This year’s Australia Day awards in Whittlesea inadvertently turned into a celebration of the much-loved Greek leaders of the community, with four nominees being of Greek Australian background.

While the award ceremony takes place each year on January 26, local councillor Mary Lalios says they had never before had a such a strong contingent from one sector of the community.

“It’s great to see such a strong contribution being made by our Greek community,” Cr Lalios told Neos Kosmos. “Especially Taso (Anastasios Vlahos), being involved in the community for 53 years; that’s just amazing.”

Anastasios Vlahos was a nominee for Senior Citizen of the Year for his ongoing service to the Greek community over five decades. A volunteer for the Greek Orthodox community of Whittlesea, Mr Vlahos was also the founder of the Whittlesea and Districts Greek Elderly Citizen Club, and founder and key contributor to the purchase of the community building in Lalor. Over the years, he also established relationships with the RSL, and has hosted commemorative ceremonies for days of Greek national significance.

Also nominated for Senior Citzen of the Year were Jim Papadimitriou and Spiros Bassiliadis. Mr Bassiliadis was recognised for his voluntary services at the Panagia Soumella Association of Whittlesea and has assisted with organising activities for the community.

Meanwhile, Elpida Tellis was nominated for Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year. She has worked as a volunteer teacher at the Greek Orthodox parish of Agios Nektarios, has volunteered at the Grace of Mary Aged Hostel in Epping, and also served as president of the northern suburbs Community of Cypriots women’s group.

L-R: This year’s Australia Day ambassador and former premier of Victoria, John Cain together with his wife Nancye Cain and Cr Mary Lalios.

While the City of Whittlesea boasts the fourth largest population of Greeks in Victoria, with approximately 9,000 living in the area Cr Ialios says it was a pleasant surprise and an honour to celebrate the achievements of her fellow Greek Australians.

“As a fellow Greek it gives you the honour and pleasure to see people from your background being awarded. It was fantastic, especially this year being such a strong contingent, it’s absolutely amazing,” Cr Lalios said.

“For everyone who was nominated, it’s just a privilege to be nominated, and it’s such a hard decision because everyone does a great job.”

This year a total of 24 generous individuals were recognised for their contribution to the community, with four finalists selected by the Australian Day Committee. Formerly awarded by Mayor Ricky Kirkham were Glen Wall as Citzizen of the Year, Tabitha Anderson Young Citizen of the Year, Elizabeth Pratt Senior Citizen of the Year, and Trevor Carroll was Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year.

Three thousand people turned out to the ceremony on Australia Day at the Whittlesea council offices in South Morang, where along with the awards, 150 new Australians had their citizenship conferred, followed by an afternoon of food, music, face painting and an impressive display of fireworks.
This year’s Australia Day ambassador was former premier of Victoria, John Cain.