OEEGA recognises outstanding women in NSW at International Women’s Day event

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The Organisation of Hellene and Hellene-Cypriot Women of Australia (OEEGA) hosted an inspirational event on Saturday, March 9, at AHEPA house in Rockdale, Sydney, to recognise and honour women in New South Wales for their remarkable service in celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD).

L to R: Georgina Gravanis, Liana Vertzayias, Irene Anestis, Yannis Mallikourtis and Christine Manolakos.

The event was graced by a host of VIP guests and dignitaries, including Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis; Steve Kamper MP; Sophie Cotsis MP; and Bishop Iakovos, representing Archbishop Makarios of Australia. Other notable attendees included Irene Anesti OAM, honorary life president of OEEGA; Dimitri Papanagiotou, president of AHEPA; and former President of AHEPA John Kallimanis. The evening was expertly hosted by emcee Evi Georgakakos.

The event’s opening remarks came from Poppy Stavrianou Skalkos, President of OEEGA, who delivered a poignant speech underscoring the invaluable roles women play in society and their homes.

Following her, Minister Cotsis commended OEEGA for its outstanding work and mentorship of women in Sydney’s Greek community, reflecting on her personal pride in being mentored by Greek and Cypriot women during her upbringing.

Poppy Skalkos and Irene Anestis.

Minister Kamper echoed Ms Cotsis’ sentiments, emphasising the crucial role played by women in the success of men. He specifically praised Ms Anesti for her pivotal role in the Greek community and commended OEEGA for their substantial fundraising efforts, which have raised over half a million dollars for the Children’s Cancer Institute.

Steve Kamper MP.

Consul General of Greece, Yannis Mallikourtis, shed light on stereotypes placed on Greek women. He explained that although there was historically limited female representation in the Greek government, present-day Greece boasts many female leaders both within the country and abroad.

Bishop Iakovos offered his blessings for the event.

The highlight of the evening was the recognition of four exceptional women for their social and cultural contributions to the Greek community in Sydney and their support for OEEGA over many years.

The first award was presented to Liana Vertzayias, President of the Hellenic Lyceum Sydney. Ms Vertzayias’ impactful work includes advocating for the Macedonia and Cyprus issues, serving as a scripture teacher, pianist, and actress in over 20 plays with the Hellenic Art Theatre. She also shared her reflections on collaborating with OEEGA for the ‘Children of the Black Sea’ program led by Sophia Catharios, founder of OEEGA, which supported children in Ukraine and Russia.

Liana Vertzayias accepting her award.

The second award was given to Christine Manolakos for her commendable legal assistance to many in the Greek community. Her involvement in Macquarie University Greek Association and the Marrickville Rotary Club, as well as her dedicated participation in the Red Shield appeal, has left a lasting impact on various sectors.

Christine Manolakos and Poppy Skalkos.

The third award was presented to Georgina Gravanis, a former committee member of OEEGA, for her steadfast dedication and ongoing support of many community causes. In her speech, Georgina emphasised the tireless work of Ms Catharios and Ms Anestis, and she reflected on her participation in the ‘Children of the Black Sea’ program.

Georgina Gravanis accepting her award.

The highest honour of the night was bestowed upon Ms Anestis, who recently stepped down as president due to health reasons. Ms Anestis has been the soul of OEEGA for decades, serving as president for 14 years. Her integral role in the organisation’s philanthropy has left an indelible mark.

Mr Mallikourtis presented Ms Anestis with a gold pin of the OEEGA symbol.

Irene Anestis accepting her award with OEEGA committee members.

In her acceptance speech, Ms Anestis paid tribute to the founder of OEEGA and extended heartfelt words of encouragement to the newly appointed president, offering her blessing for the continued dedication and hard work of OEEGA under its new leadership.

The evening drew to a close with a delightful dinner, accompanied by the sounds of live music, creating a harmonious atmosphere and inspiring dancing among attendees.

As the winners of the raffle prizes were announced, the event marked a joyous celebration of the exemplary contributions made by these women to the Greek community and society at large. OEEGA’s commitment to recognising and honouring the achievements of women remains a beacon of inspiration, continuing to uplift and inspire the entire community.

Sophie Cotsis and Georgina Gravanis.

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