Marika Bisas was born in Port Said Egypt in 1929, the youngest of four children, to George and Evangelia Koutsoukis. Marika came to Australia with her family in the early 1930s and they eventually settled in Melbourne. Marika was educated at St Josephs and Kildara in Malvern.
Her interest in community was first inspired by her father George Koutsoukis who had a strong commitment to community and was a past president of the Kastellorizian Brotherhood. The entire family remained actively involved in the Kastellorizian community and in fact when researching for this curriculum vitae we came across an extract from “Megisti” News printed in Piraeus which reports that at a Kastellorizian picnic held at Canadian Bay, Victoria on 12th December 1939, Marika Koutsoukis finished first in the 50 yards dash.
One of Marika’s earliest involvements in community activities was, as sports secretary, she was responsible for the formation of the Greek girl’s basketball teams as part of the Olympic Athletic Club.
Marika was married to Jack Bisas on 20 September 1953 and they had two sets of twins born in 1956 and 1959. She is also the proud grandmother of five grandchildren, Jacqueline, Simeon, Adriana, Jack and Spiro.
On July 15th 1961 the Kastellorizian Ladies society was formed. Marika was elected as its first President and remained in that role until 1964. She returned to undertake further terms as President in 1972 and 1973. Marika points out that with the support of a committed and hard working committee they, as did future committees of the Ladies Society, raised money to help pay off the mortgage on the club premises.
In 1974 Marika was appointed as Honorary Life Governor for the Royal Children’s Hospital in recognition of her fund raising efforts. This inspired her to become more involved in community in particular in the welfare sector. She decided to volunteer as a welfare worker for the Australian Greek Welfare Society (AGWS). domain tech info . After completing a welfare volunteer training course she continued to work as a senior welfare officer, in a voluntary capacity. It was during this period that she first developed an interest and a passion in an area of work that she would spend a considerable amount of her time working in, addressing the needs of Greek elderly in Victoria. She is proud to have established the first Greek Senior citizens clubs in Oakleigh, Richmond and Box Hill while working voluntarily at AGWS.
Her next major challenge was to enrol at RMIT, as a mature age student, to complete a Diploma of Interpreting and Translating. It was the first time that this course had been offered and represented an attempt to bring some structure, professionalism and recognition to the occupation of interpreters and translators. Marika successfully completed the course and became a fully accredited NAATI interpreter and translator. After completing the course she decided not to accept an offer to study at the University of Melbourne. However completing the diploma marked the beginning of her professionally and voluntarily dedicating a significant amount of time ensuring that quality interpreter and translator services were made available to Victorians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
As a volunteer her involvement included:
• Elected President of the Victorian Interpreters and Translators Association (VITA)
• Member of Ministerial Advisory Committee of Multicultural and Migrant Education
• Appointed to the Victorian assessment panel for translators and interpreters
• Member Victorian Working Party for the Structure and Coordination of Victorian Interpreter Services
• Appointed to the Greek Language Program Advisory committee for 3EA (where she was instrumental in pushing for the introduction of religious segments in the Greek programs.)
Professionally Marika was employed as an interpreter working with Greek families and children with special needs as part of the Victorian Government’s Ashwood Counselling Guidance and Clinical Services. During this time Marika was appointed to the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Board of Education and was eventually appointed as acting Co-ordinator for Interpreter services for the Ministry of Education representing the work of 34 interpreters across 15 languages.
In 1977 Marika returned to her passion of ensuring appropriate care for Greek elderly. In this year the Australian Greek Society for the Care of the Elderly (AGSCE) was established. Marika was part of the leadership of the new organisation and remained secretary for seven years.
It was during this time that the society established the first Greek nursing home for the frail aged in Clayton. In recognition of her service to the society Marika was appointed first Life Governor of the AGSCE. In 1986 she resigned after having been a board member for ten years and foundation secretary for seven.
More recently Marika has been actively involved in “∏NEYMATIKH E∑TIA“, Greek Women’s Cultural Association where she has been treasurer since 1995. Whilst she is proud of the many successful activities the Association has undertaken including poetry readings, concerts and guest lectures, the highlight for Marika was organising an event which aimed to promote the history and culture of Kastellorizo to the wider Greek and Australian community.
Marika has had a lifetime of commitment to community both directly through her own individual efforts and by supporting the significant community contributions of her husband Jack. She is proud and humble to be the recipient of the Kastellorizian of the Year award for 2007.