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submitted by Steve Frangos on 29.11.2006

Athanasios, Theodore Combis & Apostolos Combis.

Translation:

Apostolos, Athanasios and Theodoros
The brothers Combis of Kythera...
honoring the Greek identity in America.....

The Grecian Gladiators

Steve Frangos, c. 2005


Little is recalled today of the various Greek immigrants who worked in American vaudeville. Chance references in archival sources and rumors within the Greek-American community about these Greek performers abound. After graduating high school I went to visit my grandmother in Tarpon Springs, Florida. There on Ring Avenue in the late evenings my grandmother and I would often visit Mr. Combis and his wife. It was over vanilla ice cream and root beer that Arthur (Athanasios) Combis would talk to me for hours regaling me with the stories and showing me the promotional pictures of the greatest tableaux vivant/strongman act in all of American vaudeville, the Grecian Gladiators.

Glory Days

From 1907 until World War I vaudeville audiences across North America cheered for the nationally famous vaudeville strongman tableau vivant act, the Grecian Gladiators. Athanasios and Theodore Combis formed the core of the act with the aid of internationally recognized strongman fellow Greek, Demetrios Tofalos. These men toured the vaudeville houses of North America during the Golden Age of American Vaudeville. At a time when Greek immigrants were struggling against all forms of abuse and hardship, these three Greek vaudevillians offered a heroic image of the glories of Ancient Greece to the society at large.

Given the transformations in American theater since the heyday of vaudeville, a tableaux vivant performance needs description. Someone, usually a shapely girl in tights, would slowly walk across the length of the stage carrying a sign with the title of the tableaux. Next, after a dramatic musical introduction, the house lights would go out and the stage curtains would open. Then, with a sudden burst of thematic music, all the lights would be instantly turned on.

There on the stage would be the tableaux artists in elaborate costumes assuming unmoving poses. Magnificently painted curtains served as background to the actors and their props. Sometimes, depending on the scene, the actors, after a moment or two of remaining in position, would move suddenly into a second dramatic pose and then freeze again. From the mid-1880s, tableaux vivant which means “living pictures” were also known as “living history” performances. This was the case because these costumed scenes were invariably based, however loosely, on famous historical events. All of these productions featured a costumed actor or actors representing some widely known historical figure or event as if they were a ‘living statue.’

The Grecian Gladiators were artistic innovators. Dressed in classical Greek togas and full-body armor, these three Greeks combined the Victorian style tableaux vivant with daredevil gymnastics and astonishing feats of strength. Wearing sixty-pound suits of armor, plumed helmets, spears, swords, and with a paired team of pure white stallions., the Grecian Gladiators criss-crossed the America as the very embodiment of classical Greek athletes.

The Act

The full sequence of routines that composed the standard ten-minute act are no longer remembered. Since, at any given theatre, three shows were played a day, different routines would be performed at one show and not another. If the Gladiators played an extended engagement or at a bigger venue such as the Hippodrome, then much longer, more complicated routines, were performed. Photographs and promotional materials were sent ten days to two weeks before the opening date of the contract or their act was cancelled. This included music for the orchestra. At the height of their popularity the three Greeks received $150 dollars a week.

A standard performance opened with two or more tableaux. Among the Grecian Gladiators most popular tableaux were “At the Walls of Troy,” “Heracles in Chains,” “Heracles and the Snakes,” “Samson and the Lion”and “Chariot races at the Coliseum.” The last tableaux included an actual chariot with its team of specially trained white horses.

The three Greeks had a thrilling vaudeville act where their unique balancing routines always expressed unusual strength and agility. Theodore was the understander (the man on the ground) and Athanasios the topmounter. Demetrios Toufalos also served occasionally as an understander but Athanasios always was in the air. Flips, true neck rolls, balancing on the hands, extended arms, standing on each other’s legs or shoulders, all were executed in complicated two-man and more often three-man routines. In all these gymnastic routines what separated the Gladiators from other vaudeville performers was lightening speed and undeniable athletic ability.

Strictly in terms of feats of strength, the Gladiators broke stones across each other’s chests, snapped chains, bent bars of steel, lifted massive dumb bells, and held volunteers from the audience over their heads in a special chair with a belt. Depending on their mood, and the volunteer, they would sometimes even ‘play’ catch with them. All this three times a day, seven days a week!

One show-stopper was when Theodore held Athanasios up in the air, fully extended with one hand above his head. Theodore then ran down the length of the stage and tossed him to Toufalos. Toufalos caught Athanasios in the small of the back and ran back across the full length of the stage. The two would run quickly all over the stage, throwing and then flipping Athanasios back and forth, until the crowd was shouting and on their feet. Since all three members of the Grecian Gladiators stood over six–feet tall, this was an amazing show of physical strength and outstanding gymnastic ability.

The New York Hippodrome Theatre

The young Greeks had appeared at New York City’s Hippodrome Theatre before the 1914 season. Yet, in looking back on his career, Athanasios always referred to that specific season with deep nostalgia. It would prove to be the last time the gladiators “played the big time.”

Each season the Hippodrome had a unifying theme that all the acts in some way worked into their performance. Responding to the war in Europe, the 1914 theme was aptly enough “War of the World.” In the elaborate playbill from that season, the Gladiators are credited as the “Olympic Champion Trio.” They performed in the section of the overall program called “Classic Feats of Strength” with their specific act appearing as “Episode VI: The War of Sport.”

Thunderous applause greeted the expended and perfected versions of two tableaux “At the Walls of Troy” and the “Chariot races at the Coliseum.” In both tableaux, the Gladiators had honed the freeze-move-freeze performance to razor-edge perfection. The movements were rehearsed endlessly to coincide with a timed sequence of quick switching on-then-off-then-on again of the stage lights. The momentary flash accented, as it also sometimes hid from the startled viewers, the Gladiators’ movements.

In the “Trojan War” tableau, an extended freeze-move-freeze sword fight played out the killing of Hector by Achilles. In the final blackout, Toufalos quickly brought out the team of horses and, in the final glare of light, Achilles was shown sword on high with Hector tied behind his chariot. Athanasios Combis contended the loudest cheers of all came from the balcony seats. The cheapest seats in the house, these were the local Greeks dressed in their finest, who were nearly thrown out of the Hippodrome for all the uproar they made at the end of this particular tableau.

The “Chariot Races at the Coliseum” tableau was far trickier and had failed more than once in the past. The team of stallions, while endlessly trained, still sometimes bolted with the sudden flash of light or the thunderous applause. On one occasion, when this tableau was being performed in Cleveland, Athanasios Combis had almost ended up in the orchestra pit!

This tableau was a straightforward race scene. What the bold Greeks had added was a freeze-move-freeze-twist. The horses were trained to raise their legs and turn or lift their heads at each flash of the house lights. The Gladiator in the chariot would dramatically move his arms, whip and spear to emphasize the sense of movement. Telegrams kept in family scrapbooks report that William Schubert, the Hippodrome Director, was especially sorry when the Gladiators were signed away by the Flatbush Theatre in Brooklyn. The young Greeks who spent “money like water,” in triumph over their newly enhanced fame never suspected that this would be their last season together.

Gladiators End

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the Grecian Gladiators’ act ended. Theodore Combis joined the United States Army and Athanasios’ wife Dora, who had traveled with the act for five years, wanted to settle down and start a family.

I was never able to determine how long Demetrios Toufalos performed with the Grecian Gladiators. Today, it is probably the case that more Greeks recall Demetrios Toufalos than the two Combis brothers. This is because Toufalos won the 1906 heavy weigh lifting contest in Greece. Demetrios Toufalos was to have a complex career before, during and long after his association with the Grecian Gladiators. Toufalos as a weigh lifter, wrestler, trainer/promoter of wrestlers and if old newspaper accounts are to believed an opera singer! Toufalos became an American citizen in 1921, which is important to note since he is the first and I believe only Greek-American athlete to have a stadium named after him in Greece.

In his birthplace Demetrious Toufalos is remembered by the “TOFALOS Stadium [which] has 5000 seats. It lies 6 kilometers from the center of the city and just 3 km from the hotel where the teams will be accommodated. It is fully equipped, has 10 changing rooms, 6 showers in each changing room for the teams, 3 extra changing rooms for referees, medical facilities, a building control center, VIP room, parking both for VIPs and journalists and for sports fans for up to 3000 cars and of course air conditioning, and media facilities (fax, telephone, etc.) (http://www.eurowomen2003.com/patra.asp).”

The bluster of television glitter seen on the World Federation of Wrestling is a far cry from the demonstrated athletic ability of these vaudevillian strongmen. The Grecian Gladiators were among the true strongmen giants so often written about in histories of American Vaudeville. From men such as George Hackenschimdt, the Russian Lion, or Jim Londos, the Golden Greek, to Demetrios Toufalos, the heavy built Grecian Gladiator who would lift full grown men over his head with one hand and then twirl his handlebar mustachios with the other, were all extremely disciplined men of hard-won physical strength and seasoned abilities.

All Hail the Gladiators!

In reading standard histories of Greeks in North America it would seem that only married men who ran their own businesses and belonged to fraternal organizations, and/or the Greek Orthodox Church ever influenced American notions of what it meant to be Greek. This is simply not true. As self-serving as this institutional “struggle and success” model may be, it is a selected presentation of history.

The claim can well be made that immigrant performers, such as Athanasios and Theodore Combis and their able partner Demetrious Toufalos offered, in a more dramatic and entertaining fashion, an image of who the Greeks were to the working classes of rural and urban America than any other group ever did. The time for recognizing the Grecian Gladiators, and all the other Greek immigrants performers, and to allow them to take their bows on the stage of history is long overdue.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Steve Frangos on 29.11.2006

Athanasios and Theodore Combis.

