Push for ‘Athens of the south’ to be Athens’ sister

Adelaide could become a sister city to the Greek capital of Athens, under a state government bid to recognise the cities’ longstanding cultural ties.

May 17, 2023, updated May 17, 2023
Potential future sister cities Athens and Adelaide. Left photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP; Right photo: Airborne Media. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Potential future sister cities Athens and Adelaide. Left photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP; Right photo: Airborne Media. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Consumer and Business Affairs Minister Andrea Michaels wrote to Adelaide Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith earlier this month seeking her support to establish a sister city relationship between Adelaide and Athens.

If approved, it would mark only the second sister city relationship Adelaide has entered since the turn of the century.

Michaels said an Adelaide-Athens partnership was backed by the mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, Greece’s deputy minister of development and investment, Dr Christos Dimas, and the director general of the Acropolis Museum, Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis.

She argued South Australia “has a proud history of Greek migrants contributing strongly to our economy and promoting its development and growth”.

“Adelaide and Athens share cultural bonds that have existed since the mass migration of Greeks to South Australia in the 1950s and 60s,” Michaels wrote.

“Through the establishment of a sister city relationship, we can build upon those bonds.”

Michaels said Greece’s influence on Adelaide “cannot be overstated” and a sister city relationship would be supported by the Hellenic Australia Chamber of Commerce of Industry (HACCI), which recently established a South Australian chapter with more than 200 members.

“I am of the view that a sister city relationship between Adelaide and Athens will result in many positives for trade, tourism, education, science, and economic investment between the two countries,” she said.

“We look forward to your favourable support of this proposal.”

SA-Best MLCs Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo also support the sister city push.

Adelaide City Council’s finance and governance committee on Tuesday recommended the council authorise its administration to enter discussions with Athens about a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

An MoU would “typically have a timeframe of three years”, according to the administration.

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Adelaide currently has five sister cities: Christchurch, New Zealand (signed in 1972); George Town, Malaysia (1973); Himeji, Japan (1982); Austin, USA (1983); and Qingdao, China (2014).

The agreements promote diplomatic visits, educational exchanges and commercial ties between two cities.

Greek Presidential Guards, “The Evzones”, standing in front of the Parthenon temple in Athens. Members of the Evzones make regular visits to Adelaide, according to the state government. Photo: Yannis Kolesidis/EPA

In its briefing note to councillors this week, council administration said a sister city relationship with Athens would “focus on potential economic synergy around trade (especially tourism and education), scientific exchange, in and outbound investment, and migration to meet skills demands in South Australia industries”.

“South Australian expertise in green energy innovation, waste management developments, low emission transportation, innovation and startup ecosystem, and planning initiatives for high-density living and social housing could be leveraged in this relationship,” it said.

The federal government’s Foreign Arrangement Scheme, which regulates foreign partnerships signed by state and local governments and universities, would need to approve the Adelaide-Athens partnership.

Athens, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Acropolis and Daphni Monastery, has a population of around 3.1 million people.

Two per cent of the 25,026 residents within the City of Adelaide council area identify as having Greek heritage.

Council administration noted that South Australia’s first Greek settler, Georgios Tramountanas, was from Athens. He arrived in the colony in 1842.

“Adelaide has been called the ‘Athens of the South’ since foundation, with colonists’ and visitors’ alike revelling in the potential of the free and planned city,” the administration said.

“The long-lasting use of the phrase ‘the Athens of the South’ had its direct origins in a speech in 1899 by Hallam Tennyson, the new governor of South Australia, and again rose to prominence during the premiership of Don Dunstan.

“His proclaimed vision was to release Adelaide from the puritanical restrictions of the Playfordian era and re-establish Adelaide as the Athens of the South.”

Councillors will vote on progressing an Athens sister city MoU next Tuesday.

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