Sturt Street’s open air gallery features dozens of famous faces, but it’s hoped the newest
sculpture will become a place of international
On Sunday, Lis Johnson’s bronze, life-size figure of George Devine Treloar was unveiled – seated next to him is a young girl nicknamed Lemona, holding a jug.
She represents the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Pontus region in Asia Minor who were displaced after World War 1 and the catastrophic events that followed, and found themselves in northern Greece in desperate conditions.
Their descendants are alive today because of Mr Treloar, who became the League of Nations’ Commissioner for Refugees in Greece in 1922 after his distinguished military career.
A humanitarian, he led the team which built new villages and made sure there was food, clothes, and care to sustain the refugees.
Mr Treloar was born in Ballarat in 1884, and attended St Patrick’s College.
There is now a village in Greece named after him, Thrilorio – his son David, who was at the statue’s unveiling, remarked it was a “clever confusion” the name sounded like the Greek word ‘thrylorio’, which means legend.
Leading the statue committee was Litsa Athanasiadis, who is also the Merimna Oceania director – a chapter of a philanthropic organisation which began in Pontos in 1904.
She was in tears describing her reaction to the unveiling, a culmination of more than six years of effort.
“I’m a descendant of those people that George Devine Treloar assisted,” she said.
“By doing this, we’re acknowledging the humanitarian work of George Treloar, and I am feeling that I’m giving back to this great nation which firstly embraced me when I was little and secondly gave me the opportunity to call Australia home.
“The significant, and most important thing, is the refugee connection
“Seeing the little girl there and having the humanitarian next to her means there is someone here to help you – there’ll be a better future for you here in this new land.”
Melbourne’s Greek Consul General, Dimitrios Michalopoulos, said the sculpture would help build links between communities.
“(Mr Treloar)’s work cannot be truly appreciated unless you study closely what he did, and examine the whole situation in the context of the time – it was very difficult in the early 20th century to deal with such refugee issues,” he said.
“The Greek community (in Australia) stands strong and wants to amplify the bonds with the Australian society, and really demonstrate how these bonds were forged in the past in trying times, and they are still strong today.”
Following the unveiling, a reception was held at Civic Hall featuring a full performance from the Pontiaki Estia dance troupe, as well as a detailed look at Mr Treloar’s life from historian and writer Jim Claven.
It was noted that without the work from Mr Treloar and his team 100 years ago, the rich culture of Pontos may not have survived into the 21st century.
The sculpture, the first by a female artist on Sturt Street, is between Drummond and Errard Streets.