The Grecian Gladiators

Steve Frangos, c. 2005

Little is recalled today of the various Greek immigrants who worked in American vaudeville. Chance references in archival sources and rumors within the Greek-American community about these Greek performers abound. After graduating high school I went to visit my grandmother in Tarpon Springs, Florida. There on Ring Avenue in the late evenings my grandmother and I would often visit Mr. Combis and his wife. It was over vanilla ice cream and root beer that Arthur (Athanasios) Combis would talk to me for hours regaling me with the stories and showing me the promotional pictures of the greatest tableaux vivant/strongman act in all of American vaudeville, the Grecian Gladiators.

Glory Days

From 1907 until World War I vaudeville audiences across North America cheered for the nationally famous vaudeville strongman tableau vivant act, the Grecian Gladiators. Athanasios and Theodore Combis formed the core of the act with the aid of internationally recognized strongman fellow Greek, Demetrios Tofalos. These men toured the vaudeville houses of North America during the Golden Age of American Vaudeville. At a time when Greek immigrants were struggling against all forms of abuse and hardship, these three Greek vaudevillians offered a heroic image of the glories of Ancient Greece to the society at large.

Given the transformations in American theater since the heyday of vaudeville, a tableaux vivant performance needs description. Someone, usually a shapely girl in tights, would slowly walk across the length of the stage carrying a sign with the title of the tableaux. Next, after a dramatic musical introduction, the house lights would go out and the stage curtains would open. Then, with a sudden burst of thematic music, all the lights would be instantly turned on.

There on the stage would be the tableaux artists in elaborate costumes assuming unmoving poses. Magnificently painted curtains served as background to the actors and their props. Sometimes, depending on the scene, the actors, after a moment or two of remaining in position, would move suddenly into a second dramatic pose and then freeze again. From the mid-1880s, tableaux vivant which means “living pictures” were also known as “living history” performances. This was the case because these costumed scenes were invariably based, however loosely, on famous historical events. All of these productions featured a costumed actor or actors representing some widely known historical figure or event as if they were a ‘living statue.’

The Grecian Gladiators were artistic innovators. Dressed in classical Greek togas and full-body armor, these three Greeks combined the Victorian style tableaux vivant with daredevil gymnastics and astonishing feats of strength. Wearing sixty-pound suits of armor, plumed helmets, spears, swords, and with a paired team of pure white stallions., the Grecian Gladiators criss-crossed the America as the very embodiment of classical Greek athletes.

The Act

The full sequence of routines that composed the standard ten-minute act are no longer remembered. Since, at any given theatre, three shows were played a day, different routines would be performed at one show and not another. If the Gladiators played an extended engagement or at a bigger venue such as the Hippodrome, then much longer, more complicated routines, were performed. Photographs and promotional materials were sent ten days to two weeks before the opening date of the contract or their act was cancelled. This included music for the orchestra. At the height of their popularity the three Greeks received $150 dollars a week.

A standard performance opened with two or more tableaux. Among the Grecian Gladiators most popular tableaux were “At the Walls of Troy,” “Heracles in Chains,” “Heracles and the Snakes,” “Samson and the Lion”and “Chariot races at the Coliseum.” The last tableaux included an actual chariot with its team of specially trained white horses.

The three Greeks had a thrilling vaudeville act where their unique balancing routines always expressed unusual strength and agility. Theodore was the understander (the man on the ground) and Athanasios the topmounter. Demetrios Toufalos also served occasionally as an understander but Athanasios always was in the air. Flips, true neck rolls, balancing on the hands, extended arms, standing on each other’s legs or shoulders, all were executed in complicated two-man and more often three-man routines. In all these gymnastic routines what separated the Gladiators from other vaudeville performers was lightening speed and undeniable athletic ability.

Strictly in terms of feats of strength, the Gladiators broke stones across each other’s chests, snapped chains, bent bars of steel, lifted massive dumb bells, and held volunteers from the audience over their heads in a special chair with a belt. Depending on their mood, and the volunteer, they would sometimes even ‘play’ catch with them. All this three times a day, seven days a week!

One show-stopper was when Theodore held Athanasios up in the air, fully extended with one hand above his head. Theodore then ran down the length of the stage and tossed him to Toufalos. Toufalos caught Athanasios in the small of the back and ran back across the full length of the stage. The two would run quickly all over the stage, throwing and then flipping Athanasios back and forth, until the crowd was shouting and on their feet. Since all three members of the Grecian Gladiators stood over six–feet tall, this was an amazing show of physical strength and outstanding gymnastic ability.

The New York Hippodrome Theatre

The young Greeks had appeared at New York City’s Hippodrome Theatre before the 1914 season. Yet, in looking back on his career, Athanasios always referred to that specific season with deep nostalgia. It would prove to be the last time the gladiators “played the big time.”

Each season the Hippodrome had a unifying theme that all the acts in some way worked into their performance. Responding to the war in Europe, the 1914 theme was aptly enough “War of the World.” In the elaborate playbill from that season, the Gladiators are credited as the “Olympic Champion Trio.” They performed in the section of the overall program called “Classic Feats of Strength” with their specific act appearing as “Episode VI: The War of Sport.”

Thunderous applause greeted the expended and perfected versions of two tableaux “At the Walls of Troy” and the “Chariot races at the Coliseum.” In both tableaux, the Gladiators had honed the freeze-move-freeze performance to razor-edge perfection. The movements were rehearsed endlessly to coincide with a timed sequence of quick switching on-then-off-then-on again of the stage lights. The momentary flash accented, as it also sometimes hid from the startled viewers, the Gladiators’ movements.

In the “Trojan War” tableau, an extended freeze-move-freeze sword fight played out the killing of Hector by Achilles. In the final blackout, Toufalos quickly brought out the team of horses and, in the final glare of light, Achilles was shown sword on high with Hector tied behind his chariot. Athanasios Combis contended the loudest cheers of all came from the balcony seats. The cheapest seats in the house, these were the local Greeks dressed in their finest, who were nearly thrown out of the Hippodrome for all the uproar they made at the end of this particular tableau.

The “Chariot Races at the Coliseum” tableau was far trickier and had failed more than once in the past. The team of stallions, while endlessly trained, still sometimes bolted with the sudden flash of light or the thunderous applause. On one occasion, when this tableau was being performed in Cleveland, Athanasios Combis had almost ended up in the orchestra pit!

This tableau was a straightforward race scene. What the bold Greeks had added was a freeze-move-freeze-twist. The horses were trained to raise their legs and turn or lift their heads at each flash of the house lights. The Gladiator in the chariot would dramatically move his arms, whip and spear to emphasize the sense of movement. Telegrams kept in family scrapbooks report that William Schubert, the Hippodrome Director, was especially sorry when the Gladiators were signed away by the Flatbush Theatre in Brooklyn. The young Greeks who spent “money like water,” in triumph over their newly enhanced fame never suspected that this would be their last season together.

Gladiators End

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the Grecian Gladiators’ act ended. Theodore Combis joined the United States Army and Athanasios’ wife Dora, who had traveled with the act for five years, wanted to settle down and start a family.

I was never able to determine how long Demetrios Toufalos performed with the Grecian Gladiators. Today, it is probably the case that more Greeks recall Demetrios Toufalos than the two Combis brothers. This is because Toufalos won the 1906 heavy weigh lifting contest in Greece. Demetrios Toufalos was to have a complex career before, during and long after his association with the Grecian Gladiators. Toufalos as a weigh lifter, wrestler, trainer/promoter of wrestlers and if old newspaper accounts are to believed an opera singer! Toufalos became an American citizen in 1921, which is important to note since he is the first and I believe only Greek-American athlete to have a stadium named after him in Greece.

In his birthplace Demetrious Toufalos is remembered by the “TOFALOS Stadium [which] has 5000 seats. It lies 6 kilometers from the center of the city and just 3 km from the hotel where the teams will be accommodated. It is fully equipped, has 10 changing rooms, 6 showers in each changing room for the teams, 3 extra changing rooms for referees, medical facilities, a building control center, VIP room, parking both for VIPs and journalists and for sports fans for up to 3000 cars and of course air conditioning, and media facilities (fax, telephone, etc.) (http://www.eurowomen2003.com/patra.asp).”

The bluster of television glitter seen on the World Federation of Wrestling is a far cry from the demonstrated athletic ability of these vaudevillian strongmen. The Grecian Gladiators were among the true strongmen giants so often written about in histories of American Vaudeville. From men such as George Hackenschimdt, the Russian Lion, or Jim Londos, the Golden Greek, to Demetrios Toufalos, the heavy built Grecian Gladiator who would lift full grown men over his head with one hand and then twirl his handlebar mustachios with the other, were all extremely disciplined men of hard-won physical strength and seasoned abilities.

All Hail the Gladiators!

In reading standard histories of Greeks in North America it would seem that only married men who ran their own businesses and belonged to fraternal organizations, and/or the Greek Orthodox Church ever influenced American notions of what it meant to be Greek. This is simply not true. As self-serving as this institutional “struggle and success” model may be, it is a selected presentation of history.

The claim can well be made that immigrant performers, such as Athanasios and Theodore Combis and their able partner Demetrious Toufalos offered, in a more dramatic and entertaining fashion, an image of who the Greeks were to the working classes of rural and urban America than any other group ever did. The time for recognizing the Grecian Gladiators, and all the other Greek immigrants performers, and to allow them to take their bows on the stage of history is long overdue.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Peter Makarthis on 09.11.2006

Samios & Co Brisbane Australia

Seventy years of continous service in the hospitality trade proudly promoted by Theo Zantiotis.

Peter Makarthis

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Peter Makarthis on 09.11.2006

Theo Zantiotis - Brisbane

Third generation Kytherian Theo Zantiotis
outside Samios and Co Brisbane Australia

Peter Makarthis

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Epsilon Magazine on 04.11.2006

Professor Minas Coroneo in his Randwick office, at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Professor Minas Coroneo talks about the bionic eye, the latest breakthrough in the field of ophthalmology, the pros and cons of medical research in Australia, and growing up Greek in a Kytherian household in the Hunter Valley region in the early sixties.

