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Australia Day 2023: Greek Australians recognised in honours list for their service

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By Andriana Simos and Giorgos Psomiadis.

At least 11 Greek Australians have been named by the Governor General today in the Australia Day 2023 Honours List. They are a small but significant portion of the total number of 1047 Australians recognised on the list.

“Congratulations to the outstanding Australians recognised in today’s Honours List. The recipients have had a significant impact at the local, national and international level and are, quite simply, inspiring,” the Governor-General said in a statement.

These are the Greek Australians who were recognised:

Order of Australia (General and Military Divisions)

The Honourable Emilios John Kyrou AO, Victoria

The Honourable Emilios John Kyrou AO has been recognised in the 2023 Australia Day Honours List for distinguished service to the judiciary and to the law, to professional associations, and to the community.

Born in Sfikia in the north of Greece, Mr Kyrou arrived in Victoria, Australia with his family at the age of eight. He tells The Greek Herald that having to translate for his parents when negotiating with real estate agents made him realise it was important to know the law to protect oneself. This realisation saw him go on to complete a law degree at Melbourne University and he is now a judge of the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

“I regard [the recognition] as an award not just for me but also for the organisations with which I am associated – including the Supreme Court of Victoria, the charity ‘Pronia’ and the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association – and their people,” Mr Kyrou says.

“I hope that the award inspires young people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities or with disadvantaged backgrounds not only to pursue their chosen careers but to excel.”

Ms Mary Patetsos AM, South Australia

Mary Patetsos has been recognised this Australia Day for significant service to multicultural affairs and to aged care through board positions.

Ms Patetsos has been Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia since 2017, and Chair of the ACH Group since 2007. The Greek Australian is also a Council Member of the University of South Australia since 2017, and has been a member of the Community Advisory Committee at the Special Broadcasting Service since 2017.

“It’s a huge privilege for me to be recognised. I think being the child of Greek migrants, I’m particularly proud on behalf of my parents… It’s an honour to them,” Ms Patetsos tells The Greek Herald.

“It’s a real indicator of the strength of Australia’s migration program that post war migrants were able to create such enormous capacity within the second and third generation that we’re able to honour the country that they came to and called home.”

Mr Harilaos Xydas AM, Western Australia

Hariolaos Xydas has been recognised in the 2023 Australia Day Honours List for significant service to the building and construction industry.

Mr Xydas has been the Chair of DoricGroup since 1989 and is a former President of the Australian Institute of Building from 2001-2002. The Greek Australian has also held executive positions on the Boards of the Australian Organisational Excellence Foundation, the Chief Executives Organisation and the Youth President’s Organisation.

Ms Elizabeth Exintaris OAM, Victoria 

Elizabeth Exintaris has contributed in various ways to the Greek community as a musician and composer. From concerts to charity events, radio interviews and her active role in Melbourne’s Antipodes Festival, her presence has been pivotal. She has held influential positions at the Greek Children’s Choir in Victoria and the Greek Florinian Choir, while also educating for the last 20 years.

“It’s an honour for me. I am really proud, shocked and thrilled that I received the award and that people recognised me for what I have done for the community,” she tells The Greek Herald.

“I really appreciate those who nominated me and pushed my application. I have done many things for the community and I am also proud that I am Greek and I represent Hellenism in this award.” 

Mr Emanuel George Kallinicos OAM, Queensland

The Greek Orthodox Community of St George, Brisbane has been part of Mr Emanuel George Kallinicos’ family history and life for many years since his great uncle was president in the 1940s. From 2001 to 2005, Mr Kallinicos occupied the same presidential position.

Forty years ago, he was also a founding director of the Kytherian Brotherhood of Queensland.

 “For me this award is a recognition for the 35 years in which I have strengthened the Orthodox church and the Greeks of Brisbane in general,” he tells The Greek Herald.

“I am quite proud of the nomination, but when I embarked on community and charitable work it was to help and not to get awards. I am humbled that people around me thought highly of my contribution over so many years and considered me worthy for nomination.” 

Mrs Betty Joyce Lukas OAM, Victoria 

Betty Joyce Lukas has been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours List for her service to tennis.

Mrs Lukas is the Co-Founder of the Narre Warren Tennis Club since 1982 and is a current life member. She’s also been a former President of the Berwick and District Tennis Association. From 1999 – 2011, Mrs Lukas was also a representative of Tennis Victoria.

Ms Pauline Maniskas OAM, New South Wales 

Pauline Maniskas’ service to the community of the Central Coast in New South Wales has been more than important. Since 2005, she has been a foundation member and Secretary of the Central Coast Disabled Surfers Association and for the last three years, Board Director of Camp Breakaway. She has also volunteered for 30 years at Our Lady Star of the Sea.

“I feel very humble as there are so many wonderful volunteers on the Central Coast and beyond that do tireless work in some difficult circumstances. I feel like I am accepting this honour on behalf of many wonderful men and women all over Australia,” she tells The Greek Herald.

“My Greek friend and soulmate of some 55 years nominated me, without me knowing it, before she died, just three months ago. I’m sure she is smiling down on me.”

Mrs Alexandra Vakitsidis OAM, South Australia

Alexandra Vakitsidis was born in Lemos, Prespa in the Florina region of Greece and came to Australia at the age of 17. She is a member of the Greek and Greek Cypriot Women in Australia Association since 1999 and an Ambassador of The Hospital Research Foundation since 2012. 

She has been awarded for her service to the Greek community of Adelaide and tells The Greek Herald it is an honour to be recognised.

“It’s good when someone recognises you and a lot of people afterwards can think of doing what you did to help others too,” Alexandra says. 

Meritorious Award

Ms Deborah Lynne Efthymiades PSM (Public Service Medal), ACT

Deborah Efthymiades has led a number of education strategies for the ACT to support and deliver excellence and equity in educational outcomes for each and every child and young person, making sure early childhood education is high-quality, accessible and affordable.

Ms Efthymiades has played a critical role in cross jurisdictional collaborations and negotiations on national reforms, such as the National School Reform Agreement and associated National Policy Initiatives. She has also led significant legislative reforms resulting in a new regulatory model for non-government schools.

Ms Efthymiades led the ACT’s transition to NAPLAN online, as well as nation leading improvements in measuring of student outcomes, including through a wellbeing lens.

Ms Denise Constantinou ACM (Australian Corrections Medal), New South Wales

Denise Constantinou commenced duties with Corrective Services New South Wales in 2001 as an Intern Psychologist. She is currently a Senior Psychologist and Team Leader at the Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre.

Throughout her 21-year career, she has been instrumental in the rehabilitation of offenders who need psychological and therapeutic help for Substance Abuse Disorder. She leads a multi-disciplinary team of psychologists, Community Corrections Officers and Services and Programs Officers to deliver an intensive Alcohol or Other Drug (AOD) program. As Team Leader, she oversees all aspects of treatment at the centre, ensuring the quality of the AOD program delivered to offenders who are at high risk of relapse.

Military (Distinguished and Conspicuous)

Colonel John George Papalitsas, CSC and Bar (Bar to the Conspicuous Service Cross), Australian Army

Colonel John George Papalitsas is being recognised for outstanding achievement as the Commanding Officer of the North West Mobile Force and as the inaugural Commander of the Regional Force Surveillance Group. 

Colonel Papalitsas’ contribution to Border Protection Operations and Indigenous Development have had a profound and enduring effect. His exemplary leadership significantly improved the operational capacity and professional reputation of North West Mobile Force and the Regional Force Surveillance Group. His passionate devotion to duty delivered exceptional results in ‘closing the gap’ for indigenous Australians.

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