Marika Bisas was a well-respected and well-loved member of the Melbourne Greek community. She was known to be a strong-willed, passionate and committed person. Many people sought her counsel throughout her life – which is evident of Marika’s ability to connect with people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
She passed away on 26 October, aged 90, after a long battle with cancer.
Born in Port Said Egypt in 1929, she was the youngest of four children, to Kastellorizian-born George and Evangelia Koutsoukis. She came with her family to Australia in the early 1930s and eventually settled in Melbourne where she was educated and lived until her death.
On 20 September 1953, Marika married Jack Bisas, and this was the beginning of a 61-year love story. Together they had two sets of twins Eula, Ian, George and Jim and began a life committed to family and supporting the community.
Much of Marika’s life was taken up by her commitment to community and her professional life.
In 1961, she was elected as the first President of the Kastellorizian Ladies society of Victoria. This role was the first of many leading roles for her. She was very proud of promoting the role that Greek women can play in volunteering within the community.
In 1974, Marika was appointed as Honorary Life Governor for the Royal Children’s Hospital in recognition of her fund-raising efforts. This inspired her to become more involved in community and in particular in the welfare sector, where Marika volunteered as a welfare worker for the Australian Greek Welfare Society. It was during this period that Marika first developed an interest and passion in addressing the needs of Greek elderly in Victoria. Marika was proud to have established the first Greek senior citizens clubs while working voluntarily at PRONIA.
In 1976 she enrolled at the RMIT as a mature age student, to complete a Diploma of Interpreting and Translating. It was the first time that this course had been offered. Her family were particularly proud of her achievement, given her migrant background and age.
At the age of 47, Marika successfully completed the course to become one of the first fully accredited NAATI interpreters and translators in Australia. Completing the diploma marked the beginning of her professionally, and voluntarily, dedicating a significant amount of her life to ensuring that quality interpreter services were made available to Victorians. She took on many roles to promote the importance and of her profession, which included President of the Victorian Interpreters and Translators Association and a Member of Ministerial Advisory Committee of Multicultural and Migrant Education.
During this time Marika was appointed to the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Board of Education through her work for the Education Department where she was employed as an interpreter, and was eventually appointed as acting Co-ordinator for Interpreter services for the Ministry of Education.
In 1977, she took on a role as part of the leadership team at the Australian Greek Society for the Care of the Elderly, Fronditha, and remained secretary for seven years during which they established the first Greek nursing home in Australia.
She often said “volunteering is not so much about the wins and rewards, but the wonderful other volunteers you meet along the way in achieving your goals”.
For most people her extensive community involvement in her life would have been enough. But Marika never lost sight of her commitment to community and remained in her later years, actively involved in the Greek Women’s Cultural Association (ESTIA). Marika was also a proud AHEPA member of Penelope’s division, where she spent two years as President.
A lifetime commitment to community culminated in Marika being awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2010.
Her contribution to the community was enormous. She was committed to the provision of aged care support programs and homes for Greek Australians, promoting and developing the quality of interpreting and translation services throughout Australia and a strong interest in promoting the Greek culture.
Marika was certainly a force to be reckoned with! As a child of immigrants who came to Australia at a very early age she went on to achieve a great deal for her community and supporting her dedicated family.
She will be dearly missed by her children, grandchildren, family and friends.