The realization of the dream of many of Melbourne’s Hellenic community took a step closer with an announcement held in Ballarat recently.
Members of Melbourne’s George Treloar Melbourne Committee travelled to Ballarat for the announcement. Amongst their number was Mr John Salpigtidis who had first raised the need for such a memorial many years ago.
George Devine Treloar was born in Ballarat and served with distinction in the British Army during the First World War, rising to the rank of Major. After the end of the war George was appointed the League of Nations representative for refugees in northern Greece following the Asia Minor catastrophe. George and his small team of assistants assisted an estimated 108,000 Christian refugees during his work in Greece. Awarded one of the highest civilian honours by the then Greek King, the town of Thrylorion was also named in his honour.
The Committee has been working with Ballarat Council to realise their aim of honouring George Treloar with a major new memorial in his birthplace. The Committee recently worked with the Council to assist in the selection of the sculptor that will create the memorial.
The announcement was made by Cr Samanatha McIntosh, the Mayor of Ballarat, on the location at the corner of Sturt and Errard Streets in Ballarat, where the new memorial will be erected.
Cr McIntosh announced that the sculptor would be well-known Melbourne sculptor Liz Johnston. Lis has completed a number of significant public art commissions including five giant bronze statues that flank the Avenue of Legends on the approach to the MCG, a portrait commission of Rod Laver at Melbourne Park, and the Vietnam War Memorial of Victoria in Dandenong. She was selected following an extensive tender process involving more than 20 applicants.
Ms McIntosh said that the beautiful Sturt Street Gardens had become a place of storytelling, telling in physical form Ballarat’s living history book, bringing to life the incredible work of many locals who have contributed to the Ballarat of today. She added that there is no better place for a memorial for George Treloar.
“Australia is home to one of the world’s largest Greek communities which highlights the importance of Mr Treloar’s work, not only for Ballarat but for an entire country. His compassion and bravery is worthy of recognition which I hope inspires our next generation,” she said.
Liz Johnson said that it was an honour to be chosen as an artist to help tell this important story:
“I hope it will help everyone to become more aware of this amazing story and a person they might not have heard of.”
For Ms Johnson, who works from a studio in West Footscray, the hard sculpting work is about to begin. She will work with clay based on photos of a life model representing George Treloar. It will feature a state of George Treloar, along with a young child representing the refugees that he assisted.
Speaking on behalf of the Committee, Litsa Athanasiadis said that the Committee welcomed the appointment of Lis Johnson and looked forward to assisting her in the realisation of the memorial.
“This memorial represents our commitment to honour someone without whose help many refugees would not have survived. His work ensured the survival of thousands, many of whose descendants later migrated to Australia – including many of those on our own Committee like myself,” Litsa said.
Litsa thanked all those across Melbourne’s Hellenic community who have raised and donated the funds that have made this announcement possible.
The statue and memorial is expected to be unveiled half way through this year and will be the first new statue to appear on Sturt Street Gardens for almost 20 years.
The George Treloar Memorial Committee was established a few years ago to work to honour the humanitarian work of Major George Devine Treloar in northern Greece following the end of the First World War. It’s major project has been to have erected this memorial in George’s birthplace of Ballarat and has raised significant funds from across Melbourne’s Hellenic community for this purpose.
Jim Claven is a historian, freelance writer and a member of the George Treloar Memorial Committee. He can be contacted at email@example.com