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Panagiota Zacharias

Panagiota Zacharias works to serve the Greek community in the Darebin area.

Honour Roll

She works with elderly Greek women, though the Greek Women's Elderly Friendly Club and by visiting nursing home residents who are often isolated by their lack of English. Born in 1940 in Thessaloniki in Greece, Panagiota Zacharias migrated to Australia in 1961 to join her sister in Melbourne. She had no English and for the first four years worked nightshift in a factory. In 1965 she married and has five children.

Her parents joined the two sisters in Australia in the mid 1970's. Panagiota continued to work until her parents became old and ill, she then gave up work to look after them. After the death of her parents in the early 1990's Panagiota became very involved in voluntary work with the Greek community in Darebin. She joined the Greek Women's Elderly Friendly Club and became first Treasurer and then President in 1984.

Panagiota encouraged many women to join the club so that they could share ideas, gain skills and knowledge. She organised regular guest speakers from other organisations and arranged excursions. Panagiota also visits many frail elderly Greek widows in their homes, offering many small and important services. For the past 10 years, she has been a regular visitor to the Greek residents of a nursing home in Coburg. Many of the old people in the nursing home speak little English and find communication with the staff very difficult. Panagiota is able to provide them with company and to make them feel less isolated.

Panagiota sees much of the work she does within the community as 'being a good neighbour'. In Greece she says, people enjoyed a big extended family and a wide social network. In Australia Panagiota wants Greek women who have worked long and hard to be able to age with dignity and to share their experiences with other women.