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Could Athens Become Sister-City of Adelaide, “the Athens of the South?”

Adelaide Athens
The skyline of Adelaide and the River Torrens. Credit: Ardash Muradian, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikipedia

The prospects of a sister-city relationship between Adelaide and Athens, spearheaded by several prominent Greek-Australians, has recently been in the spotlight and received the green light approval in May 2023 by the Adelaide City Council.

By Steve Bakalis

Famously known as ‘Athens of the South’ being renowned for its Mediterranean climate, Adelaide (South Australia)is in the top three – preceded by Melbourne (Victoria) and Sydney (New South Wales) – of Australian cities with the biggest Greek population.

Indeed, the 2021 census showed that the following states had the largest numbers of people nominating Greek ancestry: Victoria (181,184), New South Wales (141,627), South Australia (40,704), Queensland (32,702), Western Australia (16,117). Traditionally, Melbourne and Sydney have dominated the interest of the Greek governments partly because of their sheer size.

This development of a possible sister-city relationship between Athens and Adelaide coincides with the rolling out of a comprehensive and coordinated government policy for the Greek diaspora.

This is being shaped through the development of a Strategic Plan of the Greek government for the Greek Diaspora 2024-2027 currently under public consultation, and envisioning among other things, the further empowerment of ties between the metropolitan center and the Greek community abroad.

Past attempts have not delivered desirable outcomes, including the Council for Greeks Abroad. This has been the result (among other things) of the “capture” of such initiatives by interest groups as well as their politicization.

In Australia, Melbourne and Sydney have dominated this connection (in an oligopolistic way) without delivering the desirable outcomes based on the evidence. So, the new diaspora policy approach should encourage a competitive and inclusive landscape by reaching out to other smaller Australian cities, with smaller, but very creative Greek-Australian communities.

Athens Adelaide
The Art Gallery of South Australia on North Terrace. Credit: Ashton 29 , CC BY-SA 4.0/ Wikipedia Commons

Adelaide sister-city relationship with Athens makes sense

Adelaide is a case in point and a sister-city relationship with Athens makes sense. A challenge for the new Mayor of Athens is the renewal of the city and much can be learned from Adelaide in this area where the initiative of a non-profit organization Renew Adelaide spearheaded by Greek-Australian Dr Nick Begakis, with the support of the city of Adelaide, has paved the way for a vibrant and dynamic city.

Research and regeneration are going hand in hand in Adelaide as part of a long-term plan with cross-party political support. A typical example is the revitalization of an abandoned area in Adelaide (known as Lot 14) with its development being undertaken in cooperation with the University community.

This abandonment is also evident in Athens where there are enough unused buildings that can provide an opportunity for their diverse utilization, including collaboration that extends to co-location to facilitate technology and knowledge transfer.

One such partner in Lot 14 is the SmartSatCRC led by another Greek-Australian Professor Andy Koronios. SmartSatCRC focuses on defense, space, high-tech and creative industries research projects that provide high-level employment opportunities that can [and do] attract significant human capital from around the planet while maintaining local human capital and reducing brain drain.

Some of the key outcomes of the Lot 14 project as noted in its Strategic Plan 2022-2026:

Lot Fourteen is an attractor of new investment and business into South Australia through infrastructure delivery, investment and business establishment or expansion.

Lot Fourteen generates exports for South Australia through the growth of industries where there is an established competitive advantage, growing the visitor economy and attracting international students to Adelaide.

It is also noteworthy that the international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte evaluated the activities of Renew Adelaide, and their impact, and decided that for every $1 of support to the organization there is a financial return of the order of $4.

This economic return is achieved by encouraging new entrepreneurs to take up licensed properties in the area, as well as in other abandoned areas, initially on a rent-free agreement and with a renewal incentive that has multiplier effects.

The entrepreneur maximizes the opportunity to test and experiment in a relatively risk-free environment for an average of about 6 months. This allows the new business to focus resources on growing the business, proving the concept, and reaching critical market mass.

It also means that this arrangement allows for a quick exit in the event of failure without the significant financial impact if there was a long-term commercial lease.

Athens could stand to benefit from this sister-city relationship with Adelaide (through the sharing of information) for its revival and on this basis, an effective Greek Diaspora Strategy ought to have a focus “in the small” and “in the large”.

Dr. Steve Bakalis is an expert in international business education and management, has worked with the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, and in administrative positions in universities in Asia-Pacific and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.

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