Volume 4, Issue 10, (Originally Published on 7 October 2013)
Melbourne Law School witnessed a turning point in the history of the Mel¬bourne University Greek Association (MUnGA) on Wednesday, 18 September 2013, with a special presentation from Justice Emilios Kyrou of the Supreme Court of Victoria, entitled ‘Personal and Career Reflections of a Hellenic Austral¬ian Judge’.
The event got under way with a speech from MUnGA’s president, Yiannis Kallianis, who briefed the audience numbering more than 120 of the proud history of the Association and its aims, which include uniting students at the University of Melbourne philhellenic affiliations and Hellenic descent, as well as fostering pride amongst students of a Hellenic background. MLS Associate Dean Alison Duxbury formally introduced Justice Kyrou and congratulated MUnGA on its initiative.
Justice Kyrou took centre stage and began his talk by acknowledging the humble and difficult lifestyle his family endured in their ancestral village of Sfikia, when poverty was rife.
He attributed his hard-working at¬titude and dedication as beginning from a very young age, inspired by the work ethic of his parents.
Justice Kyrou was also keen to point out that his experience as a migrant and Hellenic ancestry built up a determina¬tion to succeed, not only personally but professionally.
Being the eldest of his siblings meant that the young Kyrou shouldered an unusually high level of responsibility. For instance, he had to act as an Eng¬lish language interpreter for his parents and inform them of their rights.
Justice Kyrou also attributes his early interest in the law to his challenging childhood, growing up underprivileged in the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows in an age where racism was rife.
After overcoming difficulties, Justice Kyrou appealed directly to the mostly student audience, as he gave advice on how to achieve success. He empha¬sised that whilst attaining good marks throughout university is important, it is not an absolute guarantee.
Among the factors leading to a suc¬cessful career in the law, Justice Kyrou pointed to interpersonal and communi¬cation skills, a respectful attitude to sen¬iors in the workplace and a true passion for the job.
Justice Kyrou then spoke about his career as a lawyer, a period of time not addressed in his autobiography, Call Me Emilios.
After much toil and dedication, he rose to become partner at the pres¬tigious law firm Mallesons Stephens Jacques, as it was known then.
He also faced career barriers on occa¬sion, both overt and systemic. Discrimi¬nation, Justice Kyrou noted, still heavily existed in the law field then, and would only improve in the 1980s.
He said this era witnessed a substan¬tial rise in the number of firms and lawyers, which contributed to the posi¬tive development, he commented, of a meritocratic system.
A life-changing opportunity arose in 2008, when then-solicitor Kyrou was offered an appointment to the Supreme Court bench – only the second such ap¬pointment in Victoria’s history.
Justice Kyrou emphasised his in¬creased responsibilities since becoming a judge, and spoke at length about the importance of the judiciary’s independ¬ence and impartiality.
The Justice emphasised his increased responsibilities in being a member of the third arm of government, the judici¬ary; speaking at length on the impor¬tance of the Judiciary’s independence and impartiality.
The presentation was a great success for MUnGA and its partners in arrang¬ing the event: MLS; the Law Students’ Society and its newly elected president, Nick Jane; the National Union of Greek Australian Students and its president, Tass Sgardelis; and the event’s sponsor, the Bank of Melbourne.
THE MUNGA LECTURE WAS WELL ATTENDED BY MLS STUDENTS AND OTHERS AND MUNGA PRESIDENT YIANNI KALLIANIS, RIGHT, SHAKES HANDS WITH JUSTICE KYROU