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Meet eight of the Greek-Australian female candidates running in Victoria’s local council elections

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By Dean Tsoubakos

With the council elections to be held in October in Victoria, we contacted eight female candidates of Greek background and we asked them to introduce themselves.

Some of them like Sophia Ramsey, the longest serving female Greek Australian Councillor in Victoria, Georgina Papafotiou current Mayor of Brimbank and Jami Klisaris current Councillor for Stonnington are known in their communities and others are standing as candidates for the first time.

According to the Victorian Electoral Comission, there will be 2,187 candidates for 622 vacancies in 298 separate elections. Among them are more than 50 Greek Australians, at least 22 of who are females.

GEORGINA PAPAFOTIOU

Candidate For Brimbank Council

Taylor Ward

In October 2016 Georgina Papafotiou was first elected as a Councillor for Brimbank City Council and was appointed Deputy Mayor for the first year. Both her parents are from Peloponniso, Greece. Her father is from Prasino, Tripoli, Arkadia and her mother from Finiki, Mollai, Lakonia.

“In 2019/20, I was appointed Mayor of Brimbank. Brimbank is a wonderful city to live, work, study and invest. I have been a resident of Brimbank for over 40 years. I was and am again strongly motivated to run by my drive to make a positive difference in my community, improve health and living in the area and celebrate its’ successes.

“Although it has been challenging the last 7 months due to the pandemic, I am proud to lead my municipality- as I have been successful in advocating for over $75 million for my community. I am extremely keen and enthusiastic, and highly committed and dedicated to ensure Brimbank moves forward, and continues to be one of the best recognised and sought after areas,” Papafotiou said.

SOPHIA RAMSEY

For Melton City Council

Coburn Ward

Sophia Ramsey’s family (mum’s maiden name KANTARTZOPOULOU) migrated from Patra, Greece to Australia in 1956.

Sophia has been a Councillor in Melton City Council since 2001 (5 terms), and has held the position of Mayor for 4 times (2002-2003,2005-2006,2014-2015,2016-2017).

“Melton’s greatest asset is its community. As a councillor since 2001, mother and resident of over 30 years and having been involved in many local community organisations, I understand the concerns families have and more importantly I understand the benefits of quality council services.

“l love this Community, l was brought up with strong family values of giving back to the Community, serving them for the past 19 years has been an honour. We live in a dynamic growth corridor and working in partnership with our community and local businesses. I have seen our municipality grow and prosper, serving the community as their strong local voice, advocating for vital services and infrastructure such as the new 24 hour Public Hospital in Melton. This Community inspires me daily,” Ramsey said.

JAMI KLISARIS

For Stonnington Council

East Ward

Jami Klisaris has been a Councillor for Stonnington City Council for eight years. At the age of 20, she became Stonnington’s youngest Councillor and the youngest female Councillor elected in the 2012 Victorian Local Government elections. In November 2016, Jami became Stonnington’s youngest Mayor at 24, serving until November 2017.

She has studied at Monash University, completing an Arts and Law degree and she currently works for the Australian Public Sector. Her parents are from Evia and Crete.

Klisaris is seeking another term on Stonnington council to continue advocating for better community facilities, addressing climate change and promoting equal sport facilities for women and girls.

KATHY ZISIADIS

For Darebin Council

Independent South Central Ward

With a background in Education and Landscape Design, Kathy Zisiadis is running in this year’s Darebin City Council elections “in the hope of building a better and more dynamic Darebin”.

Born in Australia to Greek immigrant parents, her father was born in Evoia and raised in Peristeri (Athens), while her mother migrated to Australia from Dafni (Sparta).

“As a proud, long-term resident of Darebin, I have loved raising my children in such a diverse and multicultural environment. I’m passionate about building the local economy and improving the wellbeing of residents through fair taxes; rates relief; green living; health and safety; sporting and recreational developments; and advocating for ‘shopping locally’ to boost jobs and business growth. I listen with compassion, value transparent and accountable governance, and will act with integrity to get the job done,” Kathy told The Greek Herald.

AGAPI PASHOS

Independent for Darebin Council

South Central Ward

Agapi Pashos, ia an Australian of Greek origin. Growing up in Northcote and working as a volunteer “she knows and understands the issues that concern its residents”.

“My decision to serve my local community is based on my commitment to social justice. Working together with residents and community groups, my aim is to strive for the improvement of residents’ lives and to effectively make their voices heard.

“I advocate for greater inclusion, transparency and participation. Being an active member of the Greek Democritus League, an organisation that supports the rights of migrant workers at work andin the broader community by promoting their culture and language has developed my commitment to promote multiculturism and to fight all forms of racism,” said Pashos.

EMILY DIMITRIADIS

For Darebin Council

South-East Ward

A hospital pharmacist and human rights lawyer, Emily Dimitriadis works to support multicultural and refugee communities, assist survivors of family violence and push for social and gender equality.

“My family migrated to Australia from Florina, Greece in the 1960s. My grandparents often share their stories about the difficulties they encountered arriving in a new country with very little money and no English skills. It has encouraged me to pursue a career where I help people in need. 

“I am running for the South-East Ward of Darebin because I have lived her my whole life and I want to make a positive difference. As a pharmacist and a lawyer, I help people on an individual level. As a councillor I would be helping on a community level. Working on the frontline as an Emergency Department Pharmacist during Covid-19, I have seen first-hand the devastating effects on individuals, families and the community. I want to ensure that residents and businesses are supported to navigate safely through the pandemic, build on the recovery and generate opportunities for the future,” Dimitriadis said.

DESPINA HAVELAS

For Brimbank Council

Taylors Ward

A second-generation Greek-Australian and a mother to two adult children, Despina Havelas was raised by Greek parents who migrated to Australia in the mid 1960’s.

“For me, the rich traditions of the Greek language have allowed my family and I to stay connected with many Greek migrant families in our Brimbank Community. I want to be a modern voice for our community here in Brimbank’s West.

“I’m running in TAYLORS WARD to enact change within our local area. I am especially passionate about the rights of our carers, disabled and seniors in our community. Improving services for the better is a priority of mine,” said Mrs Havelas.

SOFIA KOTANIDIS

For Darebin Council

North West Ward

Born in Kastoria, Greece to parents of Pontian descent, Sofia Kotanidis is the Director and Principal Broker of AIFOS Insurance Brokers based in Reservoir with over 20 years experience in the Banking, Finance and Insurance Industries.

A member of EMILY’s List and National Women’s Network, Chairperson of Return To Anatolia and Deputy Chairperson of Darebin Ethnic Communities Council, Kotanidis has been advocating for Darebin’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She is also the creator of the Monument of All Victims of Genocide in Preston.

“I am running for the local elections because I feel that our local area needs a strong voice on Council, someone who understands and cares about local issues. I believe in the values of fairness and opportunity for all residents. My goal is to serve my local community and represent the residents of Reservoir”.

* All council elections will be conducted by post. Voters will receive a ballot pack from early October, that they need to complete and return as soon as possible as voting closes at 6 pm on Friday 23 October. All councils will have elections except Casey City Council, South Gippsland Shire Council and Whittlesea City Council. For more information visit https://www.vec.vic.gov.au

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