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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1946

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (09:31): An inevitable part of life, especially in an ageing population, is coming to terms with the passing of many loved people, especially community stalwarts and personalities in our electorates. My electorate of Calwell lost one such resident to cancer last year. Jim Fokianos passed away at 74 years of age. He was a well-known and very respected member of the Broadmeadows community. Jim was known for his advocacy for justice, his witty humour and his passion for sharing home-grown produce from his vegetable patch with his neighbourhood. He was also a long-time football—in this instance, soccer—fan and referee, and he always made sure that the elderly people were never forgotten.

One of five children, Jim was born in a small village on the island of Lesbos. When his father lost his eyesight, Jim was 13 years of age and he was forced to leave school and travel to Athens to find work in order to support his family. It was during his military service in the Greek navy that he went to Rhodes and met the woman that he would later marry, Maria. When she migrated to Australia in 1963, Jim followed her and they soon married. Jim and Maria would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. Despite his lack of education and his initially limited English-language capacity, Jim was always able to find work. When he was not at work, he was at yet another committee meeting, whether it was for his union, the Labor Party or the local community.

He was very much the life of every family and community party and was usually the last to leave. He was proud of his soccer refereeing—a sporting career that lasted over 40 years. An accredited referee with the Victorian soccer federation, Jim refereed at the highest level of the sport in Australia, at the national league level, for both seniors and juniors. He sat on numerous committees, including the referees committee of management, the inspection committee and the examination committee, and he acted as a referee inspector and examiner.

Jim also contributed to local clubs by helping with their administration and serving as a volunteer on committee executives. He was involved for over 10 years at the Kos Club brotherhood, serving on the committee through the period of club's acquisition of its current hall in Northcote. In his last 10 years, he was secretary of the Greek Orthodox Community of Broadmeadows and District. In December 2010, Jim received the Resident of the Month Award from the City of Hume in recognition of his services to the community.

A few years ago, his beloved wife, Maria, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and he devoted himself to her care. When Maria died last year, Jim of course was heartbroken. It was a 50-year marriage. Unfortunately, he passed away three months later, after enduring his own battle with lung cancer. Jim is survived by his four children, Con, Peter, Vicki and Christo, and 11 grandchildren. It was a pleasure to have known him. It was a pleasure to have worked with him.