Honouring significant and exemplary contribution by people of our multicultural society.
1921 - 2015
Antonio Caputo OAM was the Founding President of the St John the Baptist Association, which helps to coordinate Italian cultural events and fundraising activities as well as promote the Italian-Australian community. Antonio was involved in a wide variety of community organisations, including sporting, church, school, and Italian community organisations. He was a longstanding member of the Italian Chamber of commerce and acted at an international level to promote trade between Italy and Australia. He was central in assisting Italian Migrants settle into Australia, using his own office to facilitate welfare organisations and Government Agencies to assist Migrants. He also provided translation services. In 1975, Antonio was honoured and made a Cavaliere in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the President of Italy, and in 2007, he was elevated and appointed a commendatore. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2009 for his outstanding service to the NSW Italian/ Australian community in his executive and volunteer roles with a number of organisations that assist migrants.
1937 - 2008
Biaggio Signorelli donated funds in 1972 to form the Sant’antonio da Padova Protettore di Poggioreale to assist Italians in Australia. In 2016, the association opened a 62 bed Nursing Home. Despite being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, he continued courageously to contribute to the Bernie Banton Foundation, as well as hospitals and other charities undertaking research and supporting patients. The Biaggio Signorelli Foundation was also founded in aid of mesothelioma patients' care and research and to date has raised $2 million.
1927 - 2016
Edna McGill was a founding member, Life Member, and former Chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW. She served the ECC for 26 years and held several positions including the position of Hon. Treasurer. She had a passion for equitable access to NSW Education services. Through her commitment and desire to help her fellow Australians from diverse backgrounds, she played an important role in the development of Multiculturalism in NSW and nationally (through FECCA), SBS, the Ethnic Affairs Commission, and Anti-Discrimination Acts. For her work in the community and education, Edna was awarded an OAM in 1986.
1932 - 2017
Ellie Mournehis Kambos worked to serve the Cypriot Community of NSW for over 55 years and was President of the Cyprus Community’s Ladies Committee for many years. She was the guiding force behind the proposed project “Home for the Aged of the Cyprus Community”, running events and assisting volunteers to raise over $900,000 to develop the project in the community. In her 70s, she created promotions for the Cypriot Club with the Cypriot Community talk back radio show. She was the recipient of the Local Woman of the Year award in 2012 presented by the then Minister for Women, Pru Goward MP, and in 2017, she was awarded the Lifetime Community Award by the Federation of Cyprus Communities of Australia and NZ for her outstanding lifetime contribution to the Federation.
Charlie Lowles OAM was a long-term Councillor and former Mayor of the City of Blacktown. Mr Lowles was an outstanding advocate for the people of his local Ward, which was based in Mount Druitt. The area of Mount Druitt and surrounding suburbs has a rich and diverse mix of residents from a broad spectrum of nations and cultures. Mr Lowles understood the need for social cohesion between these people and worked very hard to establish local forums for this to occur. In November 2016, Mr Lowles passed away after a long battle with illness. With his passing, Council and the people of Mount Druitt lost a wonderful local personality and strong advocate for their cause.
His beloved wife, Alma Lowles, received the award on his behalf.
Boutros (Peter) was one of the first and lasting founders and pillars of the Lebanese community in Australia. He was the first professional Arabic journalist in Australia and a pioneer of Arabic media. He founded El Telegraph in 1974 and later An Nahar in 1978. His work on the An Nahar is held in the State Library, a collection of papers compiled over 20 years. Peter’s dedication to journalism and writing was inspired by his commitment to serving the community and helping Australian Lebanese and Arabic-speakers as well as other migrant communities to settle and integrate into Australian society. Through his writing, Peter encouraged his readers to remember their roots and cherish the positive aspects of their heritage and at the same time to appreciate the Australian way of life. Peter promoted Australia and its multicultural society through the three books he authored and through talks and seminars, which he delivered in Australia and internationally.
His very proud and beloved wife, Lamia Indari, received the award on his behalf.