Words and Portrait, Savvas Limnatitis

"Let’s get one thing straight: what we are offering is not a miracle cure for blindness, but a great step forward”. The softly spoken, bespectacled, fifty-something man, sitting opposite me in what used to be the late, great, Fred Hollows office at Randwick’s Prince of Wales Hospital is talking about the latest developments in the field of ophthalmology and is picking his words very carefully.

And for good reason. After all, modern medicine and its offering of solutions -often of the quick-fix type - to an unprecedented number of diseases to anything remotely fitting the description between cancer and obesity, drug dependency and the centuries old problem of ageing, has made it increasingly easy to be designated a quack, instantly converting years of dedication and research into laughable and best-to-be-avoided obsessions of absent minded professors in long white coats.

Thank God then that modesty has never been a prominent feature in scientific research. For judging by the inches of columns in journals both medical and mainstream (even the media from Greece got in on the act) dedicated to the findings of Professor Minas Coroneo and his dedicated team of researchers there are not exactly small, steps forward but giant leaps, that can revolutionise the way blindness is treated. Professor Coroneo and his team have been working on the project for over five years now. While their first efforts on designing a device that would help patients with genetic eye diseases that have lost their sight received the thumbs up from the rest of the medical world, it was the team’s recent human trials that have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice.

Hailed as a medical breakthrough, the bionic eye does not offer full sight - at least not for the time being. It will eventually however provide blind people with enough “functional vision” to negotiate their way across a room without bumping into objects.

During one of his numerous visits to Kythera, Dr Coroneo was struck by the lack of properr opthalmological facilities on the island. Realising that the only options available to the ageing population of his parent’s birthplace was a visit to Athens with all the problems and hardships such a scenario involves, Dr Coroneo quickly set out to rectify the problem. Calling on the help of his associates both in Greece and Australia as well as the rest of the world, Dr Coroneo’s original idea was soon transformed into the establishment of an eye clinic. Situated at Potamos’ hospital the new eye clinic serving the Kytherian community is equipped with all the necessary equippement and apart from the services of a regular ophthalmologist it also offers those of an optometrist. Not surprisingly, your reporter has gained this information not from Dr Coroneo himself, who carfefully avoided mentioning this little known fact about his life outside of his office, but through a mutual friend who, in his turn, could not speak highly enough of this introvert scientist. How much does this say about his character? You be the judge of that.

THE BIONIC EYE

What exactly is the bionic eye and how did you come to be involved?


About ten years ago my colleague, Dr. Halliday, who has spend his life looking after people that were blinded by hereditary conditions that result in disease of the retina, decided to retire. The general group of these conditions is called retinal dystrophy, and retinitis pigmentosa is the most common of them. It affects one in five thousand people and it’s the commonest cause of blindness in young people. He was interested in the genetics of this and had built a big database. When he retired, the hospital didn’t replace him and on top of my all my other work, I ended up having to do his clinics. So I am sitting here in Randwick having to look after all these youngish people that are blind. I do not like this type of practice because in modern ophthalmology we help people. You come in; have an operation, go home and the next day you can see. So that was outside the normal activities I had been used to. Around 2000 there was a programme on TV about an engineer in New York called William Dobelle who had spent his life trying to develop bionic eyes. He had implanted electrodes into the visual part of the brain of a blind person. When he had started the computers that were required to run this filled a rather large room. By 2000 the computer was a laptop and the person was shown walking around with this device. I thought this was fantastic, but the technology was really crude. People can loose their sight at any time and depending on how it is lost, will determine what sort of “bionic eye” that needs to be developed. Dobelle had a system where he placed electrodes in the brain and his early patients had them running out of their skulls, which is very dangerous because you could get infections. It struck me then that the leading company for stimulating any sensory system is Cochlear, an Australian company based in Sydney. They have the best technology in bionic ears. We rang up Cochlear and told them we had all these blind patients and asked if we could work with them to develop a bionic eye. They have been very helpful in giving us access to their technology.

How long did the original process take?

We spent about five years working with animals. We took off-the-shelf components and that was a big advantage for us because we are competing with overseas groups that are better funded than us, and employ similar technology. But we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We had a leading company with the right technology, which we borrowed. The reason for the recent publicity is that earlier this year we started doing some work with patients. This is the first study in humans that we are aware of in Australia.

How long before the bionic eye becomes available to the public?

I am hoping that there will be something available in the next five years. It might not be us. Now that might sound like a long time but given that we have been working on this for only five years, we feel like we are half way through this cycle. Just to make it very plain - and we have been very careful with any publicity because we don’t want people to think that we are about to have a product- what we have achieved is an important step forward. We took a slightly different approach to the one of some of our colleagues in the US. Normally, most of the groups that are working on the retina have put electrodes on it. The retina is like a film in a camera. It has a layer of cells that detect light and turn light into electrical signals. Those signals go to nerves that join up and form the optic nerve. Because the retina is very delicate and also because you have to open the eye, that approach involves some risk. Just imagine what might happen to someone with pieces of metal attached to their retina if they jump on a trampoline. The approach we took was to put electrodes on the outer wall of the eye and increase the current, so it still stimulates the retina. Because of this, we do not have to open the eye. We think that might be a more stable and safer system long term. So earlier this year, we put some electrodes on the outer wall of the eye of a patient, we stimulated those electrodes and the patient was able to see flashes of light.

Is the bionic eye the ultimate solution for people without eyesight?

The type of vision we think will happen initially won’t be anything like yours or my eyesight. It’s not going to be normal vision. The current Cochlear devices have about 30 electrodes. Imagine having 30 electrodes on the outer wall of the eye, which in theory means that if you turn them on at the same time, you will get 30 flashes of light. The idea is that you will have a series of flashes outlining objects. What we are trying to do here is to give people navigating vision.

How did the rest of the medical world respond to your findings?

We have published quite a lot of papers that have been well accepted. We were at a meeting in Detroit early this year when we presented this work and so far the response has been very positive. There is nothing really controversial about what we are doing. It’s just a slightly different approach. One of our big strengths is the link with Cochlear. They know how to built devices and get them to market. We think that puts us in a good position to actually develop something.

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND

You have applied to the US Patent Office for a patent. How important is it to get the rights to the patent? Is it to ensure that no one benefits financially from it? I get the feeling that money is not on the top of your list of priorities?


I am not driven by money. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been here. We have a company that was formed to get this product to the market. When you go down this path, there are certain commercial realities. One of these realities is to protect the intellectual property that has been generated by what we do. Because overseas there are a lot of people with more money than us, if we pass on ideas we can be left behind. What we are doing here is simply being careful. Once you get the patent, you can go to companies and say: “we have my commercial property, what is it worth and can we work with you to get it developed”. It puts us in a better position when we try to develop it.

Has the American dollar tried to lure you away from Australia?

Ha-ha. I have been tempted to apply for positions in the United States. It’s not that I find money attractive. But it’s a fact that a lot of people have been driven away from Australia because of the lack of investment. It’s not so much the money but more that our public institutions, our hospitals and our universities are not traveling well at the moment. Across the country, the public hospital system that’s supposed to be looking after Australians often has its problems. Academic work in hospitals under these conditions is very tough, at least for some of us. In Australia public funds go to patient care first, but research is also a priority. However, I know that some colleagues who work in similar institutions in the USA are much better supported than we are. On the other hand, the lack of resources makes you cunning. You have to make do and one of the great things about Australian investors and scientists is that to survive in a very competitive market, they have to be smarter and be able to out perform the competition. I have a great team of people that I work with and I am not sure I would be able to find them elsewhere. At the moment, I am happy trying to do what I am doing from here.

What about the Australian government? What has been its response?

We have had some funds from the Australian government. We have had an National Health and Medical Research Council grant a couple of years ago, that paid for a research assistant for a couple of years. It helped to get the basic work completed. Putting in grant applications is a lot of work and the amount of money that you get makes you ask if that is a good way to spend your time. We have tried very hard to get more. The German government is funding one of its projects to the tune of 50 million dollars a year. We currently have no government funding for this project. Many people that are in this situation apply every couple of years for small amounts that keep them going. It means that you spend a lot of energy staying afloat. It’s like treading water rather than swimming forward. Because of the recent testing, we are in a better position to go back to the government and say, “this is important in terms of having been developed in Australia, we would appreciate some support”. If you imagine being the Minister of Health, every time he turns around there is someone that has developed a cure for cancer or some other thing, he can’t possibly fund every project. I happen to think this is a very important one because one of the key determinants of quality in life is the ability to see. Particularly young people that have been affected by these diseases, they may have many many years of blindness and we are hoping to develop something that will enable them to walk around. We jokingly say that what we are trying to do is turn guide dogs into pets. Giving people that level of independence is a big deal.

THE ROOT OF ALL... GOODNESS

What drives you and your team to fight bureaucracy? Wouldn’t it have been easier to give up?


It’s always easy to give up. I’ve been doing this for a while now and one of the things about being an academic is that most Australian ophthalmologists are very well trained and provide a very high level of service, and they are sitting in dark rooms across Australia diagnosing diseases, they are operating in theatres making people see better. The thing that partly drives me is that we sit there and we look at people with problems we can’t fix. Because I had intense training in science, as well as studying medicine, I tried to reconcile the interface between basic science and clinical medicine. On one hand I look after my patients, which I enjoy doing, but at the same time I am thinking about how I can treat this condition that otherwise can’t be treated. So I see myself partly as an inventor. If you have one or few inventions you treat people across the planet. That’s not an ego trip. It’s part of what is intellectually stimulating about this work. Clinical medicine can almost be like process work. You have to be very good at doing the same thing over and over again. Beyond that is this almost arrogant ambition to do something more than that.

