Dionysios Solomos Awards: Proud parents and teachers celebrate Greek language students

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More than 150 proud parents and teachers packed into the University of Sydney’s (USYD) Maclaurin Hall on Sunday, March 3 to celebrate students who excelled in Modern and Classical Greek in the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) for 2023.

The HSC students were recognised at the Dionysios Solomos Awards, which are organised annually by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW) as part of the 42nd Greek Festival of Sydney. The awards are named after one of Greece’s most acclaimed poets, Dionysios Solomos. His incredible body of work includes the ‘Hymn to Freedom,’ which was adopted as the Greek National Anthem after the 1821 Greek Revolution.

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Students at the awards. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

High achieving youth from the Greek Afternoon and Saturday schools of the GOCNSW were also celebrated at the awards presentation.

9-year-old Eleni Halatsis from Summer Hill Public School was one of the GOCNSW students awarded on the day and she told The Greek Herald she loves the Greek language.

“It’s good to know your country’s language and it’s fun!” Eleni exclaimed with a huge smile.

dionysios solomos awards (1)
dionysios solomos awards (1)

Her namesake yiayia Eleni, standing nearby, jumped in with a big, proud smile of her own and said she was “very happy” her granddaughter spoke Greek.

“When she was a little girl, I spoke to her in Greek all the time. She learnt a lot and I am very proud of her and happy. I hope she comes here to university one day,” yiayia Eleni said.

Amongst the proud families were also a number of official guests including the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Ioannis Mallikourtis; the Parliamentary Secretary for Industrial Relations, Work Health and Safety, and Multiculturalism, Mark Buttigieg MLC; the Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris; the Sir Nicholas Laurantus Chair in Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies at USYD, Professor Vrasidas Karalis; Associate Professor of Modern Greek at USYD, Dr Anthony Dracopoulos; President of the GOCNSW schools, Artemis Theodoris Papoutsis; Managing Director of Ronis Real Estate Bankstown and Event Sponsor, Peter Ronis; President of the Association Vorion Dimon Spartis “Orea Eleni,” Maria Glekas; and President of the Zakynthian Association of Sydney & NSW, George Vithoulkas; among many others.

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Some of the award winners with official guests.

Master of Ceremonies, Con Apoifis, kicked off the award proceedings with a small welcome, followed by singing of the National Anthems of Greece and Australia by students from the GOCNSW Greek Afternoon and Saturday Schools.

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Con Apoifis.
dionysios solomos awards (1)
Singing of the national anthems.

A number of speeches were then given by Ms Papoutsis, Mr Mallikourtis, Mr Buttigieg and Dr Drakopoulos. All three congratulated the students on their successes and stressed the importance of maintaining their Greek language skills.

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Artemis Theodoris Papoutsis.
dionysios solomos awards (1)
Dr Anthony Drakopoulos.

Mr Mallikourtis specifically praised the students’ parents for helping to maintain the Greek language in the next generation.

“The use of Greek is gradually declining, albeit with some resistance. Yet the statistics are relentless. There are several reasons for this,” Mr Mallikourtis explained.

“On the one hand there are some objective difficulties in the institutional framework that do not favour the learning of foreign languages… At the same time, many families do not see the merits in their children learning foreign languages and as a result, enrolments are dropping in many language departments.

“So a lot starts from home and that is why I want to congratulate you parents because you differ from the norm.”

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Ioannis Mallikourtis.

Mr Buttigieg, who has Maltese heritage but is married to a Greek, recited a stanza from the Greek national anthem in Greek, using it as an example of why language is so important.

“Whilst we can translate it [the national anthem stanza] and we can relate to it, unless there’s a direct transmission mechanism between the language and what’s happened in the past and your cultural inheritance, that connection is lost,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“So what government has to do, and this is our responsibility, is encourage people like yourselves today, who have had that great attainment of learning your mother tongue at the highest level, we have to encourage that because it maintains that connection with those values that we will use to grow as a country.”

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Mark Buttigieg.

