The late Palasa Salvi (Miriklis) has been honoured with a garden named after her. The garden in Howard Park, Goulburn, was officially opened on Tuesday.
There was a large turnout of family and friends for the opening, which flourished into a reunion of for the Greek and Italian communities of Goulburn.
Palasa Salvi was a migrant from Greece who ran The Empire Cafe, in Goulburn, from 1949. She was nominated for Gouldburn’s Lilac Queen competition in 1953 to represent the Greek community, and won the award.
Not only was she crowned the Lilac Queen, but she helped build the bridge between post-war migrants and cultural integration into local Australian communities.
Palasa’s family came from the war-ravaged Greek island of Kastellorizo.
In a short memoir she wrote before her death, she said winning the competition altered her life.
“The confined life of a Greek migrant was suddenly changed,” she wrote.
“Non-Greeks had helped our efforts and shown a new warmth. Overnight I was well-liked and a town celebrity. I raised my sights.”
Young Palasa Miriklis married Peter Salvi and together they ran the Empire Fish Cafe.
Mrs Salvi, who died in November 2017, remained a big supporter of the country’s longest-running festival.
At the opening of the garden, Goulburn Mulware Mayor Bob Kirk paid tribute to her and her family.
“She was very much a bridge between the local Greek and Italian and wider communities,” Kirk said.
“She was a model of post-war multicultural integration.”
“She helped out with the Crescent School, St Saviour’s Neighbourhood Centre and the Greek Church,” he said.
“It is fitting that the council has chosen to dedicate this garden to her and even more fitting to do so at the start of Lilac Time.”
Her son Bepi Salvi also spoke at the opening.
“Mum had three identities. She was a proud Greek. She was accepted in the Italian community, but she was always Goulburn,” he said.
“Back in those days, the Greek community was 150 strong and they did quite well. She loved her Greek community here and there are a lot of them still here and they contribute a lot to the city.”
Gary Groves also spoke, saying Palasa was symbolic of the post-war contribution migrants made to Australia.
“When she arrived here, she could have held back, hurt by a slurry of anti-migrant jests, but instead she reached out, befriended all and sundry and volunteered on many fronts in a six-decade-long engagement with the Goulburn community,” he said.
Lilac bushes have been planted along the boundary of the garden. Goulburn’s Lilac City Festival returns this weekend.