We’ve all been to Melbourne’s biggest Greek Festival on Lonsdale street.

But not many of us are familiar with the story behind its creation, or those leading figures who helped establish Antipodes.

For the record, not everyone was Greek. Take Don Dunstan for example. South Australia’s former Premier was the Festival’s first President. And needless to say, a vocal philhellene.

This year, which marks the 30th anniversary of his passing, we pay tribute to the late Savas Papasavas; acclaimed lawyer of his time, then President of the Greek Community of Melbourne and the person who is credited as ‘the Father of the Antipodes Festival’.

Neos Kosmos editor Sotiris Hatzimanolis who witnessed first-hand the birth of Lonsdale St Fest as a Board member of its inaugural committee in 1987, wrote in the past:

“The original idea for the ‘Antipodes’ Festival was in fact that of Melina Mercouri, Greece’s Minister for Culture at the time.”

“I remember that during one of the late Papasavas’ trips to Athens – then, President of the Greek Community of Melbourne – Mercouri pitched the idea to him (I was there when it happened) and he adopted it without hesitation.”

Papasavas mobilised Greeks and non-Greeks for the big Greek street party, garnering support from state authorities and inviting community members to form a Board and essentially take charge of the organising.

Natasha Papasavas, who followed suit in her father’s steps becoming a lawyer, gives a sneak peak into the backstage of the inaugural festival.

When she and her brother Lazaros joined their parents to roam through Lonsdale Street on that day, she was no more than 12 years old.

“I was quite young, but I remember it was full on. The street was packed and just the vibe, the music… I remember the first year it was out of control. Don’t forget that back then Lonsdale street was 100% Greek,” Papasavas tells Neos Kosmos.

“To this day, the festival is big and it’s getting bigger by the year. I was there last year. But that first time was different.”

Asked to share what she remembers most from the experience through her father’s lens, she says:

“That he brought a lot of traditions alive again, that street became like a mini Greece… And all these businesses that got together to do it.”

Papasavas describes her father as having a “strong business mindset” and “wanting to help”.

“He was doing it not just for the culture but also for the businesses there, he wanted to help them thrive through the festival.”

“And I remember him working tirelessly to get that on the way. That’s the only time I remember him stressed. He worked really hard on that. All I knew was he was very much involved in meetings all the time and he’d been using his office on Lonsdale street as a Greek hub.”

Did she realise, as a 12-year-old, her dad was ‘the Father of the Antipodes’?

“All my Greek friends knew my dad,” Papasavas replies.

“They would ask me ‘Can we come with you to Antipodes?'”

“You know, it was a big deal back then. And I get the sense that he sacrificed a lot to make it work.”

Savas Papasavas died prematurely at the age of 51.

But his sacrifices weren’t in vain. Antipodes is still a big deal.