Political activism has no place in our schools

3 April, 2024

During last month’s Harmony Day in Melbourne, a group of students, from a background associated with the southernmost former Yugoslav republic, attempted to utilise the occasion to push political agendas, sparking controversy in the otherwise harmonious and inclusive multicultural society of our city. 

Harmony Day, celebrated annually on March 21 in Australia, serves as a vibrant tribute to the nation’s cultural diversity, aiming to cultivate inclusivity, respect, and a sense of belonging for all residents. It is a time when Australians come together to celebrate the myriad of cultural backgrounds contributing to the country’s multicultural fabric. 

At Lalor North Primary School, students of this particular background sought to co-opt Harmony Day by wearing an ancient Greek symbol on their clothing, representing a historic link they claim as their heritage. This wasn’t an isolated incident; similar occurrences have been noted elsewhere. However, it marked the first time that the school’s principal intervened, prohibiting the use of the Greek symbol and instead encouraging the display of the children’s respective country flags, aligning with the practice of other nationalities. 

The symbol in question, known as the Vergina Sun, holds historical significance in ancient Greek culture. Often associated with the Macedonian Royal Dynasty of Philip II, it adorned various artifacts, including the golden larnax of Vergina discovered in 1977 by M. Andronikos. Notably, archaeologists have found this motif on numerous Hellenistic coins, shields, vases, and other artifacts across Greece’s mainland and islands. However, the historical context behind the symbol seemed lost on those behind its recent deployment in Australia. 

In July 1995, Greece sought trademark protection for the Vergina Sun as an official state emblem under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Subsequently, in June 2018, Greece and the former Yugoslav republic signed the Prespa Agreement, which mandated the cessation of public use of the Vergina Sun in the latter country. By early July 2019, the government of the former Yugoslav republic announced the removal of the symbol from all public areas, institutions, and monuments. 

Using the Vergina Sun to advance historical or territorial claims is considered illegal, as it is a protected symbol. Those found promoting such claims face legal consequences. Parents should refrain from involving children in political activism, and schools should maintain neutrality. Any attempts to disrupt the harmony of multicultural societies should be met with resistance. Despite facing backlash, the principal’s decisive action in preserving the integrity of the school’s environment is commendable. 

We commend the principal of Lalor North Primary School for her decisive actions, which aimed at protecting the very fabric of our tolerant and peaceful society. The bullying and the noise by the perpetrators should be totally ignored.

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