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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 July 2015
NEWS 10 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JULY 2015 Journey from Edessa There’s no business like snow business. Mt Buller skiers and snowboarders learn the ropes. PHOTO: MT BULLER/ANDREW RAILTON. George Aivatoglou traded the mountains of northern Greece for Victoria’s Alps half a century ago. Alex Economou heads above the snowline to reveal his story He may be 77-years-old, but George Aivatoglou is still pushing 12-hour working days, particularly now that it's winter and the season is in full swing. He's been part of the scene in Victoria's premier ski resort for over half a century. As a carpenter, he helped to build the first ski shop and has been an integral part of Mt Buller's development ever since. Recently, the Mt Buller community presented the owner of George's Ski Hire with a plaque, in recognition of his work over the last 53 years. “Maybe it’s because I’m Greek, and Greece is in big trouble, that I want people to know through my story, that Greeks are hardworking people.” Mt Buller was the natural fit for the man from Edessa in the mountains of northern Greece. But skiing was never part of life where George grew up. Before training as a carpenter, steady work was difficult to come by in the poverty stricken Greece of the 1950s. He came to Australia as a 24-year-old in October 1962 with the idea that he would stay for a couple of years, make some money and return home. But as soon as he'd stepped off the Patris, things didn't quite work out the way he planned. "When the ship arrived in Melbourne, I was to go to Bonegilla to work. But there was no one to help me and I didn't know how to get there from Melbourne. "Everyone else who had been on the ship had been greeted by friends and relatives and went off with them." With no English, George spent four days around the port seeking shelter in the public toilets until someone asked him who he was. "I said 'Greek' and the man sent for an interpreter, and the brother of a fellow passenger took me to his home in South Melbourne," That fellow traveller, Vangelos Stoyanou, fed him and gave him a place to stay in return for some renovation work. "The next day, he gave me threepence to get a newspaper and look for employment. When he returned that evening from work, he found me a job for a carpenter on the mountain here in Mt Buller." So began George's life's work in Australia. "I worked that summer on the first ski hire that went up. My boss asked me to stay on in the winter to work at the ski shop we had just built." In the summers he worked as a carpenter and repaired skis. In winter he managed the ski shop, all the while improving his English. Mt Buller village below the 1805 metre summit. PHOTO: MT BULLER/ANDREW RAILTON. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Costello calls for super certainty With 40 per cent of Australians aged 64 having no super savings, simplifying the system is long overdue MICHAEL SWEET Former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello this week called for the government to give Australians certainty over their superannuation savings. Speaking to the ABC, Mr Costello said changes made to superannuation rules in recent years had damaged savers' confidence. "I think during the last government there were something like, I counted up to 33 different changes in budgets and mid-year reviews to superannuation," he said. "People just don't trust superannuation as being a long-term vehicle anymore [because] they know the rules are going to vary from year to year." Mr Costello added that people needed to be reassured super savings were safe and that Australians were "afraid to lock voluntary money into the system, which is why it's running on compulsory contributions. "If you want to put money away for 20, 30 or 40 years you have to have some certainty it's going to be there when you retire, and I think the government's got to give it some certainty." A productivity commission Margaret and George with their grandchildren at Mt Buller. "Everything is difficult if you don't know the language. All I did was read and try to learn English, and I worked day and night. But I got to know a lot of people." His wife, Margaret, whom he married in 1967, said her husband worked hard all his life. "He hasn't stopped since he was 11," she says. Of Scottish and Irish descent, Margaret went on to learn Greek. In 1968, George had his first taste of managing a ski hire business on the mountain - Molony's, owned by Geoff Henke. "Mr Henke promised that he would sell me the shop when he retired. We shook hands on it and that was our contract." As the years passed and the skiing industry grew, George came to own three ski shops on Mt Buller and one at Merrijig, just off the mountain. Not only did he build ski businesses, George also created a nursing home (named after his mother), Evangelia by the Sea, in Parkdale, which Margaret managed for 27 years until its sale six years ago. At the nursing home's peak, it employed 80 staff. Today, 20 employees are on the books in the one Mt Buller shop that remains. "In a good season I get up to 4,000 customers," says George, who travels regularly to Europe and Canada to source products for the store. While bigger companies operate on the mountain, none are likely to offer quite the care and attention of the Aivatoglou business. It's a family affair, with son Robert and daughter Lia key to its success. "I love to make people feel welcome," says George. "Maybe it's because I'm Greek, and Greece is in big trouble, that I want people to know through my story, that Greeks are hard-working people." review into superannuation released on Wednesday reported that the majority of Australians had only small amounts of superannuation savings when they reached retirement age. According to the review, about 40 per cent of people aged 64 had no superannuation savings at all, and by the time people reached age 80, only 17 per cent had any remaining. Harry Giannakidis, a partner at Mills Oakley Lawyers, said Mr Costello's concerns should be heeded. "I hear it first-hand from many of my clients. They're unwilling to put more money into super because each successive government changes the goalposts. "They don't know how it will be taxed in the future, or when they will be able to access their funds," said Mr Giannakidis. "The preservation age is on the move from 55 to 60 years. Who knows what it will be in a generation's time with our Former Treasurer Peter Costello. PHOTO: AAP IMAGE/DAN HIMBRECHTS. Arguing for simplicity: Melbourne lawyer Harry Giannakidis. ageing population on the increase?" The Melbourne lawyer told Neos Kosmos that with superannuation being used increasingly as a wealth accumulation tool for children, rather than for retirement benefits, the government may be prompted to make further changes. "People do not understand the highly complex tax, investment and compliance regulations. They want a simpler set of rules." Despite the constant changes, Mr Giannakidis said that the superannuation system will always remain a tax-effective vehicle to boost retirement savings. "Governments will keep it that way to wean the Australian people off the aged pension system."
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