A lot of people have taken the Hippocratic Oath, but not everyone follows it to the last detail. What makes you different?

It’s partly what you are suited to and partly what opportunities are there. I was extremely fortunate that extraordinary people trained me. I trained at the University of Sydney with John Young, the Head of Physiology. He was a very clever and very driven scientist. I had that background, and then I went to Germany where I trained with a guy who was a scientist as well as an ophthalmologist. When I returned to Australia I had Fred Hollows as a teacher for four years - as a matter of fact this used to be his office. I have had the appropriate training to do what I do. I remember I went to a lecture during my first week at the University of Sydney - this was in 1972- and I was inspired to go and work with John Young who was the speaker that day. You can be the benificiary of serindipitous circumstances. You find yourself in different situations in life where you have the opportunity to do things. On the other hand, my parents didn’t have a very good formal education, so when they came to Australia they were very determined that their children would be educated. I had the best education they could afford to give me at the time, and I have gone through life trying to achieve things.

While I admire your modesty, I can’t help but notice you have served in outback Bourke. What influenced the decision to go all the way there? Were you trying to pinpoint the exact location of “woop woop” on the map?

That was purely Fred Hollows. I arrived at this hospital in 1982. Prior to that in the 70's, Hollows had been all over outback Australia looking after indigenous and white people and anyone with eye disease. By the time I arrived that program had ended and the last outpost for NSW was Bourke. In my training - and I am pleased to see in the training of the people that are currently involved in this project - we provide a service to Bourke Hospital. It’s funny because I talk to people about Bourke and my instructions on how to get there is to find the last traffic lights in Sydney and then drive northwest for ten hours. You can’t miss it.

Other people would have taken the easy option and settled in a nice office in Sydney and try to make as much money as possible.

It’s possible that I have a very short attention span. Like a lot of people I need stimulation. Fred Hollows once said to me: “If you go into a practice and that is all you do, you will be brain dead by fifty”. I am pleased to report that I am 52 and I am not brain dead. It’s a great privilege to be able to sit here and do as much as I can. It hasn’t been easy; we have had a lot of difficult times in the last ten years. Sitting in this hospital-university situation when both institutions are not well supported in my view - and that’s a political statement, but I think a lot of other people share the same view- can be tough. Maybe the easiest thing to have done is to get up and go overseas. It’s just that I am rather happy to be surrounded by this group of great people trying to do something good.

THE KYTHERIAN CONNECTION

How did your parents take your decision to plunge into the uncertain field of medical research?


Town of origin - Potamos

Parachoukli - Belos


My father died when I was in the second year of medical school. As a matter of fact, he didn’t want me to be a doctor; he wanted me to be an engineer. For two reasons: he came to Australia from Kythera in 1920 and served in the Second World War. He was in the Ambulance Corps in Darwin when it was bombed and he saw surgeons operating and didn’t really like it. He thought doctors were fairly uncivilized. Back in Scone where he lived, he was there when they were building the Glenbawn Dam. There were a lot of Greeks that had come to Australia during that era. One of his best friends was the engineer that was responsible for building that dam. My father saw engineering as clean and helpful to the community, building bridges and stuff, and he wanted me to be an engineer. To that extent I disappointed him. On the other hand, in that era most people that did well at school were expected to study medicine. In Scone, the small town where I grew up the person that made the difference between life and death was the local doctor. He was an inspirational character.

What about your mother?

My mother passed away last year, but she lived long enough to see what I have become. I think I had disappointed her as well. Her idea was that when I finished medicine I would open a general practice somewhere locally. All these years that I have been going overseas she had a great difficulty understanding what I was trying to do.

Was it hard to retain your Greekness, growing up in the middle of The Hunter Valley with not many Greeks around?

There is schizophrenia about Australians’ attitude to migrants. On the hand most people were very supportive, my father had many friends and his was in business in Scone for about fifty years. There were a few xenophobes. I had an unusual name by Australian standards then. You can imagine what it was like having a name like that in Australia in the 1950s. Sometimes at school it was tough. I have a younger brother, who was big, and his attitude was that he would hit anyone that insulted him. So he became one of the boys. He was also much better in adjusting than me. My approach was to do it academically. In a way that attitude was because my parents rewarded academic success. My father would say that knowledge is power and I tried to know more than other people.

What about Greek traditions?

As for traditions, we only spoke Greek at home and so when at the age of five I went to infants school I couldn’t speak a word of English. My mother had a sort of reverse racism. She saw Australians as being a little bit uncivilized. She would see people crawling out of pubs drunk at five or six in the evening and think “God, what country did I come to”. In the end she had a lot of Australian friends. She arrived in Australia two years before I was born and she was a little concerned about how things would turn out. We didn’t have Greek school in the country so my formal Greek isn’t great, but for my kids we had a Greek teacher who came to our home. They both know how to read and write in Greek. They have been to Greece a couple of times and are very proud of their heritage. We still have property in Kythera and we have made sure our kids have gone to the island and know what is there. There was a church in Newcastle where we would go. I was christened here in Sydney at Hagia Triada. I am not a very religious person but I very much respect the traditions of our church, and as I have grown older I have come to appreciate them more.

Your name recently featured quite prominently in newspapers in Greece. Were you surprised by the attention you have received from the Greek media?

I was pleasantly surprised. The reason for this publicity is that recently we had a fundraising dinner. George Souris hosted it at the Parliament House and we had over 200 people attending. Leading up the dinner, the organisers thought that it would be good to get some publicity and I also did an extensive interview for ABC earlier this year. All that created a lot of interest. In fact one of the people who is very supportive of what we do is the Greek Consulate General, Mr. Raptakis and he got a lot of calls from Greece. He put them in touch with me and this resulted in several phone interviews. I have had some contact with the University of Athens. I went there a couple of years ago and met my counterpart. I was interested in building relations with Greece but when I came here I got swamped with a lot of other issues, and I haven’t done as much as I would have liked in that respect. I am very, very proud of my heritage, both Greek and Australian. I did a lot of my post graduate studies in Germany and I can remember coming back after being away for three years, thinking “I don’t really feel Australian now, but I don’t feel European either”. You get to the point where you think, “who the hell are you, anyway”. But I have snapped out of it now, I know exactly who I am.

How do you see the Greek community in Australia? Are we on the right path?

In many ways we are in a very privileged position. The Kytherians are a fairly tight knit group, they have their Association, and they have their dinners and everything else. Growing up in the country, one of the problems was that I had very few links with any of the Greek community when we moved to Sydney. In my high school, it was like the United Nations. I had Jewish friends and Italian friends, people from all over the world, all at the one place. Coming from the country to Sydney, it was like visiting Disneyland. I gradually have become more involved in the Greek community. I have been asked to address some functions and I find that the Greek community has in general been very supportive of what I do. John Howard made a comment recently that “Greeks are model citizens”. I have a paper clipping from one of AHEPA’s first meeting, held in Scone in the 1930s stating that what AHEPA was trying to do was to bring the best aspects of Greek culture into Australia. It’s very hard to find a better statement of intent on how to behave when you come to someone else’s country.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Finally Professor, is there a way that people can help this worthwhile cause?


We have two foundations supporting this project. The Genetic Eye Foundation, which looks after people with these blinding conditions. People can donate money to that or they can donate money directly to The Australian Bionic Eye Foundation. Donations to both charities are tax deductible. Obviously, every bit helps but we are not relying on that. We are trying to get this commercialised as soon as possible so we can really move on with it. But if someone is looking for a good cause... Medical charities are numerous and there is a lot of “competition” out there. This one is a little bit different and at the moment we do need some support. At this present time we have four part time people working on this project but we don’t really have a lot of infrastructure to make things move forward.

MAKE A DONATION

The Genetic Eye Foundation,
Ms R. Sturt,
C/- Department of Ophthalmology,
The Prince of Wales Hospital,
High Street,
Randwick, NSW, 2031.
Telephone:
Ms R. Sturt (02) 9382 2493

Email, The Genetic Eye Foundation

Australian Bionic Eye Foundation,
Ms R. Serna,
C/- Department of Ophthalmology,
The Prince of Wales Hospital,
High Street,
Randwick, NSW, 2031.
Telephone:
Ms R. Serna (02) 9382 2307

Email, Australian Bionic Eye Foundation

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Epsilon Magazine on 04.11.2006

Professor Minas Coroneo holds a model of the human eye.

Professor Minas Coroneo talks about the bionic eye, the latest breakthrough in the field of ophthalmology, the pros and cons of medical research in Australia, and growing up Greek in a Kytherian household in the Hunter Valley region in the early sixties.

Words and Portrait, Savvas Limnatitis

"Let’s get one thing straight: what we are offering is not a miracle cure for blindness, but a great step forward”. The softly spoken, bespectacled, fifty-something man, sitting opposite me in what used to be the late, great, Fred Hollows office at Randwick’s Prince of Wales Hospital is talking about the latest developments in the field of ophthalmology and is picking his words very carefully.

And for good reason. After all, modern medicine and its offering of solutions -often of the quick-fix type - to an unprecedented number of diseases to anything remotely fitting the description between cancer and obesity, drug dependency and the centuries old problem of ageing, has made it increasingly easy to be designated a quack, instantly converting years of dedication and research into laughable and best-to-be-avoided obsessions of absent minded professors in long white coats.

Thank God then that modesty has never been a prominent feature in scientific research. For judging by the inches of columns in journals both medical and mainstream (even the media from Greece got in on the act) dedicated to the findings of Professor Minas Coroneo and his dedicated team of researchers there are not exactly small, steps forward but giant leaps, that can revolutionise the way blindness is treated. Professor Coroneo and his team have been working on the project for over five years now. While their first efforts on designing a device that would help patients with genetic eye diseases that have lost their sight received the thumbs up from the rest of the medical world, it was the team’s recent human trials that have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice.