After these speeches, students were presented with awards in the following categories: HSC Awards for Modern Greek Beginners, Modern Greek Continuers, Modern Greek Extension, Classical Greek Continuers and Classical Greek Extension, as well as the Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Modern Greek and the GOCNSW Greek Afternoon Schools’ Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Congratulatory gifts were also presented to the highest achievers from each of the five HSC categories.

dionysios solomos awards (1)
dionysios solomos awards (1)
dionysios solomos awards (1)
All the award winners.

Ariane Moisidis, who placed 1st in Modern Greek Extension and 9th in Modern Greek Continuers, wrapped up the event with a keynote speech acknowledging the decline of the Greek language, but encouraging students to learn it to feel a deeper connection to the homeland.

All Award Winners:

HSC Modern Greek – Beginners: 1. Ianna Fatouros (NSW School of Languages), 3. Annamaria Psaltis (Georges River College Oatley Senior Campus), 4. Christy Voutos (NSW School of Languages), 5. Savina Biris (NSW School of Languages), 6. Nathan Peter Vagias (NSW School of Languages), 7. Katerina Saroukos (NSW School of Languages), 8. Theodore Zoras (NSW School of Languages), 9. Despina Mary Stamoulos (NSW School of Languages).

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HSC Modern Greek – Continuers: 1. Elpida Getsiou (NSW School of Languages), 2. Cosntantinos Vidiniotis (St Euphemia College), 3. Isabella Koutoulogenis (St Spyridon College), 4. Victoria Stathos (St Spyridon College), 5. Michaeil Katris (St Euphemia College), 6. Eleni Eleanna Gatsi (Blakehurst High School), 7. Marie Joan Gatsi (Secondary College of Languages Kogarah Campus), 8. Nektaria Angelopoulos (NSW School of Languages), 9. Ariane Moisidis (Secondary College of Languages Ashfield Boys Campus).

dionysios solomos awards (1)

HSC Modern Greek – Extension: 1. Ariane Moisidis (Secondary College of Languages Ashfield Boys Campus), 2. Constantinos Vidiniotis (St Euphemia College), 3. Isabella Koutoulogenis (St Spyridon College), 5. Victoria Stathos (St Spyridon College), 6. Michail Katris (St Euphemia College), 7. Demitria Arronis (Secondary College of Languages Ashfield Boys Campus), 8. Eleni Eleanna Gatsi (Blakehurst High School), 9. Christos Antoniou (St Euphemia College), 10. Melina Kontoulis (Secondary College of Languages Kogarah Campus).

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HSC Classical Greek – Continuers: 3. Annelise Koh (Pymble Ladies’ College), 5. Nektarios Kollias (St Spyridon College), 6. Vicki Zhang (North Sydney Girls High School), 7. Kasra Roushan (Sydney Grammar School), 8. Sophie Christopher (Pymble Ladies’ College), 10. Christian McIntyre (Sydney Grammar School).

HSC Classical Greek – Extension: 3. Kasra Roushan (Sydney Grammar School), 5. Christian McIntyre (Sydney Grammar School).   

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Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Modern Greek (Highly Commended): Atticus Brisebois and Poppy Mavrakis.

Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Modern Greek (Commended): Annabelle Gesouras and George Markatos.

Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Modern Greek (Merit): Dimitrios Alavanos.

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GOCNSW High Achievers Awards: Myra Varetimidis (Clemton Park PS), Victoria Vasilopoulos (Clemton Park PS), Eva Theodoropoulos (Clemton Park PS), Elena Fardoulis (Clemton Park PS), Steven Totsis (Clemton Park High School), Lambros Troy Salam (Clemton Park Saturday), Chrysothea Anagnostellis (Clemton Park Saturday), Evan Giokas (Beverly Hills North PS), Angelique Bozantzis (Panania PS) and Eleni Halatsis (Summer Hill PS).     

dionysios solomos awards (1)

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

READ MORE: Year 12 Chinese student excels in HSC Modern Greek Beginners.

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