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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 January 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 JANUARY 2019 7 NEWS A Greek among the first ever seven individuals to receive Australian citizenship Historian Leonard Janiszewski sheds light on the history of Australian Citizenship, and Michalos Black, nee Mavrokefalos, the first Greek to be naturalised as an Australian citizen in 1949 ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS With Saturday marking Australia Day, people will be preparing to take part in citizenship ceremonies across the country. Believe it or not, prior to 1949 such ceremonies were not yet a thing. In fact, there was no such thing as an Australian citizen, given that the Australian Citizenship Act was yet to be passed until 1948. Rather residents were considered British subjects, unless they held passports from another country, in which case if they wished to show their allegiance to Australia, were required to be naturalised as a British subject. The first ceremony took place on 26 January, 1949 in Canberra, which saw then Prime Minister Ben Chifley become the first Australian citizen. The next seven people who were granted citizenship on 3 February that same year were all men, each from a European background. Among them was a Greek by the name of Michalos Mavrokefalos. A 34-year-old cafe proprietor in Melbourne, he migrated to Australia from Greece before WWII, having served with the 6th Employment Company of the Australian Military Forces. According to historian Leonard Janiszewski, the offer to become an Australian citizen essentially developed out of necessity after the war. A case of "populate or perish", he says naturalisation, as well as opportunities to acquire land, property, and to build up the material means to establish a family, were deemed by the government as a sure way of ensuring people stayed in the country. "Given what the Greeks had gone through during the first part of the 20th century, given the various wars - the Second World War, and then the Civil War, this country gave them a hell of a lot of opportunity," Janiszewski says. As part of the naturalisation process, a declaration would be put in the main local newspaper of the city the individual lived in, indicating their intention to be naturalised. This would then be followed by an 'investigation' as to whether or not they were suitable, i.e. if they had a criminal record or not. "The Greeks, when they adopted naturalisation, they transferred from migrants to settlers because once you do that act, your future is then with this nation," Janiszewski explains. "That doesn't mean that you're letting go of your customs and values in terms of your Hellenic background, but it does make the statement that 'I am here, and I am here to stay, and this is where the future of my family is.'" Given 1949 was still in the context of the White Australia Policy, the historian says it's important to note that all the men first naturalised were European, and that by undergoing the process were essentially making the claim that "they are white ... and indicating that they want to be part of the mainstream". To further demonstrate this, as part of his own naturalisa- From medicine to music, Hellenic community’s contribution recognised on Australia Day ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS As part of this year's Australia Day celebrations, today 1,400 people will receive Honours for their commitment and contribution to various sectors across Australia. Among them are seven Australians of Greek and Cypriot descent: Helen Marcou AM, Professor Maria Kavallaris AM, Professor Paul Pavli AM, Paul Steve Constantinou AM, Joseph Leo Lukaitis AM, Christos Kazonis OAM, and Emeritus Professor Dimitrios (Jim) Psaros OAM. Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) congratulated all the recipients, highlighting their enormous contribution to both their local communities and the entire nation. "Today's recipients come from right across the country and from all walks of life. While some are well-known, the majority are unsung heroes," the Governor-General said. "Their contributions are di- verse yet there is a unifying theme: they have dedicated themselves to service. They have worked tirelessly for others, to improve local communities and to make Australia a better place." Since the Honours were introduced over 40 years ago, it is significant to note that this year's list features 422 women - the highest number and percentage of women in the annual tradition's history, among them Greek Australian Ms Marcou. Recognised for her significant service in music, particularly as a promoter and advocate for live performance, the co-founder and co-owner of Bakehouse Studios admits she was a little taken aback by the nomination. "I felt, on reflection, a huge honour to be recognised by your community," Marcou told Neos Kosmos. "To be recognised by your country for your work, it's really buoyed us. The motivation, the strength to just keep doing more and better." Throughout her time as an activist for the arts, Marcou says she has realised the power, influence, and change that can be brought about by just a handful of individuals, and doesn't take the responsibility of the platform she now has to bring about change for the community lightly. While she understands the gravity that comes with the Australia Day Honours, she admits to being conflicted by the Honours' association with 26 January. "We understand that January 26 holds a lot of trauma for our country and for our First Peoples and Indigenous Australians who haven't had their sovereignty recognised," she explains. "But we feel we wanted to make a statement about that and how much we respect our First People, and separate the award. Because the award is really about music; it's about music, the arts, and its contribution and our contribution to make our culture more robust through the work that we've done." Also receiving an Order of Australia (AM) is Professor and Founding Director of the Australian Centre for Nano Medicine, Maria Kavallaris. "It's very humbling," she told Neos Kosmos of the honour. "But it also makes me realise, we get these awards, but it's also all the people that we work with and collaborate with - really it's a total partnership." As a researcher specialis- ing in children's cancer, she says she is continually driven to try and help as many children survive the terrible disease. "Every little bit of research that we do, every little advance we can do ... moves one step closer to hopefully one day having no children dying from cancer," she says, "and that would be a wonderful achievement." Merewether-based Emeritus Professor Dimitrios Psaros is also being recognised for his work helping the community's youth through various charitable activities. He has been a foundation board member of the CommStrength Foundation 20 years, with a focus on preventing youth suicide throughout Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. Proud of being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and the role he has played in the charity, he describes the experience of giving back to his local community and witnessing the direct impact, as "the best feeling in the world". "It's the idea is that if we can help one person, we can help more than that. It's the simplicity of trying to help tion process, Mavrokefalos chose to change his name to Black, which according to Janiszewski, who together with photographer Effy Alexakis has been documenting the history of Greek Australian owned milk bars and cafes, was a trend, namely prior to 1945. "For those particularly in business, it was far better within the context of British Australian society to have a name like Black, which was easier on the tongue. Even though when you look at the person they might seem a little different, it is less questioning; an affiliation of 'well I am part of what you actually are'," he explains. The motivation behind changing one's name is loaded however, ingrained in the local mentality that British western culture was a supe- rior form of cultural development, and that anything else was less so – something that is still seen with newly arrived migrants to Australia today. All seven men, including Mavrokefalos, have since passed away. "It would be wonderful if there was a call out to find out if there are descendents of Mavrokefalos; I'm assuming that there would have been, but we don't have any information on him whatsoever." If you are a descendent of Michalos Mavrokefalis Black, know someone who is, or have any other information about him, please send an email to email@example.com. au * Neos Kosmos has contacted the National Archives of Australia for further information. Helen Marcou AM not resolve the complex problem, but at least help individuals who are going through crisis point in our community," Professor Psaros told Neos Kosmos. "It's incredibly fulfilling, it's rewarding - there's a sense of calm; you do the right thing, it comes back in spades." Further north in Queensland, Christos Kazonis is also being awarded an OAM, for his service to the Greek community of Brisbane. The current chair of the Paniyiri Greek Festival and the Australian Hellenic Sports and Culture Centre, he is also a Councillor at the Greek Orthodox Community of St George. Mr Kazonis admits he was shocked by the news, and says it wasn't ever some- thing he expected. Driven by his passion for his Greek heritage, he says he couldn't have achieved all that he has without his supportive wife. Proud of the acknowledgement, he encourages younger generations to give of their time where they can to ensure a thriving Greek community in the years to come. "That's something we're immensely proud of, showing our Greek culture to south east Queensland - you just do it because you want to do it, because you want to help other people, the community, the church," he says. "We've got to keep everything going; we've got to keep our language, our church, and all our culture." For the full list of recipients, visit gg.gov.au.
19 January 2019
2 February 2019