Hailed as a medical breakthrough, the bionic eye does not offer full sight - at least not for the time being. It will eventually however provide blind people with enough “functional vision” to negotiate their way across a room without bumping into objects.

During one of his numerous visits to Kythera, Dr Coroneo was struck by the lack of properr opthalmological facilities on the island. Realising that the only options available to the ageing population of his parent’s birthplace was a visit to Athens with all the problems and hardships such a scenario involves, Dr Coroneo quickly set out to rectify the problem. Calling on the help of his associates both in Greece and Australia as well as the rest of the world, Dr Coroneo’s original idea was soon transformed into the establishment of an eye clinic. Situated at Potamos’ hospital the new eye clinic serving the Kytherian community is equipped with all the necessary equippement and apart from the services of a regular ophthalmologist it also offers those of an optometrist. Not surprisingly, your reporter has gained this information not from Dr Coroneo himself, who carfefully avoided mentioning this little known fact about his life outside of his office, but through a mutual friend who, in his turn, could not speak highly enough of this introvert scientist. How much does this say about his character? You be the judge of that.

THE BIONIC EYE

What exactly is the bionic eye and how did you come to be involved?


About ten years ago my colleague, Dr. Halliday, who has spend his life looking after people that were blinded by hereditary conditions that result in disease of the retina, decided to retire. The general group of these conditions is called retinal dystrophy, and retinitis pigmentosa is the most common of them. It affects one in five thousand people and it’s the commonest cause of blindness in young people. He was interested in the genetics of this and had built a big database. When he retired, the hospital didn’t replace him and on top of my all my other work, I ended up having to do his clinics. So I am sitting here in Randwick having to look after all these youngish people that are blind. I do not like this type of practice because in modern ophthalmology we help people. You come in; have an operation, go home and the next day you can see. So that was outside the normal activities I had been used to. Around 2000 there was a programme on TV about an engineer in New York called William Dobelle who had spent his life trying to develop bionic eyes. He had implanted electrodes into the visual part of the brain of a blind person. When he had started the computers that were required to run this filled a rather large room. By 2000 the computer was a laptop and the person was shown walking around with this device. I thought this was fantastic, but the technology was really crude. People can loose their sight at any time and depending on how it is lost, will determine what sort of “bionic eye” that needs to be developed. Dobelle had a system where he placed electrodes in the brain and his early patients had them running out of their skulls, which is very dangerous because you could get infections. It struck me then that the leading company for stimulating any sensory system is Cochlear, an Australian company based in Sydney. They have the best technology in bionic ears. We rang up Cochlear and told them we had all these blind patients and asked if we could work with them to develop a bionic eye. They have been very helpful in giving us access to their technology.

How long did the original process take?

We spent about five years working with animals. We took off-the-shelf components and that was a big advantage for us because we are competing with overseas groups that are better funded than us, and employ similar technology. But we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We had a leading company with the right technology, which we borrowed. The reason for the recent publicity is that earlier this year we started doing some work with patients. This is the first study in humans that we are aware of in Australia.

How long before the bionic eye becomes available to the public?

I am hoping that there will be something available in the next five years. It might not be us. Now that might sound like a long time but given that we have been working on this for only five years, we feel like we are half way through this cycle. Just to make it very plain - and we have been very careful with any publicity because we don’t want people to think that we are about to have a product- what we have achieved is an important step forward. We took a slightly different approach to the one of some of our colleagues in the US. Normally, most of the groups that are working on the retina have put electrodes on it. The retina is like a film in a camera. It has a layer of cells that detect light and turn light into electrical signals. Those signals go to nerves that join up and form the optic nerve. Because the retina is very delicate and also because you have to open the eye, that approach involves some risk. Just imagine what might happen to someone with pieces of metal attached to their retina if they jump on a trampoline. The approach we took was to put electrodes on the outer wall of the eye and increase the current, so it still stimulates the retina. Because of this, we do not have to open the eye. We think that might be a more stable and safer system long term. So earlier this year, we put some electrodes on the outer wall of the eye of a patient, we stimulated those electrodes and the patient was able to see flashes of light.

Is the bionic eye the ultimate solution for people without eyesight?

The type of vision we think will happen initially won’t be anything like yours or my eyesight. It’s not going to be normal vision. The current Cochlear devices have about 30 electrodes. Imagine having 30 electrodes on the outer wall of the eye, which in theory means that if you turn them on at the same time, you will get 30 flashes of light. The idea is that you will have a series of flashes outlining objects. What we are trying to do here is to give people navigating vision.

How did the rest of the medical world respond to your findings?

We have published quite a lot of papers that have been well accepted. We were at a meeting in Detroit early this year when we presented this work and so far the response has been very positive. There is nothing really controversial about what we are doing. It’s just a slightly different approach. One of our big strengths is the link with Cochlear. They know how to built devices and get them to market. We think that puts us in a good position to actually develop something.

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND

You have applied to the US Patent Office for a patent. How important is it to get the rights to the patent? Is it to ensure that no one benefits financially from it? I get the feeling that money is not on the top of your list of priorities?


I am not driven by money. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been here. We have a company that was formed to get this product to the market. When you go down this path, there are certain commercial realities. One of these realities is to protect the intellectual property that has been generated by what we do. Because overseas there are a lot of people with more money than us, if we pass on ideas we can be left behind. What we are doing here is simply being careful. Once you get the patent, you can go to companies and say: “we have my commercial property, what is it worth and can we work with you to get it developed”. It puts us in a better position when we try to develop it.

Has the American dollar tried to lure you away from Australia?

Ha-ha. I have been tempted to apply for positions in the United States. It’s not that I find money attractive. But it’s a fact that a lot of people have been driven away from Australia because of the lack of investment. It’s not so much the money but more that our public institutions, our hospitals and our universities are not traveling well at the moment. Across the country, the public hospital system that’s supposed to be looking after Australians often has its problems. Academic work in hospitals under these conditions is very tough, at least for some of us. In Australia public funds go to patient care first, but research is also a priority. However, I know that some colleagues who work in similar institutions in the USA are much better supported than we are. On the other hand, the lack of resources makes you cunning. You have to make do and one of the great things about Australian investors and scientists is that to survive in a very competitive market, they have to be smarter and be able to out perform the competition. I have a great team of people that I work with and I am not sure I would be able to find them elsewhere. At the moment, I am happy trying to do what I am doing from here.

What about the Australian government? What has been its response?

We have had some funds from the Australian government. We have had an National Health and Medical Research Council grant a couple of years ago, that paid for a research assistant for a couple of years. It helped to get the basic work completed. Putting in grant applications is a lot of work and the amount of money that you get makes you ask if that is a good way to spend your time. We have tried very hard to get more. The German government is funding one of its projects to the tune of 50 million dollars a year. We currently have no government funding for this project. Many people that are in this situation apply every couple of years for small amounts that keep them going. It means that you spend a lot of energy staying afloat. It’s like treading water rather than swimming forward. Because of the recent testing, we are in a better position to go back to the government and say, “this is important in terms of having been developed in Australia, we would appreciate some support”. If you imagine being the Minister of Health, every time he turns around there is someone that has developed a cure for cancer or some other thing, he can’t possibly fund every project. I happen to think this is a very important one because one of the key determinants of quality in life is the ability to see. Particularly young people that have been affected by these diseases, they may have many many years of blindness and we are hoping to develop something that will enable them to walk around. We jokingly say that what we are trying to do is turn guide dogs into pets. Giving people that level of independence is a big deal.

THE ROOT OF ALL... GOODNESS

What drives you and your team to fight bureaucracy? Wouldn’t it have been easier to give up?


It’s always easy to give up. I’ve been doing this for a while now and one of the things about being an academic is that most Australian ophthalmologists are very well trained and provide a very high level of service, and they are sitting in dark rooms across Australia diagnosing diseases, they are operating in theatres making people see better. The thing that partly drives me is that we sit there and we look at people with problems we can’t fix. Because I had intense training in science, as well as studying medicine, I tried to reconcile the interface between basic science and clinical medicine. On one hand I look after my patients, which I enjoy doing, but at the same time I am thinking about how I can treat this condition that otherwise can’t be treated. So I see myself partly as an inventor. If you have one or few inventions you treat people across the planet. That’s not an ego trip. It’s part of what is intellectually stimulating about this work. Clinical medicine can almost be like process work. You have to be very good at doing the same thing over and over again. Beyond that is this almost arrogant ambition to do something more than that.

A lot of people have taken the Hippocratic Oath, but not everyone follows it to the last detail. What makes you different?

It’s partly what you are suited to and partly what opportunities are there. I was extremely fortunate that extraordinary people trained me. I trained at the University of Sydney with John Young, the Head of Physiology. He was a very clever and very driven scientist. I had that background, and then I went to Germany where I trained with a guy who was a scientist as well as an ophthalmologist. When I returned to Australia I had Fred Hollows as a teacher for four years - as a matter of fact this used to be his office. I have had the appropriate training to do what I do. I remember I went to a lecture during my first week at the University of Sydney - this was in 1972- and I was inspired to go and work with John Young who was the speaker that day. You can be the benificiary of serindipitous circumstances. You find yourself in different situations in life where you have the opportunity to do things. On the other hand, my parents didn’t have a very good formal education, so when they came to Australia they were very determined that their children would be educated. I had the best education they could afford to give me at the time, and I have gone through life trying to achieve things.

While I admire your modesty, I can’t help but notice you have served in outback Bourke. What influenced the decision to go all the way there? Were you trying to pinpoint the exact location of “woop woop” on the map?

