It was in the mid 1980’s that Con Karavitis realised that there was a need for the people of his part of Greece, Laconia to become more connected. While these people knew of each other through smaller social clubs and through family, there wasn’t really a club as such that brought all these people together. Com had arrived himself as a youngster, just 11 years of age, with his parents and three sisters from the small village of Peristeri and yearned to bring the Laconian spirit to Melbourne.
The Pallaconian Brotherhood was initially formed in the 1960s but sadly its purpose had lost traction. Con felt that it was time that the Brotherhood should be reinvigorated and in 1985 a committee was elected with him as the President. Immediately the Laconians of Melbourne rallied around this club attending dinner dances, festivals and other social events in their hundreds. The hub of the Brotherhood was based in Brunswick where committee meetings would take place. Brunswick was the home of thousands of Greeks predominantly from Laconia in the years of the mass migration during the late 1950s.
It would only make sense then that a sister city relationship would be forged between the cities of Brunswick and Sparta, capital of Laconia. Con worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality. In 1987 the sister city protocols were signed. A delegation from the City of Moreland including Mayor Colin Hall accompanied Con to his beloved Laconia where ceremonies for the sister city relationship were attended. In 1988 a party comprising of the Mayor of Sparta, Demosthenes Matalas and eight dignitaries came to Brunswick. A little lane off Talbot Street, Was pedestrianised and renamed Sparta Place in recognition of the strong political and cultural links of the two cities. In 2005, Con was instrumental in Sparta Place being significantly remodelled and a bust of King Leonidas was erected as a further tie to the city of Sparta, of which he was king.
Not long after the senior committee was established in 1985, Con realised that there was a gap to be filled by the children of first-generation migrants. The idea of a Pallaconian Youth Club was born and in early 1986, a Youth Club committee was elected. This committee worked closely with the seniors and together they established a dynamic presence in the community. The Youth Club brought together thousands of young, enthusiastic people eager to meet and learn about their heritage.
Con continued to work fervently over the next two terms to further cement the Pallaconian Brotherhood’s presence in the community. He liaised with local and state governments of the time, ambassadors and consul generals of Greece in Australia. Still having very strong connections to the homeland, Con arranged for trips to Laconia for the Youth Club’s dancing group and had specialty costume makers sew Greek dancing costumes for the use of the dancing group. These are still used by the dancing group to this day. Some of the funds raised from functions that the Brotherhood arranged were for causes such as the ASILO ANIATON, a home for deprived, needy and sick children in Sparta.
Con took a short hiatus from the Brotherhood during the time when he began to pursue a career in politics but always kept a close eye on the Brotherhood and their role within the community.
It wasn’t long before he needed to get closely involved once again and returned to the Brotherhood in the capacity as Public Relations Officer. This role excited him especially. During his years of involvement within the community since arriving to Australia in the late 1950’s he had created many associations and networked closely with people who he felt could help the Brotherhood.
It was around this time in 2012, Con was acknowledged for his contribution to the community and the Brotherhood. For his tireless work he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for excellence in Multicultural Affairs by the then Governor General of Victoria the Hon. Alex Chernov. This was a significant moment in his life for his efforts and contribution to thousands of Melbourne’s Greeks was finally acknowledged.
His commitment to the Brotherhood came to a crashing end when shockingly, at the Annual General Meeting of the club on a fateful Sunday 13th October 2013, Con Karavitis sadly took his last breaths and died. The community was in deep shock and mourning. Con had succumbed to sudden cardiac arrest and despite efforts of paramedics could not be revived. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to his beloved cause ASILO ANIATON in Sparta.
The days that followed were filled with stories of how Con had touched so many lives by his assistance and generosity, even to when he was a young boy rendering assistance to people who needed translators at doctors and lawyers. His funeral was attended by close friend and Member of Parliament Ted Baillieu, Consul General Eleni Lianidou, other members of parliament, bishops and other members of the clergy. It was a celebration of a man who had afforded his community his whole life but still had so much to give.
Following his death, the Pallaconian Brotherhood named their Cultural Centre after him. The naming ceremony was attended by his dear friend Ted Baillieu and members of the Brotherhood’s committee. Con would have deemed it an honour to have this space named after him as it lived and breathed everything he believed in.
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