Shmouel (Sam) arrived in Australia in 1965 and volunteered in several community organisations including the Assyrian Australian Association, the Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club. His passion for many years was supporting Assyrian people increase their cultural activities, which was important for a community that had been denied access to their cultural heritage in their home countries. Sam was a hero of multiculturalism – connecting members of his community to their culture and to Australian and international opportunities for representation and collaboration.
His adored daughter, Susan Warda, received the award on his behalf.
A child of Irish migrants, Eva Byrne, nee Morrison, devoted her life to the recognition of migrants and their needs, helping develop multicultural Australia. She gained a Diploma of Social Studies at the University of Sydney during World War II and was the first social worker to be appointed to the new Commonwealth Department of Immigration in 1948. She visited new arrivals in camps such as Kapooka and Greta in NSW to help them settle.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs Byrne accompanied her diplomat husband to postings in Italy, Austria and France. Returning to Sydney in the early 1970s, Mrs Byrne led the response to the first arrivals of refugees from Vietnam, in her role as Chief Social Worker for Migrant Services in the Department of Immigration. She initiated the first interpreter training course in Australia, and was later admitted as a barrister of the NSW Supreme Court.
From 1980 until she retired, she was the Director of the NSW Ministerial Family and Children Services Agency, developing policies on child welfare, families, Aboriginal people and multicultural communities. Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1985 for her services to the community, she also worked tirelessly with Wadim (Bill) Jegorow AM MBE to establish the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW in 1975 and the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA). As an honorary consultant to the ECCNSW and FECCA, she prepared many submissions on matters such as reciprocal pensions, law reform, family law, discrimination and human rights.
Dr William Chiu, born in Malaysia, was highly respected for his contribution to the China-Australia relationship over many decades. A successful businessman, leader and organiser, he remained a down-to-earth figure whose willingness to help others was inspirational.
Educated in Australia and New Zealand, he gained two master’s degrees in chemistry and commerce, and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Western Sydney. Since 2000, he worked as a volunteer with several community service organisations in NSW, especially those dedicated to promoting relationships between Australia and China.
Dr Chiu played an important role in developing economic and cultural exchanges between NSW and China, and he was an honorary life member of the NSW Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group and also a member of the NSW Government Asia Business Advisory Council from 2003, helping to promote trade with Guangdong province and providing advise on business opportunities to strengthen NSW’s competitiveness in Asia.
A noted philanthropist, he took a keen interest in culture, education, religion, social welfare and disaster relief. In 2010, he was awarded the Quong Tart Lifetime Achievement Award in Community Service in the NSW Premier’s Chinese Community Service awards.
Alfred Fenech, better known as Freddie, arrived in Sydney in 1955 as an 18-year-old from Sliema in Malta, initially working in the private sector before joining the Federal Public Service in 1958. He worked in the Repatriation Department and Department of Labour and National Service, joining the Department of Trade in 1967 after he graduated in economics from Sydney University. Working there until his retirement in 1986, his contributions included increasing commercial and people-to-people links with many countries, drawing on the diversity of Australia’s multicultural communities.
In 1997, he launched his own business, Ausethno Export and Business Services, providing export services to Asian businesses and working to attract Chinese students to Australia. As part-time executive officer of the Australian-Maltese Chamber of Commerce from 1997-2004, Mr Fenech hosted and led trade delegations between Malta and Australia, and he was appointed Honorary Consul (Commercial) for Malta in NSW in 1998.
Throughout his career, he was a stalwart advocate for Maltese people in NSW, as President of the Maltese Community Council of NSW, giving more than 40 years’ service and founding the Maltese-Australian Society. Mr Fenech actively promoted Maltese culture and traditions, through the annual Maltese Carnival from 1976-1995 and through Maltese radio programs.
As a foundation member of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW, Mr Fenech also played a key role in uniting diverse communities. He was also a life member of Addison Road Community Centre and secretary of the Phoenician Club. He was married with three children.
Born in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, Saing Heang Seng was a civil engineer before the genocidal government of Pol Pot took power in 1975. He and his immediate family escaped the country in 1979, finding shelter in Khao-I-Dang refugee camp in Thailand before resettling in Australia as refugees in 1980.
