Harry Katsiabanis’ mission to recruit Greek drivers to Melbourne, and in doing so, meet the city’s desperate shortfall in cabbies continues, with the Taxilink director personally presenting recruitment seminars taking place in Greece this month.
Mr Katsiabanis told Neos Kosmos that the seminars will run in Athens on June 14 and Thessaloniki the day after, before returning to the capital on June 20.
“We’ve teamed up with education consultants, so what we’re doing is filtering through people who want to come to Australia to better themselves through education.
“What we’re doing is giving these people an opportunity to earn an income while they’re studying,” said Mr Katsiabanis, who confirmed that Taxilink now has 25 drivers on its books who have already relocated, or are in the process of relocating from Greece. Over half the recruits are dual nationality Greek Australian citizens.
One of the first to re-start his life in Victoria after 27 years is Mr Zissis Kontsiotsis, 63, who shut up shop at his hardware business in Thessaloniki for the chance to join the ranks of Melbourne’s cabbies.
Mr Kontsiotsis said that on receiving a $10 tip on a fare in Melbourne, he knew he had made the right decision.
Born in Kozoni Mr Kontsiotsis came to Australia at the age of 15 and spent more than 20 years based in the Melbourne suburb of Carnegie before returning to Greece to live in 1985. He relocated once more to Melbourne three months ago and is in his third week as a driver.
Though Melbourne may have changed, he told Neos Kosmos, he has no trouble finding his way around.
“It’s just around Southbank that I had a problem in the first few days,” said Mr Kontsiotsis.
“I know this city very well, so I don’t need a GPS.
“I’ve got a lot of friends here from before and in this job you meet people. I love the job.”
Like other new recruits, Mr Kontsiotsis completed a two-week course at the new Australian Taxi Academy established in conjunction with Chisholm Institute of TAFE before hitting the road.
Sweeping reforms of the Victorian taxi industry are forecast after a year-long inquiry presented 145 recommendations last week to improve Victorian taxi services.
The inquiry led by Professor Allan Fels proposes better qualified and higher-paid drivers, more expensive fares at weekends and a tough Melbourne Knowledge test to ensure drivers know their way around.