That was purely Fred Hollows. I arrived at this hospital in 1982. Prior to that in the 70's, Hollows had been all over outback Australia looking after indigenous and white people and anyone with eye disease. By the time I arrived that program had ended and the last outpost for NSW was Bourke. In my training - and I am pleased to see in the training of the people that are currently involved in this project - we provide a service to Bourke Hospital. It’s funny because I talk to people about Bourke and my instructions on how to get there is to find the last traffic lights in Sydney and then drive northwest for ten hours. You can’t miss it.

Other people would have taken the easy option and settled in a nice office in Sydney and try to make as much money as possible.

It’s possible that I have a very short attention span. Like a lot of people I need stimulation. Fred Hollows once said to me: “If you go into a practice and that is all you do, you will be brain dead by fifty”. I am pleased to report that I am 52 and I am not brain dead. It’s a great privilege to be able to sit here and do as much as I can. It hasn’t been easy; we have had a lot of difficult times in the last ten years. Sitting in this hospital-university situation when both institutions are not well supported in my view - and that’s a political statement, but I think a lot of other people share the same view- can be tough. Maybe the easiest thing to have done is to get up and go overseas. It’s just that I am rather happy to be surrounded by this group of great people trying to do something good.

THE KYTHERIAN CONNECTION

How did your parents take your decision to plunge into the uncertain field of medical research?


Town of origin - Potamos

Parachoukli - Belos


My father died when I was in the second year of medical school. As a matter of fact, he didn’t want me to be a doctor; he wanted me to be an engineer. For two reasons: he came to Australia from Kythera in 1920 and served in the Second World War. He was in the Ambulance Corps in Darwin when it was bombed and he saw surgeons operating and didn’t really like it. He thought doctors were fairly uncivilized. Back in Scone where he lived, he was there when they were building the Glenbawn Dam. There were a lot of Greeks that had come to Australia during that era. One of his best friends was the engineer that was responsible for building that dam. My father saw engineering as clean and helpful to the community, building bridges and stuff, and he wanted me to be an engineer. To that extent I disappointed him. On the other hand, in that era most people that did well at school were expected to study medicine. In Scone, the small town where I grew up the person that made the difference between life and death was the local doctor. He was an inspirational character.

What about your mother?

My mother passed away last year, but she lived long enough to see what I have become. I think I had disappointed her as well. Her idea was that when I finished medicine I would open a general practice somewhere locally. All these years that I have been going overseas she had a great difficulty understanding what I was trying to do.

Was it hard to retain your Greekness, growing up in the middle of The Hunter Valley with not many Greeks around?

There is schizophrenia about Australians’ attitude to migrants. On the hand most people were very supportive, my father had many friends and his was in business in Scone for about fifty years. There were a few xenophobes. I had an unusual name by Australian standards then. You can imagine what it was like having a name like that in Australia in the 1950s. Sometimes at school it was tough. I have a younger brother, who was big, and his attitude was that he would hit anyone that insulted him. So he became one of the boys. He was also much better in adjusting than me. My approach was to do it academically. In a way that attitude was because my parents rewarded academic success. My father would say that knowledge is power and I tried to know more than other people.

What about Greek traditions?

As for traditions, we only spoke Greek at home and so when at the age of five I went to infants school I couldn’t speak a word of English. My mother had a sort of reverse racism. She saw Australians as being a little bit uncivilized. She would see people crawling out of pubs drunk at five or six in the evening and think “God, what country did I come to”. In the end she had a lot of Australian friends. She arrived in Australia two years before I was born and she was a little concerned about how things would turn out. We didn’t have Greek school in the country so my formal Greek isn’t great, but for my kids we had a Greek teacher who came to our home. They both know how to read and write in Greek. They have been to Greece a couple of times and are very proud of their heritage. We still have property in Kythera and we have made sure our kids have gone to the island and know what is there. There was a church in Newcastle where we would go. I was christened here in Sydney at Hagia Triada. I am not a very religious person but I very much respect the traditions of our church, and as I have grown older I have come to appreciate them more.

Your name recently featured quite prominently in newspapers in Greece. Were you surprised by the attention you have received from the Greek media?

I was pleasantly surprised. The reason for this publicity is that recently we had a fundraising dinner. George Souris hosted it at the Parliament House and we had over 200 people attending. Leading up the dinner, the organisers thought that it would be good to get some publicity and I also did an extensive interview for ABC earlier this year. All that created a lot of interest. In fact one of the people who is very supportive of what we do is the Greek Consulate General, Mr. Raptakis and he got a lot of calls from Greece. He put them in touch with me and this resulted in several phone interviews. I have had some contact with the University of Athens. I went there a couple of years ago and met my counterpart. I was interested in building relations with Greece but when I came here I got swamped with a lot of other issues, and I haven’t done as much as I would have liked in that respect. I am very, very proud of my heritage, both Greek and Australian. I did a lot of my post graduate studies in Germany and I can remember coming back after being away for three years, thinking “I don’t really feel Australian now, but I don’t feel European either”. You get to the point where you think, “who the hell are you, anyway”. But I have snapped out of it now, I know exactly who I am.

How do you see the Greek community in Australia? Are we on the right path?

In many ways we are in a very privileged position. The Kytherians are a fairly tight knit group, they have their Association, and they have their dinners and everything else. Growing up in the country, one of the problems was that I had very few links with any of the Greek community when we moved to Sydney. In my high school, it was like the United Nations. I had Jewish friends and Italian friends, people from all over the world, all at the one place. Coming from the country to Sydney, it was like visiting Disneyland. I gradually have become more involved in the Greek community. I have been asked to address some functions and I find that the Greek community has in general been very supportive of what I do. John Howard made a comment recently that “Greeks are model citizens”. I have a paper clipping from one of AHEPA’s first meeting, held in Scone in the 1930s stating that what AHEPA was trying to do was to bring the best aspects of Greek culture into Australia. It’s very hard to find a better statement of intent on how to behave when you come to someone else’s country.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Finally Professor, is there a way that people can help this worthwhile cause?


We have two foundations supporting this project. The Genetic Eye Foundation, which looks after people with these blinding conditions. People can donate money to that or they can donate money directly to The Australian Bionic Eye Foundation. Donations to both charities are tax deductible. Obviously, every bit helps but we are not relying on that. We are trying to get this commercialised as soon as possible so we can really move on with it. But if someone is looking for a good cause... Medical charities are numerous and there is a lot of “competition” out there. This one is a little bit different and at the moment we do need some support. At this present time we have four part time people working on this project but we don’t really have a lot of infrastructure to make things move forward.

MAKE A DONATION

The Genetic Eye Foundation,
Ms R. Sturt,
C/- Department of Ophthalmology,
The Prince of Wales Hospital,
High Street,
Randwick, NSW, 2031.
Telephone:
Ms R. Sturt (02) 9382 2493

Email, The Genetic Eye Foundation

Australian Bionic Eye Foundation,
Ms R. Serna,
C/- Department of Ophthalmology,
The Prince of Wales Hospital,
High Street,
Randwick, NSW, 2031.
Telephone:
Ms R. Serna (02) 9382 2307

Email, Australian Bionic Eye Foundation

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Peter Makarthis on 25.08.2006

Children's Book by Kytherian Historian

Kytherian researcher and historian Peter( Skoulandris) McCarthy of Inverell NSW Australia launches digital book.
S.Peter & Co
Inverell NSW Australia

View launch on 22 Aug at Tourism Inverell on www.inverellnewsweb.com.au

Report by Trish Wood from Inverell Times 25 Aug 2006
"The latest technology, a timeless tale, a healthy dose of local content and spectacular illustrations of the Australian bush have been combined in the production of Inverell's own digital book The Three Wallaroos of Green Swamp, launched on Tuesday.
Author Peter McCarthy developed the story out of a love for the local area and a desire to let children explore a relevant local fantasy through the written word.

But in keeping with modern advances, Mr McCarthy created the digital book as a DVD to be read, not listened to, ensuring children and their parents enjoy the experience of reading together.

Inverell mayor Barry Johnston joined the Member for Northern Tablelands, Richard Torbay, at the launch, which included special guest School Education Director (north) Peter Pickett and teachers and students from the Inverell district.



Bush poet Jim Brown read the story to the group with children captivated by his animated style and Mr McCarthy was joined by the story's editor Melina McCarthy and illustrator Kerry Hardy in the celebration of the launch, which culminated months of hard work.

The story is an Inverell adaption of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and with its menacing bunyip is sure to catch the imagination of readers young and old.

As an added treat, the digital format has allowed Mr McCarthy to include a link to the Tourism Inverell website to satisfy the curiosity of those wanting further information on Inverell and surrounds after reading the book."

Have you been to Inverell lately?

Then log on to www.inverell-online.com.au

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Standards Australia on 17.08.2006

Angelo and John Notaras. Inventors. Design Australia awardees.

Atom Industries, Lawn Edger.

From:

http://www.designawards.com.au/ADA/99-00/INDUSTRIAL%20DESIGN/004/004.HTM

2.1. Product name
ATOM LAWN EDGER – World O.E.M. Model

2.2. Description
A powerful, fast, light in weight and highly manoeuverable powered lawn edger that can edge anywhere. *
Designed as an “Original Equipment Manufacture (O.E.M.) platform” it can be manufactured and fitted with a variety of engine brands to make different models.


2.3. Principal function(s)
*
To neatly trim the edges of lawns with great ease, with the ability to edge anywhere including curb and gutters, around tight corners, in places of limited space in very quick time and without having to carry the unit. By simply tilting the edger sideways, it can also edge along walls and fences, eliminating the use of whipper snippers. All this cannot be achieved by any other lawn edger in the world.
*
The Atom lawn edger reduces the edging time of the average house from around thirty minutes using all other brands, to around five minutes using Atom.
*
It also functions as an “O.E.M. platform” so it can be easily supplied to other engine manufacturers, and for other companies who require supply with different engine requirements.

