Two Australians with Cypriot heritage, Professor Maria Kavallaris AM and Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, have both been awarded the Presidential Medal for Outstanding Contributions in Cyprus on Sunday, July 28.
The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, presented the prestigious award to both during a reception at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia.
The reception was held to mark the end of the World Conference of Overseas Cypriots, and the medal recognises the hard work and contribution of the Cypriot diaspora to their respective societies.
Dr Kerkyasharian has played a pivotal role in fostering multiculturalism in Australia as the foundation Head of the Special Broadcasting Service’s Radio Division from 1979 to 1988, as well as the Chair and CEO of the Community Relations Commission of NSW from 1989 to 2014.
When awarding the medal to Dr Kerkyasharian, the Cypriot President praised him for his contribution to Australia and said: “You make us in Cyprus feel extremely proud of you.”
Upon receiving the medal, Dr Kerkyasharian said it was a “privilege” and “greatly humbling” to be honoured “by the country… which opened its arms and accepted my orphaned parents who had survived the Armenian Genocide.”
“I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make a contribution to the development of our great multicultural society which is today not only a reality, but is accurately reflected in the new Parliament in Canberra,” Dr Kerkyasharian added.
In the meantime, Professor Kavallaris was also recognised on the night by the Cypriot President.
Professor Kavallaris is the founding director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW, head of the Translational Cancer Nanomedicine Theme at the Children’s Cancer Institute and a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) principal research fellow.
In a statement to The Greek Herald after the award ceremony, Professor Kavallaris said: “I feel truly honoured to have received the Presidential Medal for Outstanding Contributions from the President of the Republic of Cyprus.”
“The support and pride of the Cypriot diaspora has been wonderful,” she concluded.