From left, Hilda Kerkyasharian, President Nicos Anastasiades, Stepan Kerkyasharian

International Medal Bestowed by Cyprus’s President on Former Multicultural Chief Kerkyasharian of NSW, Australia

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NICOSIA — The former long-standing leader of the major multicultural agencies of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), Stepan Kerkyasharian, has been awarded the Medal of Outstanding Contribution by the president of Cyprus. The medal was presented on July 28 in Nicosia at the World Conference of the Cyprus Diaspora by President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades.

Stepan Kerkyasharian speaking, with Cyprus’s President Nicos Anastasiades to the right

The presidential citation of the medal to Kerkyasharian (AO, Hon.D.Litt.), who was born and raised in Cyprus, states: “You make us in Cyprus feel extremely proud of you.”

It continued: “You have worked tirelessly, with perseverance and determination and you have achieved an important career path, as an outstanding leader, recognised for your pivotal role in fostering multiculturalism in Australia.

“You have championed debate and policy change to improve the well-being of under-represented communities on issues like religious practices, immigration law, refugee settlement, migrant qualifications and community relationships thus becoming a major influence in shaping community harmony.

“Through your work, your exceptional achievements, the core values and principles that you exemplify as a person, and most notably your long-standing contribution to the Cypriot Community in Australia, you became a pioneer in giving migrant voices a national platform.”

Stepan Kerkyasharian speaking recently at a multicultural children’s festival in Sydney, Australia

Speaking from Nicosia, Kerkyasharian who was the foundation head of the Special Broadcasting Service’s Radio Division from 1979 to 1988 and chair of the NSW Community Relations Commission (formerly Ethnic Affairs Commission) from 1989 to 2014 said, “It is a privilege and at the same time greatly humbling to be honoured by the country, the people and the president of the country which has given me life and which opened its arms and accepted my orphaned parents who had survived the Armenian Genocide.”

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“In the 1950’s I went to school across the road from this presidential palace when I witnessed the struggle for independence, for the right of a people to be masters of their own destiny and to practice their own culture and language. That has guided me throughout my life, to support the basic human right of people to freely practice their language, religion and culture.”

Kerkyasharian went on to say that the honor he had received “recognises the contribution of all those I’ve worked with over those years.”

“I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make a contribution to the development of our great multicultural society which is today not only a reality but is accurately reflected in the new parliament in Canberra.

Michael Christodoulou, president of the Federation of Cypriot Communities of Ausralia and New Zealand said in turn: “We are deeply honored that one of ours has been recognised in his birthplace with this rare acknowledgment of his international achievements.”

Present at the awarding ceremony was High Commissioner of Australia to Cyprus Fiona McKergow, who congratulated Kerkyasharian on behalf of the Australian government.

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