Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr heard the case for Australia to officially recognise Macedonia under its constitutional name the Republic of Macedonia during a visit to Wollongong yesterday.
Senator Carr received a warm and familiar welcome at the Macedonian Orthodox Community of Wollongong St Dimitrija Solunski church in Stewart Street yesterday morning.
Sen Carr was quickly surrounded by people on his arrival, including many who remembered his first visit to the city as the NSW Opposition Leader in 1991.
After a brief church tour, the group moved into the function centre, where Dr Vasko Nastevski from the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee in Victoria made an impassioned speech on behalf of Macedonian community organisations calling on the government to recognise the Republic of Macedonia.
At present, Australia refers to the country as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" in accordance with the terminology used by the United Nations.
However, Dr Nastevski argued this was "demeaning" and "inconsistent with the prevailing international practice".
"Since 1994, when Australia first considered its approach to the Republic of Macedonia, there were only a handful of states which recognised the independence of [the country], even fewer which recognised its official name," he said.
"However, since then, in the following 18 years, the Republic of Macedonia has entered into diplomatic relations with about 160 states and over 130 of these states ... do so under its official name, the Republic of Macedonia."
He said the UN reference did not bind other parties, noting that nations including the US and the UK referred to the Republic of Macedonia in bilateral relations.
"There is no reason why Australia cannot do the same," he said, to applause from about 200 people at the event.
He also said Australia's approach was "totally in line with the Greek government's position", adding that recognition would not "inflame" community relations in Australia because it had not done so overseas.
In addition, he argued that Macedonia had supported Australia's successful bid for a place on the UN Security Council.
Sen Carr said the presentation was "powerful and persuasive".
"We hear you, we understand the arguments, and we'll get there," he said.
"[The arguments] are under active consideration and we hope we can clear up this whole nomenclature challenge before long."
Sen Carr, Throsby MP Stephen Jones and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird also met Wollongong City councillors and others, including students from Dapto and Warrawong high schools, at a roundtable discussion in Wollongong yesterday.