Freelance journalist Gina Poulos is not one to shy away from a story. Having interviewed many important public figures such as Indigenous advocate Charlie Perkins, and SBS soccer guru Les Murray she gave as good as she got when finally granted access to the mind of controversial stockbroker Rene Rivkin.
With her ongoing thirst for knowledge and story-telling, Poulos is now focusing on a subject matter she that is close to her heart, the plight of the migrant in their journey to Australia. In a project aptly named Lucky Country, Poulos is interviewing migrants of all ethnicities, including Greeks, so that their stories and experiences can live on forever to reignite nostalgia amongst the first and second generations and to teach and inspire the future generations.
GCT recently chatted with Poulos to discuss her love of journalism, family, finding the lesson in a story and her project Lucky Country.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Sydney and raised in the suburb of Earlwood. My early education was at Earlwood Public and St George Girls Selective High School. I now live in Marrickville and love it.
Where in Greece are your ancestors from?
My parents are from mainland Greece, both coming from the beautiful coastal towns of Kiparissia (mother) and Nafpaktos (father).
When was the first time you went to Greece and what impression did it make on you?
My first visit to Greece was at the age of 21 and I was in complete awe. All my life my parents, in particular, my mother, worked very hard to teach us the Greek language and immerse us into the Greek culture.
Going to Greek school after regular school was not my favourite thing to do growing up, but when I finally visited the motherland the pieces of the puzzle came together.
Why did you become a journalist? Was it something that interested you from a young age?
I decided to become a journalist because my passion (outside of my family)was and is to learn about all kinds of people and their personal journeys. I enjoy listening to raw, honest experiences of others and learning from them. We never stop learning and I find the most intriguing moments come from others sharing their life’s highs and lows. I get a buzz out of it.
After I finished my Undergraduate degree in Education I felt the need to further my qualifications and applied for my Masters. The University of Technology Sydney (UTS)accepted my application for Journalism and my time there was incredible. I learned so much from my mentor Katrina Lee and other amazing journalists like Chris Masters a former Investigative Journalist for FourCorners, Craig McGregor and David Knight.
What has been one of the biggest highlights of your career?
Looking back twenty years when I first started in this business, watching my old interviews with the people who are no longer with us, I have realised just how significant these moments with them were in hindsight. People like Charlie Perkins the renowned Aboriginal activist who achieved so much for the Aboriginal people in Australia and is now a significant part of this sacred history, Les Murray the soccer guru and SBS Soccer Anchorman who passed away last year after a sterling career as a world-renowned broadcaster. He was a very down to earth person.
The biggest highlights of my career- I can’t give you one instance of this as each interview I have conducted has been a highlight. I guess what amazes me the most and is a highlight is when I meet strong, dynamic individuals who are humble and carry themselves with integrity in a non- judgemental way, treating others who are different or less fortunate with compassion and respect.
What has been the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was interviewing Rene Rivkin the stockbroker. It was a painstaking process to interview him because he kept cancelling on me. I never gave up and ended up interviewing him twice. It was an incredible experience. Both my interviews are posted on Lucky Country. It was sad when I heard the news that he committed suicide.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My mother, who has been a larger than life figure throughout my entire life. She has always encouraged me to have strong convictions, be balanced, fair independent and to work hard. Of course, the Greek neurosis was central to her every bit of guidance and advice. She has had a tough life but is a fighter.
Dominic Galati, with whom I have three children, was a huge influence in my early years. He was the Head of SBS Sport and one of his big achievements was when he bought the rights to televise the World Cups live in Australia at a time when this had never been done before. He was an inspiration to me to chase my dreams.
What inspires you?
Seeing positive people in the face of adversity and pushing through the challenges no matter what.
Who would you love to interview?
I would love to interview Marie Bashir, our former Governor General of NSW. She is a truly inspirational woman on so many levels. What she has achieved in one lifetime will be revered in current and future history books.
I was having dinner with her and her husband Sir Nicholas Shehadie over 25 years ago at the Sydney Football Stadium watching AC Milan and Australia at a friendly soccer match when I found myself in the early stages of labour with my first child. True story.
What is one piece of advice you received along the way that has stayed with you?
Where do I start? There are so many pieces of advice you pick up along the way. What Rene Rivkin once said to me really resonated.
“You can do anything in this life as long as you are not hurting anyone’’
I would also add to anyone out there who has a raw passion, to follow it, embrace it and not to be dragged down by anyone’s negativity.
What interests you about the Greek migrants who travelled to Australia and why is it important to you that you document their stories?
This is a huge passion of mine. I grew up with migrant parents and as a child wished their circumstances were better. They worked so hard for years in take-away milkbar shops to provide their children with a better and dignified life.
There are so many stories to tell. When I interviewed Harry Janakis he told us his story of his early years in dry cleaning and how many years he and his wife Anna slaved in the business to be able to one day live comfortably and provide for their children in their ‘new’ country. I look forward to exploring more of these stories. They are all unique amazing stories.
Tell us about your new project Lucky Country?
Lucky Country is a locally filmed program focusing on the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people, of diverse ethnicities, in their journey to a better life.
How can people become involved?
I would love to hear from people who have a story to tell about their experiences as a new Australian past and present. Sending me a description of their story in up to 100 words would be great. We receive many stories, however, cannot take up all of them so it’s important to summarise the essence of it in a few words, to begin with.