G'day folks,

Many of you know that I've always been a supporter of the underdog, kids, women, refugees, and migrants who have made the ultimate sacrifice to leave their homeland and begin a new life in another land. Sadly today, I honour the passing of such a man - ALFRED KOURIS. 
  Many of you may not know that Australia has been the recipient of many migrants since the day it was established as a penal colony in 1788. The gold rush of the 1850's also brought countless people to this country. However, post-war, there was a massive influx of migrants who I think have made an extraordinary contribution to this nation. Example? About five years ago, every State Premier and Governor was a second generation Australian, including the Governor General. 

I began my working life as an Immigration Officer and it became one of the biggest influences in my life. Having said that, I recall a senior officer making a comment at a training course - one I never forgot, 'To leave your homeland and begin a new life in another country is the biggest decision you'll ever make.' 

Today, I re-feature a man who did just that. He and his family came from Greece, made great sacrifices, and worked hard to become an Australian success story in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Mr Kouris featured as a guest on my blog some time back. However, out of respect to him and his family, I wanted to honour his extraordinary contribution to Australia. So, who was he, and what did he do? 

May I respectfully introduce Mr Alfred Kouris.

 Alfred Kouris was born in July 1927 at Halepa, in the Chania district of Crete, Greece. His father, Paul Kouris, was born in the island of Kefalonia, Greece in 1900 and worked for the National Bank of Greece in Chania. His father was a High Court Judge. Paul in Chania met Antigone -the daughter of the local magistrate, George Polioudakis from Sphakia, fell in love and decided to get married in 1922. They stayed in Crete until 1932. Then Alfredos' Father was posted by the National Bank to Peloponisos, and finally in 1938 Paul and Antigone Kouris moved to Athens.

Alfred - (called Alfredos in Greek) - his sister Thalia, (a famous actress in the '40s in the Greek Drama Theatre, was also born in Chania in 1924 and youngest brother, George, was born also in Agios Nikolaos of Crete in 1932. Alfredos finished his Secondary Education in Athens and Political Sciences in "Panteio University", completed his two years national service in the Greek army and married on the 6th of January 1954 to Euthymia loannidou, who was born in Athens.

On the 14th of April 1955 their son Paul was born in a clinic in "Monastiraki" of Athens. Although Alfred was well educated, he could not get a job in the Navy and /or the Greek Foreign Office and decided to start a shirt manufacturing business with his wife under the name of "FAVORY SHIRTS". Needless to say, the competition was so hard that in February 1956, Alfred and Euthymia (Mitsi) decided to immigrate to Australia and departed on the vessel "KYREINIA". On the 16th of March 1956 they arrived in Melbourne and two days after they started work at the famous “Pelaco” factory in Richmond, cutting and making shirts. Within six months they bought their own brand new house in Glenroy - on terms, their own car, a little Morris Minor, and started their own business: "The Hellas Professional Training School for Clothing Machinists" on the corner of Elizabeth St. & Lonsdale St. in a three-storey old city building, where today is the Myer Emporium.

In 1958 they moved the Hellas School to 343 Elizabeth St. (corner of Latrobe St.), started another business under the name "Primo Clothing Pty Ltd" and did very well. In 1960 they brought their mother from overseas and in 1961, also his brother, George Kouris, with his wife Helen and one year old son, Paul - from Greece - and made him equal partner in "Primo Clothing", making jerkins, waist­coats and casual wear. The said business grew rapidly until 1964 when the economy started to go down the drain and manufacturing was no longer profitable.

Alfred and George decided at this stage to start a retailing business. They rented a shop at 246 Swanston St. Melbourne, next to Stanley Young (Giannopoulos) in 1964, giving their new venture the name 'ALFREDOS' MENSWEAR Pty Ltd’.

By 1967 the retailing business was doing very well and the Kouris Bros. decided to open a second shop in the golden corner of Foys Ltd, Swanston & Bourke St., at number 263, giving it the name 'ALFREDOS' of Bourke St. Pty Ltd".

In 1968, the Kouris Brothers opened, at 443 Bourke street, a third "Alfredos' Menswear shop " and a fourth " Alfredos' Dollies Boutique", and in 1969 a fifth "Alfredos' Menswear Shop" and a sixth "Alfredos' Dollies Boutique "in the City's newly opened Mid-City Arcade.

Alfredo Kouris, as founder and Director of "Alfredo's Mens & Ladies Wear", was by then well-known, and early in1969 he was visited on behalf of the "Victorian Retailers Association" by Mr Redfern, Managing Director of Buckley Ltd (now David Jones Ltd) and asked to join the governing board of the Association, which was run at that time by the owners and Directors of Melbourne's biggest Stores and Supermarkets.

That is how Alfredos started his colourful career across five decades, making an extraordinary contribution to the Victorian community, fully understand­ing what it is like to come from a distant land and make Australia home.

Soon he became a Greek Community Leader, well known businessman, politician, journalist and publisher. He not only lived the life of the migrant, but delved into its psyche, extolled its virtues, and worked diligently to generate acceptance. Along the way, he sparked reforms that have re-shaped the way Victorians go about their daily lives. Inspired by his Greek upbringing, Alfredo Kouris gave Melbourne "Late-Night Shopping" with his campaign in the 1969-1970, as founder and Chairman of "Make Melbourne Brighter Committee", revolutionising retail business, in the process of which, he was arrested and fined!