2.4. Brief as given by client to designer
Not applicable.

2.5. Relevance of external form and ergonomic considerations
The light in weight compact construction and "wheelbarrow" action means there is no pushing heavy machinery and there is no bending or carrying by the operator (as required with other brands e.g.brushcutters and whipper snippers). The operator walks in a normal upright fashion. This enables people such as senior citizens or people with back problems to be able to edge their lawns without any strain on their body.

2.6. Aesthetics
The Atom lawn edger has a very modern streamline design as evidenced by the super strength polyamid casing and components. This high-tech polyamid design has never been achieved by any other manufacturer in the Outdoor Power Equipment industry.

2.7. Safety
Safety was paramount in developing this edger. Many safety features that are only found on the Atom lawn edger include: *
A fully enclosed blade guard.
*
A ground hugging debris deflector unaffected by wheel height adjustment.
*
An automatic safety clutch that only engages when the throttle is activated i.e. the blade will not spin at idle speed.
*
A safety throttle interlock by which the throttle can only be activated when pushing down on the throttle interlock. This prevents accidental acceleration.
*
The operator stands behind the machine well away from the blade guard protected spinning blade. The handle cross-brace also prevents the operator pulling the machine back on himself.
*
A fully enclosed transmission (no V-belts etc.) means safer operator use. The Atom lawn edger meets all Australian, EU and USA safety standards.


2.8. Design problems encountered and solved
Numerous problems encountered and overcome include the design of the following: Crown Gear and Pinion
Determining what gear ratio was needed. Numerous gear ratios were tested before the 3.5:1 ratio was decided. Also different types of gears were tested before we came up with the correct spiral beval gear with heavy tooth construction to be able to stand up to constant intermittent pounding by the blade, and rough use by operators.

Clutch Drum
Size and material of drum was determined by trial and error.

Main Drive Shaft
Firstly made with flexible joint connection then different types of rigid shafts which proved expensive to manufacture. Final design of the rigid shaft was made from ground stock exactly to bearing size. Bearing locations are ridges rolled in which eliminated drilling two holes and inserting roll pins or having to use circlips and machined circlip grooves.

Blade Shaft
Originally machined from hex bar and centreless ground - very expensive. By co-operation with cold form specialist we were able to have finished part produced (to grinding tolerances) at much reduced cost.

Combined Throttle Trigger Safety Interlock and Ignition ON/OFF Switch
This involved much design work as it is the first interlock safety trigger system designed to fit tubular handles. Several designs were made and tested before finalising the design. The later EU requirement for the ON/OFF ignition switch to be close to the operator's hand involved further design, prototypes etc. before finalising the design so that the ignition switch is incorporated with the trigger throttle system.

Anti-Vibration Handle
To minimise vibration transfer to the operator, several designs were made and tested involving shape and material. This new hybrid design with polyamid handle grips and steel tubing enables us to fit the edger into a smaller carton for container shipping. Also the throttle trigger system is moulded into the handle saving assembly time. All together considerable cost savings.



Another design problem over come, was making the two piece blade cover, wheel arm, height adjuster and debris deflector all out of a single die. A total of 9 parts are made in this die, with the blade lid interlocking with the blade cover without screws, but very stable. Cross-Blade
Patents applied for. Not only is the design new but also many problems had to be over come for its manufacture. We now manufacture this hardened spring steel blade without rivetting i.e. blades now interlock each other with formed spiggots and holes in the blade.

Polyamid Main Casings
These parts have been remarked by overseas designers and manufacturers as "works of art". Extremely tough (stronger than aluminium), many design alterations and prototype mouldings had to be made to achieve the final result. The glass filled polyamid casing material is specially formulated for us to achieve high strength without distortion under work load.

Multiple use Concentric Drive Bolt
Produced in volume by cold forging. Eliminates expensive machined internally sized and threaded hubs which had to be welded onto each clutch drum. The Drive Bolt eliminates welding. It is also used on one special model edger to be supplied by us to Little Wonder, a major and prestigious USA manufacturer, as a non-rigid coupling.



2.9. Important and innovative features
Design and production costs are paramount and this new designed lawn edger has major cost reductions to aid in mass production. A total of 97 fewer parts are used over our previous models and assembly operations have been reduced considerably. *
The "O.E.M. platform” can be manufactured with a variety of engine brands to make different models. Our own Atom branded models will comprise of a 31cc 2-stroke and a 26cc 4-stroke Ryobi engine. A 1360 watt electric motor will also be added to our range of models.
*
The "O.E.M. platform” is to be sold to other manufacturers who can screw on their own engine and sell it under their own brand name (see “Mantis” section 2.18 para.2), or manufactured complete by us (with engine attached) for other companies (with the engine and colour of their choice) with a “badged” brand name.
*
The unique breakthrough patented "wheelbarrow" design enables the operator to edge anywhere. Other edgers are limited by their designs which restricts where the operator can edge. The Atom lawn edger also has the ability to instantly tilt sideways to edge up against walls and fences.
*
The self locking (with stress slip relief) blade shaft is unique. No key, no keyway, no spline system, as are required on other brands. Added advantage is that the blade is very easy to replace compared to other brands.
*
The gearbox design is the worlds first high volume “plastic” gearbox working sucessfully under such hard and stressful conditions.
*
The safety throttle interlock with the throttle trigger control is a first for any lawn edger. As part of this throttle control system is also the on/off ignition switch.
*
Cross-blade interlocking system (see 2.8 cross-blade).
*
Incorporated in the hybrid handles is an anti-vibration system for operator comfort.
*
A 6 position height adjustment allows a cutting depth of up to 80mm (3") deep.
*
In use each Atom Lawn Edger can easily be transported and can fit into the boot of a small car. For storage, it can be hung up on the garage wall taking up very little room.
*
All our edgers using this “O.E.M. platform” (with or without engine attached) will pack into a very small carton, thereby packing more units into a container and minimizing export container freight costs.


2.10. What environmental considerations if any, were taken into account?
The Atom lawn edger uses small capacity engines (under 35cc) with a fully enclosed 3.5:1 gear drive transmission for positive transfer of power to the long blades. Many other edgers have large capacity engines (with 3 & 4 HP) burning much more fuel, and use belt drives that can slip. The Atom lawn edger is very fast to use, substantially reducing the time it takes to edge, therefore there is less engine running time and dramatically less fuel consumption. Fuel consumption and exhaust emissions are up to 90% less for the same job than that required (or emitted) by other lawn edgers.

2.11. Engineering considerations (if applicable)
The engineering considerations include those listed in question 2.8 above.

2.12. Software / electronics considerations (if applicable)
Not applicable.

2.13. Product life cycle
The Atom lawn edger is maintained in the same way as any other outdoor power equipment i.e. whipper snippers, brushcutters etc. However, unlike some other brands such as three wheel type, the blade can easily and quickly be replaced in the field with two spanners. Also lubrication of gears if ever necessary is a simple task of removing a “fill and bleed” screw and squeezing grease from a bottle directly into the gearbox. If cared for the unit has a life span of twenty five years and longer for the average home owner.

2.14. Do you have a patent or design registration for the product?
Patents Granted:

USA
5,826,667

Australia
678 575


Patents Pending: Japan, Europe and other countries. Design Registrations Granted:

United Kingdom
204 1668

USA
372,405

Australia
135,627

Japan
6-29252



2.15. Is the product currently being exported?
We have confirmed orders to the USA for delivery in early 2000. Customers in Europe have scheduled orders for March and April 2000.

2.16. Does the product replace goods which are currently being imported?
Absolutely! The Atom lawn edger replaces the several brands of bladed edgers currently imported as well as many whipper snipper sales as a lot of people use their whipper snipper only for edging their lawns. Apart from the engines (which cannot be sourced within Australia), the Atom lawn edger is totally Australian designed and made and our company is wholly Australian owned.

2.17. Proof of success / market potential
The world market potential is very high. This new model will be lower in cost and the same “O.E.M. platform” is to be sold internationally to other manufacturers and in different colours to use with their own engines. The same “O.E.M. platform” means much higher sales due to lower cost and with economies of scale benefits. This will be on top of our current older models of which we have sold over 20,000 units both in Australia and overseas in less than five years.

2.18. Why is it a good design and why does it deserve a design award?
There are two main reasons why the Atom edger is a good design: *
As the worlds best they are far more manoeuverable than any other edger and they edge anywhere. They are light in weight (8kgs) and can be used by anyone including senior citizens or people with back problems as there is no carrying or bending by the operator. They also complete the job much faster than any other edger and cut a much neater edge than whipper snippers. They edge faster, go anywhere, outperform any other lawn edger available in the world, and are a pleasure to use.
*
This new model has the added benefit of using a common “O.E.M. platform” (in different colours) and putting several brands of engines onto the edger base. We already have orders for the USA which uses a 26cc Kioritz engine and is to be marketed as “Mantis”. One European customer will use the platform for their Mitsubishi engine. Our own Atom branded model will use a 31cc 2-stroke and 26cc 4-stroke Ryobi engine. This potential of being able to adapt a multitude of engine brands means the edger can be manufactured for many different companies worldwide. This means the export potential for this designed and manufactured lawn edger is enormous.

Angelo and John Notaras,

Atom Industries,

P.O. Box 513,

ROZELLE, NSW 2039,

Australia

Tel:- +61 2 9810 0194

Fax- +61 2 9810 6691

Email: Atom Industries

Website:- www.atomindustries.com.au

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Intellectual Property Australia on 17.08.2006

John & Angleo Notaras. Inventors. Creators of World Firsts.

Above: An Atom drilling attachment fitted to a conventional chainsaw makes easy work of a hardwood post.

