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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 November 2007) . . Page.. 3683 ..


establishing Canberra’s first Australian-Greek family. She became the city’s first Greek mother. All her five children, 12 grandchildren and six of her 12 great grandchildren were born in Canberra.

Helen and her husband lived their early married life in a residence at the rear of the Highgate Cafe. She was well received in Kingston, and the local butcher was stunned to find that this young immigrant bride knew almost every cut of meat. She was clever and perceptive, supporting her husband not only in the Highgate Cafe but also in other business activities and in her own right displayed a great acumen for business.

Forever determined to improve her English, Helen always carried a small Oxford Dictionary with her, often referring to it, and as a consequence she became proficient in reading and writing. She was regularly pulled upon to act as an interpreter for Greek immigrants and she also translated letters—indeed for Ray Whitrod, who was then the commonwealth police officer here and went on to be superintendent of the Queensland police force.

Helen enjoyed participating in her children’s homework as this was an additional opportunity for her to learn. She also picked up Australia’s love of sport and, whilst completely unable to come to terms with rugby, which many of her sons played, she attended the school athletics carnivals to see her sons gain their fair share of success. Also, like most women during the fifties, Helen never missed an episode of Gwen Meredith’s Blue Hills.

Notwithstanding her strong Greek heritage, Helen had a resolve to participate in the wider community, particularly as her children straddled two cultures. She supported the Canberra Grammar School tuckshop and extended hospitality to boarders from country homes who were permitted a weekend stay with a local family. In 1951, with one of her boys then aged 12, she paid respect to Prime Minister Ben Chifley, who lay in state in Old Parliament House. She and her husband supported many charitable causes and were regular invitees to community functions and events.

The Great Depression was an extremely impressionable time for Helen and images of the hardships she witnessed remained with her throughout her life. She and Harry supported many disadvantaged families during that time, and in the lane at the rear of the cafe she operated her own style of soup kitchen for those unemployed and down on their luck. In 2003 this lane at the Kingston shops was named Highgate Lane.

Helen and her husband were very highly regarded. They befriended many politicians and senior public servants who were customers at the Highgate. She grew fond of Australians and admired their reserved, laconic and circumspect character. Both she and her family loved Canberra and understood the opportunities Australia offered immigrants. She would always counsel homesick or despondent immigrants against returning back to their homeland. The Notarases were the first port of call for many immigrants on their arrival in Canberra and they gave immigrants a lot of material assistance and advice on how to settle in and conduct themselves, as they were very conscious of upholding the very good name Greek immigrants had in Canberra and indeed in Australia.


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