In the early 1980s, Mr Kouris pushed for the end of archaic drinking laws with his same "Make Melbourne Brighter Committee", which was re­organised by him with new young members, lawyers, journalists, shopkeepers and others with vision. 

Alfredo Kouris, as a Publisher and Editor of "PYRSOS", the "New Torch Greek Newspaper" and the "Omoyeneia" Greek Magazine, from July, 1985 until April, 1993, worked hard to introduce Greek Migrants in particular, and all migrants in general, to stand in Local, State and Federal Government elections with the catchcry of a "FAIR GO" for migrants. To set an example, he stood himself as an independent candidate in Victoria in the Senate Elections in 1970, in the Melbourne City Council Elections in 1972,1973 and 1974, and in the State Elections in 1976 as the Endorsed Liberal Candidate in Brunswick. 

Alfredo Kouris’ views on prejudice, regularly made headlines, and he was involved in many complex political, social and religious issues that the community at large faced, discussed and resolved. He was respected for his leadership, vision and determination to find a solution best for all, as President of the "Greek Orthodox Community of Mentone & District " from 1962-1989, as a foundation member of HACCI in 1984 and Vice-President in 1990-1992, and a Vice-President of the "Victorian Federation of Greek Communities " in 1987-1989, and Member of the "Festival Antipodes Executive Committee" in 1988-89. Also, as a regular member of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria from 1958 until now, and elected member of the Executive Committee of the said Community from 1991-1992.

His understanding of the migrant experience is encapsulated in the title of his book based on his life:

"MIGRANT-The Blessing & Misfortune of Loving Two Countries." It honours the millions who left their homeland and settled in not only Australia, but around the world. It highlights their challenges, joys and sorrows, but importantly, the remarkable contribution they've made to the growth and change of their adoptive countries. I have a copy of this book and it is a remarkable coverage of Greeks in Melbourne, Australia, especially the life and times of Mr. Alfred Kouris. No wonder Melbourne has been described as the third largest Greek city in the world.

The release of his memoirs brought world-wide recognition. He is listed in "Who's Who" in the 21st Century" published by "The Cambridge Biographical Centre in England, and his book is available in 250 American, European and Australian University Libraries, 500 Greek & Australian State Libraries and 200 Australian Schools with "Languages Other Than English - LOTE" programs.

His research inspired him to urge for a national "Migrants Day" as First Class Citizens of the World, and upgrade recognition of the significance of the pivotal World War 2 Battle of Crete, which saw Greeks and British, Australians & New-Zealanders fighting side-by side for Freedom, Justice and Democracy.

Alfredo Kouris has received numerous honours for his endeavours promoting community harmony, including the Gold Cross presented to him by Archibishop Lezekiel in recognition for services to the Orthodox Church, and Life Membership of La Trobe University's National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research, where he has also been allocated a room to display his very valuable archive materials. He was also elected Life Governor of "FRONTIDA CARE Inc."

"Neos Kosmos" in its English Edition on Monday, 15th of December published an article entitled:

"Prominent Greek Honoured", with the following comments: “ALFREDO KOURIS has never been one to let things slide. He has always believed that if you want something bad enough then you have to work hard to get it. And so he worked hard on fighting for migrant rights and the rights of all Melbournians. He was even jailed once in 1970, because he believed campaigning for late-night trading was a cause worth fighting for.

As the founder of Alfredo's Menswear, Kouris saw a niche for late night trading and launched a campaign to have opening hours extended to 9 pm. "I wanted to bring Melbourne alive and I knew late-night trading would help do that," he said. "I couldn't understand why the city should die every evening." By defying the State Government and opening his six menswear stores past 5.30 pm, he was arrested and fined $8,000. One week later, the law was changed and stores could now be open until 9pm.

He was honoured, by receiving an award at Victoria's Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs. "I always felt that I had to prove myself worthy of being considered a first -class citizen in Australia," said Kouris. "I started to say to migrants that we should prove ourselves by doing something good for our new country." In early 2004, Mr Kouris and wife, Mitsi, who have three children and five grandchildren, celebrated not only 50 years of marriage, but of being a fine example of a young couple coming to Australia with little more than a suit-case of dreams and making a wonderful success of the migrant experience.

Alfredos Kouris received an Order of Australia medal on the 12th of June 2006, from the Governor of Victoria, His Excellency John Landy, AC, MBE, at Government House … For service to the community through contributions to the business sector, raising public awareness of the issues facing migrants, and to the Greek community.” 

Clancy’s comment: What courage and vision, eh? What a massive achiever. Mr. Kouris has achieved much in his new country. Besides business, he has been a great mover and shaker within the Greek community and Australian community in general, founding the Academy of Modern Greek, and was the Chair of Modern Greek at Melbourne University?

PS: After I featured Mr Kouris on this blog, he sent me a delightful message:

"Clancy thank you.

You have captured my life and presented it beautifully. Yours is not simply a superficial piece. You have read my book and understand me. You have displayed an insight into my life that has touched me deeply.

Again I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Alfred Kouris OAM"

Thank you, Mr Kouris, for your extraordinary efforts. Australia is a better place because of you. My sincerest condolences to the Kouris family.

Sadly, we've lost a good man, but I’m sure glad you came to Australia, Mr Kouris. 

Loved ya work!

I’m …


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