On arrival, Mr Seng settled in Newcastle where he worked as a labourer to support his family and further his education at TAFE. In 1986 he moved to Sydney with his wife Seangchhun and their only son Mony, working as a taxi driver.
Mr Seng began helping the Cambodian community to resettle in Sydney, visiting boat people held in Villawood Detention Centre and lobbying for their right to stay. In 1992 he was elected President of the Khmer Community of NSW Inc, working hard to unite the community and give young people a hopeful future.
Raising funds to complete the temple at Bonyrigg, Mr Seng also helped renovate monks’ accommodation at the Salvation and Cambodian Culture Association’s premises at Canley Vale, although he was diagnosed with liver cancer before the project was completed. He is widely regarded as a prominent community leader who wanted to see it grow harmoniously.
Frances Armitage was a strong supporter of the Armidale African and South Sudanese communities through her work as a Northern Settlement Services volunteer and President of the Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement Inc.
Frances mentored many young, former refugees to ensure that they accessed the opportunities offered by the community. She had a special connection with young mothers and offered practical and emotional support to many young families who were living without close family.
Francis’ leadership and dedication to breaking down barriers to participation assisted with the successful settlement of South Sudanese and African families in the area, laying the foundations for an inclusive regional community.
Mary Dimech migrated to Australia from Malta and settled in Queenstown, Tasmania. In 1973, she graduated from the University of New South Wales with a bachelor’s degree in social work and became involved in community work in Melbourne and Sydney. Active in numerous roles Mary became the first Chairperson of the Ethnic Childcare Cooperative. Mary also held positions at the Director of the Race Discrimination Unit, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and was the National Programs Manager for Multicultural Arts at the Australia Council. Mary initiated the Council’s first multicultural arts policy.
Chy Pou Yeak arrived as a refugee in Australia in 1982. He worked as a factory labourer to support his young family, later establishing his own clothing factory and other successful businesses in Cabramatta East.
In 1995, Chy Pou Yeak helped establish the Salvation and Cambodian Culture Association of NSW. The Association catered for the increasing needs of the Cambodian community and helped maintain Buddhist and Cambodian culture among the Cambodian community.
Through his leadership a block of land at Canley Vale was purchased by the Association in 1997. The site was developed into a multi-purpose community centre, which is to this day enjoyed by members of the Cambodian community.
Dr Farid Farag graduated from medical school in Alexandria, Egypt in 1952. Upon his arrival in Australia, Dr Farag served the community as a skilled and caring general surgeon. He established, chaired and sustained a number of longstanding institutions in the Greek community including St Mary's Coptic Cathedral, the first Coptic Church in Sydney, the Nile soccer club, El Moharer Newspaper, Beet Masr social club, the Egyptian Hub in Hurston park, and the Australian Egyptian Council Forum which is the largest Egyptian community organisation active in Australia today.
Dr Farag co-founded with Vassily Baramily the Alexandria Club for Greek community members who were born in Alexandria and co-founded the Australian Arabic Medical Association.
Dr Farag is affectionately known in Sydney as the Father of the Egyptian Community.
Maria Maddalena Gustin emigrated from Italy to Australia with her husband and two children in 1956.
In the late 1950s Maria pioneered the development of community language programming on Australian commercial radio. She was regarded as the voice of Sydney's Italian community. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire, MBE, in 1968 and the Centenary Medal in 2001. Maria’s radio work, and her support of the Italian community earned her the nickname Mamma Lena.
Gloria Habib was a keen advocate for cultural diversity.
Her work touched the lives of many. She understood the needs of those coming to Australia having arrived herself in 1973. She was an active member of the Arabic community and the Australian Arabic Women's Federation. She became a member of the Ethnic School Federation holding various positions on its management committee. In 1983, Gloria was employed by the Department of Education as a Community Liaison Officer for a variety of schools.
Gloria was a passionate advocate for multiculturalism and her own Arab culture.
John Gebhardt was born in a displaced persons camp at Heileromm in Germany after World War II. His family immigrated to Australia in 1949. He completed graduate and postgraduate studies at Newcastle University and was involved in the public and private education sector for 36 years.
