A key stakeholder in our community, Michael Malakonas found himself at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis as the newly appointed CEO of Fronditha Care. Currently working hard to ensure the residents are kept safe, Mr Malakonas says that coronavirus has brought many challenges and leads a team that takes great care to ensure the residents are protected as best as they can be during the global padnemic.

A Fellow CPA with an MBA, Mr Malakonas is also a member of AICD and is also None Executive Director of FC Clifton Hill and Zeal Solutions. A father of two sons, Zach and Alex, aged 20 and 16 respectively, he also has a lovely partner Arhondia. Over the last three years, he has taken over 52 plane trips and is an avid traveller when he is not working or involved in weekly soccer.

Like most of us, he has seen many of his hobbies postponed during COVID-19.

What have you been reading?

I’m an avid reader of the Australian Financial Review on a daily basis, which keeps me well informed of local and global issues. Since joining Fronditha Care I also read lots of regulatory and health articles and keep abreast of communications from our Federal and State Health Authorities. Business and leadership publications are also a primary focus for me as enhancing my professional development and leadership capabilities is important to me.

What are you watching?

I don’t normally watch a lot of TV but since the COVID-19 pandemic I have been watching programs like NCIS, Blue Bloods, Hawaii 5.0, Greek movies, Greek music programs on YouTube and the occasional Netflix movie. I watch the ABC News daily to stay informed with local and global events.

What music are you listening to?

I mostly listen to Greek music via Spotify, YouTube or CD’s in my car. My preferred singers are Argiros, Petrelis, Remos, Aslanidou, Pantelidis, Kiamos, Terzis, Sfakianakis, Theodoridou and Kokkinou.

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What are you cooking?

I don’t cook as I have a lovely partner, Arhondia, that does most of our cooking or I support my friends’ cafes and restaurant businesses, when they are allowed to be open. My favourite dining places in Melbourne are mostly Greek, like Hellas Cakes Richmond, Melissa Cakes Oakleigh / Templestowe, Triakosia Clifton Hill, GRK Kitchen Thornbury, Nikos Fairfield, Deganis Northcote and Agapi Richmond.

What is keeping you sane at the moment?

There are probably four key groups of family and friends that are keeping me sane and above all grounded in the current challenging times. Firstly, my family, being my partner Arhondia, my parents Kostas and Dionisia and my two sons Zach and Alex. Secondly, my long term Greek Soccer community friends, particularly the boys from FC Clifton Hill, Heidelberg United, Kingston City and Waverley Wanderers. The third group are my GE Alumni Financial Services friends and finally my Fronditha Care Executive Team. In summary they all have their unique ways of keeping me grounded, reminding me of my humble roots, not to get over-confident and appreciate that CEO is only a title, not who I am. My involvement in the Soccer Community (FC Clifton Hill) and Financial Services (Zeal Solutions), via my Director roles, also keeps me balanced and sane. Finally I am looking forward to getting back into outdoor swimming and the steam room at Northcote Aquatic centre, which is how I begin most days, before the COVID-19 interruption.

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What is work like for you now?

My work life is extremely rewarding, intense and complex. Fronditha Care is a large NFP Aged Care provider with a proud 43 year history that is providing care to over 1,100 elders via 700 staff and 150 volunteers across two states, in both the residential aged care environment and community service programs such as at-home care and Social Support Groups. It is an organisation that is open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. It is fair to say that I am on high alert every day but I am mindful of managing my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, to ensure I can continue to be effective in serving our Greek & CALD communities.

The aged care industry is highly regulated, dealing with the highly vulnerable with high society expectations. The COVID-19 Pandemic has added an unforeseen layer of complexity with the dynamic and fluid challenges it presents every day. I am very privileged to have an exceptionally experienced and diverse Executive team, who share the responsibilities on leading Fronditha Care in both the service provision portfolios as well as our corporate functions. This is backed up by a strong Board of Directors, with clinical, commercial, risk, finance and legal experience, who provide me with the necessary support and delegations to work effectively, decisively and with agility. My Executive team and I meet on a daily basis and I meet with the Board President each week to ensure we continue to navigate effectively through the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst we continue to keep our elders and staff safe, which service demands continue to grow.

Finally, my work has brought me closer to the broader Greek community, which has given me the opportunity to meet some tremendous people who are doing great things for our elders. As a second generation dual Australian & Greek citizen, who is very proud of my heritage, it gives me immense satisfaction to be able to give back to a generation of migrants who helped shape Australia and whose efforts were pivotal in providing opportunities to my generation.

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What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since COVID-19 entered our lives?

COVID-19 has in many ways accelerated personal and professional transformations. In terms of work we have seen digital technologies fast track the speed of communication, the enablement of remote working and creativity in ways of fostering connection with employees, elders & loved ones, due to our physical isolation. It also has proven to us all that people are far more resilient, agile, caring, trustworthy and philanthropic in times of volatility, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity.

What have you learned about yourself during COVID-19?

Personally, COVID-19 has made me more decisive, allowed me to clarify my priorities and appreciate more fully what we generally take for granted, like the ability to travel to Greece, or visit a friend’s restaurant, participate in community sport or for my sons to visit their grandparents. I have become more inclusive, collaborative and empowering. I have also had to enhance my influencing, engaging and communicating capabilities as my role has necessitated far more frequent, relevant and timely communications to multiple stakeholder groups due to the ever constant changes to our industries, economies, communities and workforce. Finally, I have also had to find new ways to reflect, pause and re-energise, which normally happens at the end of the week on Sundays. This has become even easier since COVID-19 as for the last 45 years I have had soccer commitments most weekends, either as a player, coach or director.

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Where’s the first place you’d like to visit in Greece once travel is allowed?

That is an easy answer – the birthplace of Hippocrates, my other home on the island of Kos. I will of course have to go via the majestic city of Athens which for me is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I have been lucky in my life with my career in terms of travel to many countries but there is nothing like the feeling of preparing to land in Athens, as the sun sets over the clear blue Mediterranean. I hope by some miracle I can go there this year, to continue my annual pilgrimage , but very unlikely given current circumstances.