Life Stories: Agia Paraskevi and Australia

Life Story: Stame George Con't

My first job was part-time, teaching students at University in their practical classes. I obtained full-time work with Dulux paints (1965-66), where we looked the flow of paint - for instance - when you brush the paint across a surface, why it does not drip. We also examined how paint thins out when pressure is applied, and the release of pressure has the opposite effect. This concept rejuvenated my interest in the medical side of physics - as blood worked similarly to this. I was motivated for research; Dulux was sympathetic, but they only offered research work in Melbourne with Imperial Chemical Industries. However, this did not inspire me in any significant way, as I quickly realised if a research initiative did not generate profit, it was not encouraged.

Above: A Graduation photograph- with my mother, Irini.

I obtained a position with CSIRO in the Division of Textile Physics(1966-68), where there were many different research projects underway; many of them, however, seemed “trivial”- testing the strength of wool fibres, for instance - and I continued to look for other work opportunities. At CSIRO, there was pressure to publish your research regardless of whether it was practical or not. Personally, I felt dissatisfied by this. At the time I had applied for Dulux, I had also applied for St Vincents Hospital; when I reapplied, a fellow in administration remembered my name - through my prior application - and I was offered a position in medical physics, dealing in nuclear medicine. This seemed to be what I always wanted; throughout my studies, I could see myself wanting to pursue a career in nuclear physics. I also wanted to help others - the ill.

Working with diagnosis and therapy, it was inspirational to be able to test new ideas and subsequently implement them. After four years with St Vincents I obtained the position of Chief Physicist at Royal North Shore Hospital (1972), and I have been there ever since. I am also the Radiation Protection Officer for Northern Sydney and Central Coast Area Health Service. Our associated departments specialise in the treatment of thyroid cancer, and we believe - including the surgeons – that we have the best unit in the southern hemisphere. The most indescribable feeling there is for me, is one of elation when patients make a recovery.

In 1967, I married Paraskevi Papdopoulos (from Veria). With Paraskevi, our social network expanded beyond our family units and villagers. At university, I became part of a Greek study group with Stamatis Papanastasiou - who later would become Reverend Father Stephanos - and who introduced me to the Greek Orthodox Christian Society, where my Greek Orthodox culture was enriched. Although I was reading Greek books, I had not really read many, but now I found myself reading extensively. A Greek world opened for me…. Agia Paraskevi is obviously where my roots are; I experienced my young years there and all those experiences shaped my character and dreams. Those early years are very impressionable, and my mother, our family and other villagers all contributed to my growth. Australia was a place where I could achieve things I wanted to do. Throughout my studies - whether at high school or university - and work, people have always wanted to help me - which makes Australia a very special place.

Back to: Part 1

I wish to express my sincere thanks to Stame George for all his help in witing this feature. V.V.