HACCI Awards for Excellence: A place to connect and lobby for Greek Australian issues

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By Mary Sinanidis.

On the surface of the 36th HACCI Awards for Excellence were a lot of “you look lovely darlings” and air kissing going on. But beneath the froth, sequenced dresses and extravagance of Friday night’s sold-out gala at the impeccable Hogwarts-esque Plaza Ballroom, there was another kind of magic going on – the type that brews when you get a lot of prominent Greek Australians in a room – 400 of them to be exact – and let them mingle.

No sooner was she announced as winner of the Woman of Influence Award by SalaryMasters, that photographer Effy Alexakis felt the impact on Friday night. “A few young people came up to me after the speech and were interested in what my work was about and wanted to know more,” she told The Greek Herald. “So that, for me, reinforces a sense of purpose that my work may stimulate others in the future… The award broadens the platform in which my work is viewed.”

Effy Alexakis came from Sydney to accept the honour and made a number of connections at the event.

In between awards, music and dance, there were shared discussions focusing on people’s passions. Present in these discussions were the likes of Victoria’s Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy, Victoria’s Creative Industries Minister Steve Dimopoulos, Lee Tarlamis, MP Southeatern Metropolitan Region, Greek Community of Melbourne President Bill Papastergiadis OAM and outstanding Greek Australians from a multitude of sectors stretching from business, science and innovation all the way to arts, philanthropy and community spirit.

Mr Papastergiadis told The Greek Herald that a reason why HACCI events are so successful is that they are a great opportunity to converse on culture, education, commerce and sports. “For me, I conferred with Anatolia Amanatides, the International Agreements Advisor at Melbourne University, on cementing relationships with a number of universities in Greece. Her passion is contagious,” he said.

“With Peter Adamis, it involved an introduction to the Consul General on his amazing Anzac Memorial in Laconia, a fascinating cross-national project… Paul and Yianni Zaparas shared with me their terrific success story in law, having built with their parents a well-recognised and respected legal firm. These exchanges are priceless in our development as a community. We thank HACCI for facilitating this.”

READ MORE: Winners of the 36th HACCI Awards for Excellence

HACCI Board Chair, Fotini Kypraios told The Greek Herald that excellence breeds more excellence.

“HACCI’s ability to connect the community via celebrations like the annual Excellence Awards, International Women’s Day, its Young Professionals Network mentoring program and networking events enable us to build capacity and capability for the Greek Australian business and wider community to remain a vibrant, active and a positive contributor at every level,” Ms Kypraios said.

“Through its inclusive mindset HACCI has become a centre of excellence for the sharing of knowledge, mentoring, connection and meaningful collaboration in the community.”

READ MORE: HACCI celebrates International Women’s Day with special event at the Hellenic Museum

Last year’s Chris Saristavros Young Achiever Award winner, Zoe Alexiades, told The Greek Herald that being a recipient was motivation for her to continue her work in using design for social change and developing work for Taboo Period Products, Up Movement Australia, Red Cross Victoria, Every Child, White Ribbon Australia and more.

“I think for me, because my work is voluntary and without monetary support, being recognised by the community and having connections around me has been important. Networking with people and building a community of Greeks that I wasn’t connected with as a child has been useful,” she said.

“It has been validating to have the opportunity for my work to be formally recognised. And that is true of many HACCI recipients. Their work is very much in grassroots organisations, working from the ground up, participating in many many hours of voluntary activity without necessarily having a financial compensation and being able to provide opportunities for community engagement partnerships. They are all meaningful things to help drive my passion and keep me motivated to keep doing what I am doing.”

Zoe Alexiades and her proud mum, Marianna.

It is this passion that the awards strive to recognise. Ms Kypraios said, “What makes some people the best and brightest in our community? Well I can tell you first and foremost that they have passion because how can you be successful in anything if you’re not passionate about something? Purpose is their driver. They want to discover a medical solution, correct the system, deliver justice, innovate, document our history, push boundaries in business and entrepreneurship, push the city’s skyline.”

Despite the excellence of these educated forward-thinking Greek Australians pushing boundaries, there was also a bit of looking back – a homage to post-war Greek Australian pioneers who came before us who were not as lucky, wealthy or valued by society.

Sydney-based architect Angelo Candalepas, the recipient of the Professional Excellence Award by BDO Australia for his innovative work as the architect of The Fox, said: “As offspring of Greek migrants, our lives have been enriched by the borrowed memories of our ancestors and we must not forget those memories are important for history to make the world what it is today. I will do my best to represent those eternal values brought to me by our community, a community I love and an ancestry that has made all parts of my life soluble.”

Angelo Candalepas received an award for excelling in architecture.

For some, the migrant journey is still fresh. Global thought leader Dr Dimitrios Salambasis received Australian citizenship just a few days before receiving HACCI’s Innovation Award by Directed Technologies.

“When I came to Australia over 6 years ago, I couldn’t imagine that my career would be shaped in such a way,” he said. “I relocated to a new country, started from zero without knowing anyone, especially at a time of uncertainty. It was pretty scary honestly. I have always been a firm believer in the importance of going beyond self-limiting beliefs.”

Dr Dimitrios Salambasis was honoured to receive the HACCI Award on the same week he became an Australian Citizen.

In his speech, he spoke of how proud he was to be a Greek Australian. And indeed, the hall was full of Greek Australians from all around Australia. Aussies that have excelled, but who never forget where they come from.

“Sometimes growing up in a very Western Anglo Community it was hard to identify culturally as a Greek Australian, and sometimes, as a child, I disassociated from that. As an adult, I’m very proud to be Greek Australian,” Ms Alexiades said, adding that it is a connection with her yiayia, her family, and other Greeks that has truly helped support her.

“They support as much as they are supported” before adding ‘Kouvalame oli thn istoria tis paroikias mas.’

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