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Sydney Morning Herald

Manuel Aroney, 1932-2011

Even a near-fatal heart attack when he was in his mid-40s didn't stop Manuel Aroney from living a full life of work and family, as well as giving years of service to the ethnic communities in Australia and his church.

Manuel James Aroney was born in Sydney on August 31, 1932, the only child of Dimitrios (Jim) and Stamatina Aroney, who had migrated separately to Australia from the Greek island of Kythira. Jim and Stamatina met and married in Townsville, then set up the Central Cafe in Mackay. They moved to Sydney, then returned to Mackay in 1933.

Manuel did his schooling in Mackay and received a Queensland open scholarship, awarded to the top 25 students in the state, and a Commonwealth scholarship. He decided on the Commonwealth scholarship and enrolled at the University of Sydney, where he took a BSc with first class honours (1955), MSc (1956) and PhD (1961).

In 1960, he had married Anne Pascalis. By 1965, he was a senior lecturer at the university.

In 1977, he was appointed head of the school of chemistry but had to give it up not long after because of ill health.

In addition to his university duties, Aroney was deeply involved in community activities. By 1975, he was a foundation member of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, from 1977 to 1981 he was a member of the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council and from 1978 to 1981 he served on the first board of the Special Broadcasting Service, which made ethnic radio permanent across Australia. With Bruce Gyngell, he established the SBS television service. As well, he was a member of the Australia Institute of Multicultural Affairs from 1981 to 1983 and from 1981 to 1986 was a commissioner of the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission.

In 1983, Aroney chaired a panel that selected the Australian National University to produce the bicentennial project The Australian People: An Encyclopaedia of the Nation, its People and their Origins.

In 1980, Aroney was awarded an OBE for services to the university and to the community and in 1989 was made an AM. In 1991, he was awarded a DSc (Doctor of Science) by the University of Sydney in recognition of his research in atomic bonding and molecular structure. Aroney produced 140 research papers and reviews in top international scientific journals, as well as many conference papers and abstracts.

Further ill health led to Aroney's retirement in 1994. He continued at the university as an honorary staff member and was president of the Foundation for Inorganic Chemistry.

In 1982, Aroney was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens and in 1994 was made an honorary doctor of the University of Athens. Two years later, he organised for the rector of the university to lead a delegation to Australia to establish academic and cultural ties between Athens and the universities of Sydney and NSW. He was made a commander of the Order of the Phoenix by the president of the Hellenic Republic in 1998.

Aroney also went to Athens, representing the first Greek Australian Museum Foundation, in 1996. Within weeks, he was able to secure a written understanding that the ministry would send original antiquities to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.

Along with his work and his voluntary service, Aroney was also involved with his church.

In 1972, he became an archon of the Oecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for services to the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia.

Aroney also served on the board of governors of St Spyridon Greek Orthodox College at Kingsford and Maroubra and from 1986 was on the student selection committee of St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College.

His contributions to Kythera were recognised in 2008 by the award of the Kytherian Medal of Honour.

Aroney was a fellow of the Royal Australia Chemical Institute, a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), a member of the International Committee for Molecular Electro-Optics and a member of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences.

He passed away peacefully at his home in South Coogee, on February 15, 2011.

Manuel Aroney is survived by Anne, sons Jim, Theodore and Stephen, daughters-in-law Evelyn, Felicia and Sophia and grandchildren James, Michael, Alannah, Emeil, William, Emmanuel, Anne-Marie and Demitra.

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