United Macedonian Diaspora Australia (UMD Australia) is compelled to express our profound concern at the demands contained in the Australian Hellenic Council’s (AHC) public letter to the Prime Minister of Australia, which are aimed at curbing the fundamental rights of our Macedonian Australian community to identity, language, culture, and freedom of expression in Australia. The AHC letter openly denigrates our long-established community and contains offensive undertones throughout.
While our Macedonian Australian community has buckled down during the COVID-19 pandemic and focused on vital grassroots initiatives, it is disappointing that the AHC has a blatant agenda directed at disrupting social cohesion in Australian society, by broaching socio-political issues from abroad. Our community deeply objects to the provocative nature of the AHC letter which singles out Macedonians as not deserving of an identity of our own choosing here in democratic Australia.
The various derogatory descriptors adopted by the AHC throughout their letter in relation to our identity and our language, such as “Macedoslovenes”, “Macedoslavic”, “South Slavic”, “citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia” and so on, in a formal letter to the highest level of government in Australia, speaks volumes of the AHC’s presumed position of entitlement over our Macedonian community. Our community overwhelmingly voices and freely chooses, to self-identify as Macedonian, to which we are entitled with no other descriptors. That is also how we are known by the Australian government, by the media, and other institutions.
Macedonians in Australia and throughout the diaspora have unequivocally condemned the Prespa Agreement (the Agreement) and its negative impact on our identity. Despite resistance by a large proportion of the Macedonian population with dismal referendum turnout, the name change of the Republic of Macedonia was implemented under unprecedented and coercive pressure in exchange for possible entry to the European Union.
Even prior to the Agreement, Macedonians endured ongoing attacks on our identity in Australia, both direct and tacit. Now, however, this Agreement has emboldened those like the AHC to call into question the identity of Macedonians. The current politics of two European states should have nothing to do with the rights exercised here for decades by Macedonian Australians. Why are those politics, which our community disapproves of, being brought here to infringe on our essential rights?
Moreover, it is not only Macedonians that object to the Prespa Agreement; the AHC admits in its letter that the Agreement does not have broad support within Greece and their community in Australia as they profess exclusive rights to the name “Macedonia”. The resistance was “expressed by Hellenes with mass protests in every continent, including several demonstrations in every major city of Greece”. How can a bilateral agreement to which there is so much disagreement purportedly have the integrity to be enforced in a country like Australia, that is not even a party to the Agreement?
It is also highly contradictory of the AHC to seek recognition of the rights of Greeks in the region of Macedonia within Greek borders, when for the last century, Greece has been Hellenising that region by continually suppressing the identity and rights of the ethnic Macedonians living there. This discriminatory policy includes prohibiting the Macedonian language and culture and the practice of the Macedonian Orthodox religion, in express violation of international laws on the rights of minorities. All Macedonian villages and towns have been Hellenised and renamed.
UMD Australia is most concerned about the practical day-to-day impact that the demands of the AHC would have on the rights and freedoms of our Macedonian Australian community. It is incumbent on the Australian government to support our large Macedonian community to ensure that the dated views of foreign states are not brought to our shores disrupting our tolerant society here.