Premier Ted Baillieu paid tribute last week to 15 exceptional Victorians who have played a significant part in the community in the 2012 Indigenous Honour Roll Induction Ceremony at Fed Square, and one of those honoured has an eternal connection to Greece.
As the image of Reg Saunders MBE (1920-1990) appeared on the video screen, a huge cheer went up from the hundreds of guests at the awards dinner.
22 years after his passing, Saunders – the first Aboriginal officer in the Australian Army – remains an iconic figure in the Indigenous and wider community for his dedicated service as a soldier in WWII and Korea, and for his later work as a leader in Aboriginal development.
Saunders fought in the Greek campaign in WWII and in Crete where he was hidden for a year by the Cretan people after the Allied surrender.
His connection to Greece was marked movingly on the night by Glenda Humes, (his eldest daughter) who had made a point of inviting representatives of the PanCretan Association of Melbourne to the Saunders’ family table.
As Ms Humes received a replica of a traditional malgarr (Aboriginal shield) on behalf of her father, she beckoned on stage Pancretan committee members John Rerakis and Tony Tsourdalakis to rapturous applause.
Ms Humes explained the debt of gratitude she said her father felt to the Cretans who gave him refuge after the Battle of Crete. The room stood as one and applauded generously.
John Rerakis told Neos Kosmos that it had been an inspirational experience to attend the induction ceremony.
“We were welcomed like family. The embrace I got off Glenda was like a Greek mother’s embrace.
“For her to invite us on stage was a great mark of respect to the Cretan community.
“We were the only non-Indigenous people on stage that night. They wanted to hear our side of the story.”
Beyond Reg Saunders’ induction, another 14 inductees were added to the Honour Roll, examples of individuals who had excelled in a range of areas including welfare, activism, business and the arts.
“All the inductees were true heroes who faced incredible adversity and helped their community and other Australians in so many ways,” said the PanCretan Association’s vice president.
The Indigenous Honour Roll is a central part of the Victorian Government’s approach to reconciliation, raising awareness of the history and contributions Indigenous Australians make to society.
Recommendations for inductees are provided to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by an independent Advisory Panel which includes Aboriginal community leaders.
Premier Baillieu told the audience that the Victorian Government was “proud to recognise the achievements and contributions of Aboriginal Victorians to our shared history.
“The remarkable achievements of these outstanding individuals provide an inspiring legacy for future generations.
“The Honour Roll is an Australian first, and is an important recognition of Indigenous Victorians instigating change and making lasting contributions that benefit the community at a state, national and international level,” Mr Baillieu said.
Fed Square will witness a second event celebrating Reg Saunders’ connection to Greece and Crete, as part of The Xylouris Ensemble concert at BMW Edge on December 14. Tickets are available online at