Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram The Hellenic Democratic Initiative, a minnow organisation founded by Melbourne lawyer Vasilis Giavris, first sprung up on the social networking site in October last year. With members from many Greek communities around the world, including Australia, South Africa and the USA, the group is aiming to raise global awareness of the issues plaguing Greece, and start discussing possible solutions. “It’s pretty new and it’s not a traditional organisation,” Giavris told Neos Kosmos. “It’s creating something through the Internet and Facebook, galvanising support and using all this new social media to do it, and so far it’s been very successful,” he said. So far the group has amassed over 500 members on Facebook, with plans to develop a website and engage YouTube as a further distribution platform in order to spur on the global conversation. Given its name, the Hellenic Democratic Initiative has as its goal the establishment of a truly representative and participatory democracy in Greece. “I certainly believe that as Greeks living in Australia, or anywhere around the world, we have a role to play…and that role does involve exposing the issues, discussing the issues and trying to galvanise global support and hopefully try to create change,” Giavris said. The organisation is taking a very broad-brushed and ambitious approach to the issues at hand, which include transparency, corruption, social justice and the rule of law in Greek society. “If you look at organisations like Transparency International and how they measure corruption globally…unfortunately Greece is deemed to be the most corrupt state in the EU, and as corrupt or even lower than countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Panama,” Giavris said. Transparency International statistics show that in 2010 Greece was ranked 78th of 178 countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption among public officials, and that 13.4 percent of Greeks resorted to giving bribes in 2009, paying an estimated 790 million euros in bribes to public and private officials. “It’s a serious issue and the ramifications are being paid by the Greek people at the moment,” he said. In 2010 Australia was ranked equal 8th on the Transparency International scale, equal with Switzerland. Currently in its infancy, Giavris hopes to grow the grass-roots Hellenic Democratic Initiative even further, in order to apply pressure on Greece to take notice of the Diaspora’s concerns. “The more support we galvanise, the more we can potentially raise issues in Greece and maybe even apply pressure to change some things that need to be changed,” he said. The Hellenic Democratic Initiative recently held a public lecture in English at the University of Melbourne, which was advertised solely through its Facebook page and attracted more than 140 people. “Half of them would have been second or third generation Greek Australians, a lot of University students…probably half or a third of the people there were first generation that were interested in what we had to say,” Giavris said. “[We] provided an analysis on the state of play in Greece in regards to corruption, and also in regards to the IMF and Eurozone loan agreements. That will be beamed all over the world soon on YouTube and through our membership on Facebook,” he said. According to Giavris, the discussion concluded that the Greek Diaspora must stand together with Greece to help carry the burden of a debt caused by the incompetence of successive Greek governments over the last decades. He said the feedback from the lecture was very positive. “People walked away telling me…that they thought it was amazing. They felt they learned quite a bit and they were not aware that all these things were occurring, at least not in the way that we had described them,” Giavris said. This sentiment also translated onto the group’s Facebook wall, where members wrote messages of congratulations, declaring the event an “excellent in-depth presentation”, “informative” and “inspiring”. The group’s debut lecture was so successful that there are plans to hold a follow-up forum in Melbourne in the coming months, as well as taking the presentation to other Australian capitals including Sydney and Adelaide. Search “Hellenic Democratic Initiative” on Facebook for more information.