Two Australians of Greek heritage, Christina Ioannidou and Chrysanthi Diasinou, were recognised at the 13th annual St George Community Awards held on Thursday, November 16.
The awards were a resounding success, reflecting the diversity and sweeping range of contributions of volunteers and volunteer organisations to the St George community.
The St George district encompasses southern Sydney from Sydney Airport to the Georges River, Salt pan Creek and the M5 Motorway. The area is home to close to 300,000 people with Greeks comprising some ten per cent.
The awards are an initiative of the Liberal Member for Oatley and Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP.
“Volunteering is at the heart of our local area and it is so important that we celebrate the contributions of those who give their time, effort and energy to others,” Mr Coure said.
People can be recognised across one of eight award categories including the Individual Volunteer Achievement Award, the Youth Achievement Award, the Community Group Achievement Award, the Business Achievement Award, the Multicultural Communities Award, the Senior Volunteer Achievement Award, the Sporting Achievement Award, and the Sharyn Andersen-Cullis Environmental Achievement Award.
Christina Ioannidou won the Individual Volunteer Achievement Award for her work with the Pontian community in Sydney.
Together with her family, Ms Ioannidou migrated to Australia about six years ago, settling in Sydney. Soon afterwards, she returned to her passion: teaching traditional dances of the Hellenes (Greeks) of Pontos, the region around the Black Sea.
Over the last five years, she has grown the Senior Dance Group of the Pontoxeniteas NSW to over 40 regular performers, aged from teenagers to grandparents.
Ms Ioannidou prepares the choreography and the music, encouraging young musicians to accompany the dance performances with live music; even teaching the dancers traditional songs which accompany the dancers. Rehearsals run for about 2.5 hours each Friday evening, with additional sessions scheduled for special performances.
The Pontoxeniteas Senior Group is now capable of presenting a 20-minute programme, performing fifteen different dances in that time, a credit as much to the instructor as to the performers. Under her leadership, the Pontoxeniteas Senior Group has become highly sought after at Hellenic community events and multicultural festivals.
An illustration of Ms Ioannidou’s dedication to her particular regional Hellenic culture is that she is not paid a cent for her services.
Chrysanthi Diasinou was recognised with a Youth Achievement Award on the night.
Ms Diasinou is a recent university graduate, a dedicated member of the Greek Orthodox Christian Society, and serves as a Sunday School teacher and in other volunteer capacities.
One of her passions is her Pontian Hellenic heritage – her maternal ancestors were Hellenes (Greeks) of Pontos, the region around the Black Sea. An illustration of this dedication was that in 2022, Ms Diasinou was shortlisted in the Calibre Essay Prize for her creative work about the Pontian dialect.
She is also a member of the Senior Dance Group of the Pontoxeniteas Association of NSW, spending many Friday evenings and parts of weekends rehearsing for performances of traditional music and dance of the Pontos region.
Her passion for culture has expanded into music, learning to play the traditional stringed-instrument, the lyra, as part of the Kogarah-based Melisma Ensemble which performs Orthodox ecclesiastical music, as well as music from the folk traditions of Greece and the broader Eastern Mediterranean region.