Before the advent of Greek party nights, it was student associations across the country that led the way in promoting Greek culture and kefi to those in the 18- to 25-year-old bracket.

Whether it was the NUGAS groups in Victoria, Adelaide and Perth, or the NSW societies, you could be guaranteed that from the 1980s onward, somewhere in Australia on any given week, one of these groups would be holding an event.

A prominent and indeed, at one stage, one of the biggest societies in Australia, MUGA (Macquarie University Greek Association) recently celebrated three decades with an anniversary ball at the plush Westin Hotel in Sydney last weekend.

MUGA was the creation of the late and inspirational academic Vasilis Georgiou, who established Modern Greek Studies at the university in 1984. Sadly, he passed away 11 years later, at a time when the studies program was booming and the society he created had reached 1,500 members. It would peak at 2,500 members by the late 1990s.

The society was a pioneering organisation, raising funds for the program by holding an array of cultural events such as Greek language theatre performances, Greek dancing and lectures. MUGA ran candidates at student elections, promoted Modern Greek in schools, and organised sell-out parties (one of which attracted 1,400 guests. The society also holds the national record for the most students ever to participate in a cruise (750).

This week’s ball was a celebration of all these achievements and more. Two hundred people attended, including NSW Consul General for Greece Dr Stavros Kyrimis and a host of state MPs of Greek heritage (Sophie Cotsis, Steven Kamper and Nicolas Varvaris). Theo Premetis and George Lianos, who led the establishment of Modern Greek Studies at the university through the creation of a trust from the 1980s, also attended.

The trust, which raised $1 million, established a permanent school for the university’s Greek Studies program. MUGA president Anastasia Papayioryiou told Neos Kosmos that the ball was a “celebration of who we are and how MUGA represents us. MUGA has been a way for Greek Australian students at Macquarie University to celebrate their heritage”.

“We’ve achieved this by organising traditional taverna nights, having kafe with friends, and by sharing our food, culture and traditions with the wider Macquarie University community.”

The vision of Vasilis Georgiou is alive and well at Macquarie, and whilst he is no longer with us, his spirit lives on through the current and future students representing MUGA.