Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek Australians’ national project
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.
Born in Sydney in 1932, Professor Aroney (Emmanuel Dimitriou Aronis) has been on the staff of Sydney University since 1955. His expertise, which has received much international recognition and acclaim, is in the field of Chemistry. In 1991, Sydney University bestowed its highest degree in Science upon Professor Aroney: he was awarded a Doctorate of Science. An international panel of scientists had recommended the honour, indicating that he was ‘a true grand master in his chosen field’. Earlier, in 1982, he had been elected Corresponding Member of the Academy of Athens – the premier academic body of Greece. In 1994 he was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Athens. Since the early 1970s Professor Aroney has also been vigorously involved with both government and community organisations in furthering multiculturalism in Australia. For his services to the Greek Orthodox Church, he was made Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1970. In 1980 he was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), and in 1989, he received an AM (Member of the Order of Australia). In March 1998, he was made Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by the Hellenic Republic – a prestigious honour bestowed upon Hellenes and Philhellenes of the Greek diaspora.
Professor Aroney’s father, Dimitrios (Jim), migrated from Kythera in 1908. His mother, Stamatina (née Aronis), arrived from the same island in 1923. The couple married in Townsville, Queensland, in 1926. Both Dimitrios’ and Stamatina’s surnames derived from the Kytherian village of Aroniadika. To distinguish them from other members of the village, ‘secondary’ surnames were used – Dimitrios had Beis or Moustakas and Stamatina, Papadominakos.
Manuel was Dimitrios’ and Stamatina’s only child. He grew up in Mackay, Queensland, his parents running the Central Café located on one of the town’s main thoroughfares, Victoria Street. His home environment was ‘very Greek’: ‘I grew up believing that the family was everything and the Greek community was very important – our little Greek community in Mackay, a village within a town. I grew up believing that Greece is a very special place, and that the Greek family, the extended family, the larger family, the whole family, embracing all Greeks was a very important thing to maintain, as also was the Greek Orthodox religion.’ Although Professor Aroney became aware of racism at a very early age, he considers that Mackay was actually ‘multicultural ahead of its time…there was a very big population in the surrounds of Maltese and Italian canecutters and canefarm owners, as well as the Greeks…we had our little multicultural grouping way back from the 1930s’. In his final year of high school, Manuel Aroney gained a Queensland Open Scholarship together with a Commonwealth Scholarship. Despite his parents’ reluctance for him to leave them, the young Manuel enrolled in Science at the University of Sydney – the start of a long and distinguished scientific career.
Early in 1960 Manuel married Ann Pascalis, ‘a girl not only from Greece, but from Kythera’. They have three sons – Dimitrios (Jim), Theodore and Stephen (Stamatis).
In regard to his ethnicity, Professor Aroney considers: ‘Well, primarily I’m an Australian, of course. But the Greek side of me is also very strong. I identify with Greece. I speak the Greek language pretty fluently, though I make the more than occasional mistake. I feel very much at home with Greek people and I have a strong identification with the Greek community, especially in Sydney. I’m a bi-culturalist and I certainly was to the fore of the multicultural movement when it was officially launched in ’75.’
Manuel passed away in 2011.
Manuel Aroney’s impressive involvement with community activities is highlighted in his obituary published in the Sydney Morning Herald. He with Bruce Gyngell established the SBS television service, as well as other significant contributions.
– By Leonard Janiszewski
© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives
ABOUT EFFY ALEXAKIS & LEONARD JANISZEWSKI
Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, along with historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have been travelling around Australia photographing and collecting stories. They have also photographed Greek-Australians in Greece and documented some amazing histories. The images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving insights, about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories provide personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archive encompasses photography, both historical and contemporary, taped interviews and literary materials.
They have published 3 books and numerous articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been widely exhibited throughout Australia and in Greece.
VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT: Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia | Facebook