John established one of the first Multicultural Education Resource Centres in NSW, in Wollongong. He was the President of the Ethnic Communities Council of Newcastle and the Hunter Region (ECCNHRI) and was also involved with the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, the then Ethnic Affairs Commission and the State Ministerial Multicultural Education Advisory Committee.
John was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991 for his services to the Polish Community and to multiculturalism. In 2001 he was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to the Hunter Region Community and people with non-English speaking backgrounds. John was also a recipient of a Community Relations Medal for lifetime achievement and multicultural community service.
He became a Cavalier of the Polish Order of St. Stanislaw's for his contribution to the promotion of Polish culture, education and youth in Australia.
Ulla Bartels was a volunteer at the Fairfield Neighbourhood Centre. She began teaching English to refugees from Indochina in 1978, drawing on her own experiences as a migrant from Germany. Her students turned to her for help with a wide variety of settlement issues including, housing, employment, pensions and assistance with government forms and applications.
She encouraged others to volunteer leading to the formation of the South-East Asian Community Assistance Centre (SEACA). The organisation grew in size and scope to become the Cabramatta Community Centre which today employs more than 250 staff.
Born in Calabria, Frank Calabro became the first Italian-born member of the NSW Parliament in 1970. His selfless commitment to make a difference in people’s lives saw him help Fairfield to develop into one of the most diverse cities in Australia. He served as a councillor and mayor of Fairfield Council.
Affectionately known as the people’s champion, Frank assisted new migrants from many ethnic backgrounds. In 1970 he was elected to the Legislative Council where he served with distinction for 18 years.
Knighted and appointed a Commander of the Republic of Italy in 1971, he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2003. He will be remembered as a compassionate, hard worker who was dedicated to his community.
Of Russian origin, Bill was aged 16 when his family fled to Australia from a refugee camp in West Germany in 1951. In Sydney he studied social welfare and law eventually joining the New South Wales public service as a lawyer.
Bill became involved in local government and was an alderman of Ashfield Council from 1959 to 1987. His contribution to the municipality was recognised by the council with the naming of a park in Haberfield in his honour.
During the seventies and eighties he was member of the multicultural advisory committees to Prime Ministers’ Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. Bill began working with immigrant communities in the early 1970s and was the foundation president of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW.
In 1977 he was appointed as the part-time Deputy Chair of the Ethnic Affairs Commission and later full-time Deputy Chair of the Ethnic Affairs Commission until 1986.
He championed the needs of migrants to all levels of government.
He contributed to the establishment of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia, representing the interests of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and served as its foundation Chairperson.
In 2004 he received the Community Relations Commission Medal in gold.
Father Atanasio Gonelli was born in 1923 in Catignano, Italy. In 1949 he volunteered to come to Australia as a friar.
He was a guiding figure in Sydney’s growing Italian migrant community, helping members find employment and assisting with housing for new arrivals.
His community involvement continued for 60 years through a variety of activities including sport and recreation for immigrant children, editorship of La Fiamma newspaper and the establishment of the Italian Committee of Assistance.
Father Atanasio was instrumental in the establishment of Sydney’s proud Italian community.
The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was ordained as a young monk at the age of 16 and fled Vietnam seeking religious freedom, along with many of his fellow citizens, and came to Australia. When he arrived in 1980 he was this nation’s first Vietnamese monk. He was someone who reminded us that as Australia is a multicultural community it is also a multi-faith community. He contributed greatly to the Vietnamese Buddhist community and made NSW his home. Thich Phuoc Hue was also a high ranking member and elder of the World Buddhist Sangha Council and the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
Jim Miltiades Samios was born in Brisbane two years after his family migrated to Queensland from the Greek island of Kythira. His public contribution included almost 19 years as a member of the NSW Parliament, and extended nationally through his work with bodies such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales and the Migrant Settlement Council of New South Wales.
In 1989, when he was a member of the NSW Parliament, Jim Samios moved the racial vilification clauses in the State’s anti-discrimination legislation that were adopted.
He was also responsible to the then Premier for the creation of the Charter of Principles for a Culturally Diverse Society that evolved into the multicultural principles contained in the Multicultural Act 2000.
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