A major civic reception was held at Ballarat Town Hall last Saturday 8 October, to honour the service of one of the city’s famous but less well-known sons, George Devine Treloar.

The reception was convened by the Mayor of Ballarat Cr Des Hudson on behalf of the City and councillors and was attended by over 100 guests, including local MPs, the Ballarat RSL, the local Greek community, many members of Victoria’s Pontian community as well as descendents of Ballarat soldiers and nurses who served in Greece in the First or Second World War.

Along with the mayor, those attending included His Grace Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis, Alex Tascas, secretary Ballarat RSL, Cr Samantha McIntosh, Geoff Howard MP, Murray Thompson MP, former MPs Lee Tarlamis and the Hon. John Pandazopoulos, Ange Kenos, secretary Essendon RSL, Arlene Bennett representing the Melbourne’s Nurses Memorial Centre, Con Tseprailidis, president Pontiaki Estia, Savvas Athanasiadis, president of the Greek Community of Moreland and Chris Vlassakakis, president of Panthracian Association of Melbourne. Writer and journalist Konstantinos Kalymnios was master of ceremonies for the reception.

Ballarat-born George Devine Treloar was a highly-decorated World War I veteran who went on to help over 108,000 Christian refugees fleeing persecution in the former Ottoman Empire. As the official League of Nations – the precursor to today’s United Nations – representative in northern Greece, George accepted the responsibility for providing immediate aid and assisting in the re-settlement and integration of these desperate refugees into their new homeland, Greece. George Treloar was honoured by the Greek government with the award of the Order of the Redeemer by the Greek King and by the naming of one of the refugee villages after him – Thrylorion.

The reception included addresses detailing the life of George Devine Treloar and Ballarat’s connection to Greece across both world wars by Mr Kalymnios and historian Jim Claven as well as an exhibition of traditional dancing and music from the region of Pontus, one of the key areas from which the refugees fled. An overhead pictorial slideshow reproduced many of the photographs from the time, again accompanied by the distinctive music of the refugees.
The function of the reception was to launch the campaign to erect a memorial statue to George in his home town.

Historian Jim Claven, former MP the Hon. John Pandazopoulos, writer and journalist Konstantinos Kalymnios and former MP Lee Tarlamis, secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee. Photo: Jim Claven.

The project is the brain-child of the Melbourne-based George Devine Treloar Memorial Committee, which has been working for the past year or so to raise awareness of George’s work and promote and fundraise for the erection of a memorial in his honour.

The memorial will consist of a statue of George Treloar aiding a young refugee child, surrounded by interpretive signage explaining his story and that of the refugees. The memorial will be created by a prominent sculptor selected by the council through a public tender and it’s anticipated it will be erected within the next two years, depending on how quickly funds are raised.

The committee has already received the support of the City of Ballarat, which has allocated $50,000 to the project and selected a site on the central reserve in Sturt Street. This will complement the existing memorials already erected along this reserve. They are also supported by the Ballarat RSL and the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria. Most importantly, the patron of the committee is David Treloar, the son of George, who lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Cr Hudson said that it was an honour for the City of Ballarat to support the erection of this memorial.

“The story of George Devine Treloar should be remembered into the future. The son of one of Ballarat’s prominent families, he made a huge impact on the world – not only as a soldier but also as a humanitarian. For too long his memory has been allowed to dim. Honouring him with this memorial will create a lasting legacy to inform future generations of this great man who saved the lives of so many.”

Mr Claven, who addressed the reception, pointed out George’s service was part of a long and proud line of Ballarat people who served in war. He mentioned how Ballarat’s Hellenic community went all the way back to the days of its goldfields, with the arrival of Andreas Lekatsas from Ithaca. He then went on to talk of the strong links between Greece and Ballarat through the Anzacs of the First and Second World War.

“From the local diggers and nurses who served on Lemnos in 1915, like medical orderly Albert Coates and Lieutenant Colonel Harold Pompey Elliot and Nurses Isobel Curnow and Florence Hudson, through Nurse Gertrude Munro, who served and died on the Salonika Front and whose medals are displayed in the Ballarat RSL – the only Australian nurse to be buried in Greece in the First World War – to those who served in Greece in World War Two’s ill-fated Greek campaign, like Corporal Henry Moran of the 2/8th Battalion – Ballarat and Greece have a proud connection through the war service of its sons and daughters. George Treloar is part of that tradition.”

Mr Claven also acknowledged the presence of Henry’s son, Mick Moran, and added that it was particularly relevant to hold this reception at the Ballarat Town Hall, as the council chambers house the banner of the Henry Moran’s 2/8th Battalion, recording its service in Greece in 1941.
It is fitting that the proposed statue of George Treloar will be erected in the avenue of memorials on Ballarat’s St Sturt, alongside that of Albert Coates and Pompey Elliott.

Speaking on behalf of the George Devine Treloar Memorial Committee, Litsa Athanasiadis said: “As the descendent of one of the families helped by George Treloar, I can speak on behalf of all Australians of Pontian and Asia Minor descent and thank the City of Ballarat for supporting our memorial project. Erecting a lasting memorial to this great refugee worker is paying homage to someone who literally saved our families. Without his dedication, they would not have survived and we would not be standing here today. We thank you George Devine Treloar and Ballarat.”

Mr Kalymnios then spoke of the story of Mr Treloar and his vital assistance rendered to more than 108,000 Christian refugees from the former Ottoman Empire. While he spoke, a visual display created by Mr Claven illustrated his talk with many photographs taken by Mr Treloar during his service in northern Greece.

Ms Athanasiadis thanked all those who worked so hard to bring us to where we are – especially John and Maria Salpagtidis – who began their journey all those years ago.

The event was crowned by a performance of traditional Pontian dance and music by Pontiaki Estia, with explanations by Penny Tsombanopoulos.
Mr Kalymnios spoke for all when he said that the performance was especially moving as this was the first time that the dance and music of the refugees helped by Mr Treloar had been performed in his birthplace and at such a historic and important location.

The dancers of the Pontiaki Estia perform at the reception. Photo: Jim Claven.

On behalf of the committee, Ms Athanasiadis presented framed commemorative posters to Cr Hudson, Geoff Howard MP, Alex Tascas and Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis.

On receiving her commemorative poster, Ms Tascas stated that it was important that we remember the service of our local servicemen and women, and that this new memorial will fill an important gap in Ballarat’s remembrance:
“Those of us who are called up to serve in war are deeply affected by the experience. George’s story shows how this brave and highly-decorated soldier, who saw the horrors of the First World War at the frontline, went on to help the victims of conflict. His service and work for others should be better known.”

The event resulted in over $11,000 in donations to go towards the memorial project. Ms Athansiadis specifically thanked Stan Papayianneris of GVP Fabricators and the Australian Greek Community of Moreland for their significant contributions.

The event was followed by a lunch held at Ballarat’s leading Greek restaurant – Frangali’s Kafeeneo in Sturt Street. The committee would like to thank Kosta Tsepraidis and Sakis Athanasiadis for supporting this luncheon.

The committee has now raised nearly $120,000 for the erection of the memorial but more is needed. To make this dream a reality, the committee is urgently seeking funds from the public. If you would like to support its work or make a donation to the memorial fund please contact Committee Secretary Penny Tsombanopoulos on mobile 0409 850 109 or via email on GDT.memorial@gmail.com

For further information, please contact Litsa Athanasiadis, chair of the George Devine Treloar Memorial Committee, on 0421 804 968.