At least seven Greek Australians will have the pleasure of putting AO, AM or OAM after their names, having been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List this year.
Following on from the Australia Day awards, the awards aim to highlight excellence in humanitarian work or community work, and excellence in industry.
This Monday, former Federal Liberal Party parliamentarian, Petro Georgiou was awarded with the Officer of the Order of Australia award (AO), an award only 28 people received.
Mr Georgiou was honoured for ‘distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, to multiculturalism and human rights advocacy, and to the community’.
He was extremely influential in changing the Liberal Party stance on refugees and asylum seekers, making the Howard government soften mandatory detention cases and ensure those held long term get their cases reviewed regularly.
Now a Member of the Order of Australia, John Nicolakis AM has been honoured for his tireless work for the Northern Territory’s Greek community. He spent more than 17 years as the president of the NT Greek Orthodox Community and is involved in organising the annual Greek Glendi Festival, which was held over the weekend.
Also awarded in the same category was Constantine Dionysios Vertzayias, who was selected thanks to his service to the NSW Greek community and his support of the Greek language.
Three Greeks were awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, including the only Greek Australian woman.
Mrs Angeliki Kay Alexiou OAM, who sadly passed away before she could receive the award, was nominated for her ‘service to women’s health and to the community’. She helped establish the Adelaide Women’s Community Health Centre (Hindmarsh) and the Rape Crisis Centre in the 1970s.
A famous face in the Greek Australian literary world, Kyriakos (Kitia) Amanatidis OAM was nominated for his ‘service to the Greek Australian community, as an author and educator and through a range of cultural organisations’.
A Neos Kosmos regular, Mr Amanatidis says he has no idea who nominated him, but is thankful nonetheless.
“It is pleasant I suppose at a personal level, but more broadly, I think it’s important that in that list there should be names [of] Greek origin,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“We are a vibrant community, very active in various aspects of life and therefore if some of the members are recognised it is a reflection on the whole.”
When asking him what part of his career he’s most proud of, Mr Amanatidis mentioned his work for the periodical, Antipodes. Started in 1974, it is still being published today and gives Greek Australians the opportunity to publish their literature.
The awards also gave thanks to exceptional military service and emergency service. Queensland paramedic, Nicholas Constantine Lentakis, received an Ambulance Service Medal for his outstanding contribution to the workplace reform process at both state and regional level, including an extensive education program.
582 Australians received Queens Birthday honours this year which were all nominated by people of the community.
Governor General Quentin Bryce says the Australian Honours System was a chance to promote philanthropy and good will.
“They elevate the concept of giving to others,” she said. “They heighten our respect for one another, and they encourage Australians to think about the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy.”