The Order of AHEPA NSW was founded in May 1934 at the northern New South Wales town of Werris Creek (south of Armidale). The new Australian Hellenic organisation was inspired by the Order of AHEPA United States of America, founded on 26 July 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia.
AHEPA Chapters were later formed in Queensland (1936), Victoria (1942), Western Australia (1957), ACT (1972), South Australia (1973), Tasmania (1978) and New Zealand (1992).
The Order was formed to provide Australian Hellenes with a professional and social network that spanned the vast distances of rural and regional Australia. Cafe owners and other small businessmen formed the Order eight decades ago. Similar individuals continue to form the backbone of the association today.
From the outset, the Order has been a major part of community educational and philanthropic efforts in NSW and New Zealand. In particular, AHEPA Chapters and members have been leaders of projects to raise new churches across the state. Most recently, our Wellington Chapters were at the forefront of fundraising for the Chapel of Ayios (Saint) Lazaros in Wellington Cemetery.
Education has been a key aspect of the Order's activities since its foundation. Most prominently, AHEPA member Sir Nicholas Laurantos made a substantial donation to The University of Sydney for the establishment of a Chair of Modern Greek Studies.
As noted in his solicitor's letter of 29 August 1968, 'Mr Laurantus ... is closely associated with, and a member of, the Order of AHEPA, ... He is anxious that this body, which is representative of a cross-section of the Greek community, should be allowed to sponsor and aid the future progress' of Modern Greek Studies.
Two weeks later, Sir Nicholas wrote a letter to his brethren, including the following:
'The immortal Greek language, like the Greek thought, still is a contributing factor to our present-day way of life, therefore, we must not let it die. You, Brethren, and all future generations of Ahepans must ensure that the Chair of Modern Greek at the Sydney University becomes a reality, as a beacon of light, credit to ourselves and benefit to all comers.'
The Order continues to honour Sir Nicholas' words and deeds, remaining a major contributor to Hellenic education in NSW. Beyond donating funds, AHEPA hosts the Hellenic Open University - a bilingual community college - now into its sixth year, as well as the annual examinations of the Certificate of Proficiency in Hellenic Language and Culture, an international program of the Aristotelian University of Thessalonike.
The Order is also a major sponsor of the Annual Hellenic Studies Awards of the Australian Hellenic Educators' Association NSW-ACT-QLD.
With a rich heritage of philanthropy and progress, the current generation of leaders of the Order of AHEPA NSW and NZ have a great foundation to build upon for an even more illustrious future.