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Melburnian of the Year 2023 Awarded to Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM

Founder and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM was named the Melburnian of the Year. At the age of 28, Kon founded his own not for profit organisation, ASRC - (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre) in just eight weeks. Since 2001, the organisation has raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars and helped more than 30,000 refugees and people seeking asylum.

It’s still sinking in. I am so deeply honoured to be awarded Melburnian of the Year by the @cityofmelbourne and I thank the Lord Mayor @sallycapp AO and the Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece and the entire council for this recognition.

I’m deeply honoured as a Greek Australian to be awarded Melburnian of the Year. I do so on the shoulders of my late father Leo and my mother Sia who like an entire generation of Greeks sacrificed their dreams for ours. It shows how everything can change in a generation when we see the potential of migrants and refugees and give them opportunities and welcome instead of dehumanising and punishing them for seeking safety and a better life. I hope I’ve made the entire Greek Australian community proud as I’m fiercely proud Pontian Greek.

I’m so grateful and blessed for the unwavering love of my family and friends. And I’m so grateful for my entire Asylum Seeker Resource Centre family.

This award is recognition of the importance of philoxenia, of welcoming the refugee and creating a seat at the table for our newest Australians. I will use this platform to demand that the Australian Government delivers on its promise for a compassionate, humane and welcoming Australia for people seeking asylum and refugees.

I want to congratulate all the winners and finalists from last night who represent the very best of our city; a city that is proud to be working for treaty, that celebrates 65,000 years of First Nations culture and history; a city that welcomes our LGBTIQA+ community and fights to ensure they are safe and seen, a city that sees and celebrates the excellence of people with disabilities, that believes no one should be homeless or food insecure, that supports genuine action on climate change and an end to male violence against women.

I want to especially congratulate our Young Melburnian of the Year @georgiestone OAM.

In that room last night was what our nation should look like. Diverse, welcoming, safe, just and inclusive with a seat at the table for everyone.

Let’s keep building it together

The organisation has saved and enhanced the lives of thousands of refugees with the help of passionate volunteers – resulting in a change in national laws, narratives and policies. Kon was the first member of his family to go to high school - the son of Greek migrants and the grandson of Pontian refugees. Inspired by his family's experiences of displacement, migration, racism and discrimination, Kon developed a strong passion for human rights and social justice from a young age. Kon went on to become a lawyer, social worker and teacher, and the recipient of countless accolades – most notably the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011.

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM is the founder and CEO of the largest independent refugee organisation in Australia, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Kon is a qualified Lawyer, Social Worker and Teacher and has been recognised for his community service with an Order of Australia Medal, and dozens of other awards including an Honorary Doctor of Laws and a Churchill Fellowship.

Kon is also a twice published author, his memoir ‘The Power of Hope’ by Harper Collins and his Greek cookbook ‘Philoxenia - A Seat At My Table’ co-authored with his mother, Sia Karapanagiotidis, by Hardie Grant Books. He is a keen gardener and cook, well known public speaker and advocate for a range of social causes.

Kon was the first to go to high school in his family, the son of Greek migrants and the grandson of Pontian refugees. Inspired by his own family's experiences of displacement, migration, racism and discrimination, this led to Kon being passionate about human rights and social justice. Kon has spent his life in service to the community since the age of 18, having volunteered in more than two dozen charities from Indigenous, youth, homeless, mental health, community legal centres to people living with HIV/AIDS and children’s charities.

At the age of 28 Kon founded his own charity, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in the space of 8 weeks as a class project with the TAFE students he was teaching at the time. It has since gone on to save and enhance the lives of thousands of refugees, change national laws, narratives and policies, engage with thousands of volunteers together with refugees to do this work.

Kon has also raised, with his incredible fundraising team at the ASRC, more than a quarter of a billion dollars through the support of hundreds of thousands of Australians to power the work of the ASRC, and help more than 30,000 people seeking asylum and refugees since it began, as a charity that takes no funding from the Australian Government on principle.

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