See, John (left) and Angelo Notaras, amongst various inventions and accolades

Award-winning, world famous, Atom lawn edger

To read this article in its context as part of IP Australia's publication, on World Firsts, go to:

Notaras World FirstsIPAChapter_4.pdf

As young banana growers on the New South Wales North Coast, Angelo Notaras and his brother John quickly discovered the benefits of putting mechanical equipment to novel uses. For instance, they were the first to use centrifugal pumps for banana irrigation, drawing water up lifts once considered far too great except for piston pumps. They also invented a highly effective new crop spraying system. They increased production several times over, establishing practices still followed on banana farms.

However, they became so absorbed in machinery that in 1960 they left the farm and set up a workshop in Sydney. By the late 1960s their company Atom Industries had a small factory, making only their own inventions. The mainstay was a heavyduty drill that can be attached to a chainsaw.
The Atom drilling attachment is still as popular as ever, and nine-tenths of Australia’s rural fencing is built with its assistance.

The Notaras brothers realised they could invent a chainsaw far more advanced than the European models that dominated the market. Features that made it superior included a self-cleaning air filter, a carburettor that plugged into a seal, turbo-charging electronic ignition and a longer, troublefree working life. The Commonwealth Government encouraged the brothers to develop the chainsaw for commercial production. In particular, the
support would see them through the first critical years—while they found export markets to boost volume and convinced customers of the advantages of invisible features such as the air filter.

The saw went into commercial production in 1972. But a few months later, in 1973, the tariff was halved, which put an end to the domestic market for the saw. At about the same time, the Australian dollar was revalued sharply, so that export sales were no longer possible. It was a heartbreaking combination.

Atom Industries stopped production immediately and took all the specially made tooling to the scrap heap. Thirty years later European saws have finally caught up with the ill-fated Australian chainsaw. All the dearer European models are now being fitted with self-cleaning air filters and other improvements like those invented by the Notaras's, whose patents have expired.

A far more successful venture is the Atom range of motorised lawn edgers, launched in 1994. Lawn edgers then were slow and difficult to use. The Notaras brothers had the idea of making a two-handled edger that could be steered around the garden as easily as an empty wheelbarrow. In the last few years it has captured market dominance in Australia, ousting both dearer and cheaper imports.

One of Atom’s new ventures is a recently patented two-stroke engine. The conventional modern two-stroke—invented over a hundred years ago—produces a high volume of toxic fumes and wastes petrol. By using air to displace the exhaust the new engine will be cleaner and more economical.

Angelo and John work together on all their inventions. Often each will go home, after a day considering a problem, and think of a solution that night. Meeting again next morning they’ll discover that both have independently reached identical solutions. John keeps a pad at his bedside and sometimes wakes to record an inspiration.

Most of their innovations are not eye catching new machines but clever improvements to existing products. For THE CUTTING EDGE instance, in place of a conventional chuck for their drill, they invented a ring with a screw through it, which is cheaper to make but holds the drill bit tighter with use, instead of working loose like a chuck.

Atom Industries holds dozens of patents and design registrations covering a range of innovations. However, they decided not to patent their “augur stop”, which is standard on Atom drills. Whenever a knot of timber, an old bolt or some other obstruction causes the drill to jam, the augur stop switches the transmission into neutral, stopping the motion instantly. Drills are much safer with this feature, which could easily be engineered into a wide range of other powered machinery.

Because of its potential to improve the safety of millions of workers, the Notaras brothers preferred to make it freely available — just as John Ridley declined to patent his stripper (see page 8) from a desire to benefit the community.

A recent innovation is an ingeniously simple centrifugal clutch, developed for electric lawn edgers. Direct drive is standard around the world for light and medium electrical machinery. Adding a clutch radically reduces breakdowns and prolongs the life of the motor.

When they try to sell their new technology overseas, John and Angelo routinely find that major manufacturers would sooner stick with existing procedures than introduce improvements developed by little-known outsiders. As a result, most of the superior technology in their mechanical products remains unique to Australia.

Curiously, though, Australian manufacturers
rarely take the opportunities presented by Atom’s innovations. The clutch, for example, could readily be adopted in all sorts of appliances and tools to give Australian products a quality advantage. Angelo suspects that experts working for some manufacturers are reluctant to concede that they could have been doing better all along with something they didn’t think of. That may be easy to say, but it underlines a problem repeatedly faced by Australian inventors: their difficulty in getting attention and credence, without vast resources for sales promotion of their ideas.

The brothers often win awards for innovation, which can be a useful aid in promotion. A wall at Atom Industries’ modest inner Sydney factory is crowded with them. Amongst them are the Mechanical Engineers of Australia Product of the Year
award, four years running from 1994 to 1997, for various lawn edgers; and the 1976 Inventor of the Year Award for the Atom electric ignition system. Frequently inventions aimed at making better, more durable products lead to significant cost savings, and vice versa.

At the moment the two brothers are working on a plan to reduce from seventeen to eight the number of pieces in the assembly at one end of the lawn edgers. This could take dollars off the manufacturing cost. Like many simplifications in assembly techniques that they have worked out over the years, it will speed up their output.

When Australian manufacturers have to compete with those in other countries, it is not good enough for them to be equally efficient, or able to match the quality of an import at equal price. They have to do better just to be able to survive.

Astonishing though it sounds, Australia’s tariff regime operates to protect overseas manufacturers from local Australian competition. For example, if Atom Industries imports an engine for one of its lawn edgers, it has to pay duty. But a lawn edger made in America with the same engine comes in duty free. In this way Australian manufacturers are effectively forced to subsidise their overseas competitors, to the extent of hundreds of millions of dollars every year. In recent decades, many have shut down their operations; and, saddled with this handicap, many others will have to do so as time goes on.

Thanks to on-the-spot ingenuity, Atom Industries is too far ahead of the competition to be immediately threatened. But in the long run all such enterprises are vulnerable to foreign takeovers followed by transfer of their plant to other countries so that “high” Australian wages need not be paid.

Angelo and John Notaras,

Atom Industries
,

P.O. Box 513,

ROZELLE, NSW 2039,

Australia

Tel:- +61 2 9810 0194

Fax- +61 2 9810 6691

Email: Atom Industries

Website:- www.atomindustries.com.au

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 03.08.2006

George Miller, Film Producer. Scene from Mad Max 1.

With Mel Gibson playing the role of Mad Max.

Mad George..........Mad Max


"Mad Max 1 was made on an incredibly low budget of close to $300,000 - approximately $15,000 of which went to its inexperienced star - the now legendary Mel Gibson.

George Miller and Mel Gibson on the set of Mad Max 1

The following brief plot summary of Mad Max 1 derives from madmaxonline.com.

"Mad Max is set in a dystopian near-future society suffering from a prolonged fuel shortage. Civil order is rapidly deteriorating and lawless gangs rampage across the desolate landscape, in defiance of the crumbling police force, the Main Force Patrol (MFP).

An escaped cop killer, the Nightrider, is killed during a high-speed pursuit by a young MFP patrolman, Max Rockatansky. The Nightrider's comrades, a motorcycle gang led by the Toecutter, hold Max responsible and kill his partner, Jim Goose, when he attempts to bring them to justice for a violent spree in a small country town.

Distraught at Goose's horrific death, Max walks away from the violence of the MFP and attempts to build a peaceful life with his wife Jessie and their infant son, Sprog.

Meanwhile, the Toecutter is still hungry for revenge for the Nightrider's death.

Max, now resigned from the MFP, is spending time with his family in a secluded beachfront area when the Toecutter Gang stumble across their hideaway. Jessie and Sprog are brutally murdered.

Deranged with grief, Max equips himself with a black supercharged "Pursuit Special" Interceptor and sets out to track down the gang and avenge the deaths of his family."

During the filming of Mad Max, George Miller had to sacrifice his own van to use in a particularly destructive stunt sequence as the group couldn't afford another stunt vehicle. Regardless of these adversities, money would not pose a problem in the company's seminal stage, though, as Mad Max went on to set box-office records around the world, grossing more than Star Wars (1977) in Australia."

See the exceptional Mad Max 1 web-site at:

http://www.madmaxonline.com/index.htm

Call Sheet, from the first day of filming in Oct 1977

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 03.08.2006

Autographed Photo, crew of George Millers' Mad Max 1. Close up.

25th Anniversary Reunion Limited Edition B&W Photo
11 x 14 inch (28 x 35.5 cm)
Only 5 produced Worldwide, 3 available

Can be purchased for AUD$2,000 plus shipping and insurance at,

http://www.madmaxonline.com/shop/photo_crew.htm

Quality print of the crew photograph taken in early 1978 on the set of Mad Max – signed by the following twenty cast and crew who were in attendance at the Mad Max 25th Anniversary Reunion held at the Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills Sydney, on the 12th April 2004:

George Miller (Director)
Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter)
Steve Bisley (The Goose)
Tim Burns (Johnny the Boy)
Roger Ward (Fifi MacAfee)
Paul Johnstone (Cundalini)
Nic Gazzana (Starbuck)
John Ley (Charlie)
Robina Chaffey (Cabaret Singer)
David Eggby (Director of Photography)
Grant Page (Stunt Co-Ordinator)
Jenny Day (Production Co-Ordinator)
John Hipwell (Unit Manager)
Lindsay Foote (Gaffer)
Gary Wilkins (Sound Recordist)
Mark Wasiutak (Boom Operator)
Viv Mepham (Make-Up)
Merren Kingsford-Smith (Wardrobe Assistant)
Stuart Beatty (Traffic Supervisor)
Andrew Jones (Traffic Supervisor)

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 03.08.2006

Autographed Photo – Crew of Mad Max 1. Director, George Miller.

25th Anniversary Reunion Limited Edition B&W Photo
11 x 14 inch (28 x 35.5 cm)
Only 5 produced Worldwide, 3 available

Can be purchased for AUD$2,000 plus shipping and insurance at,

http://www.madmaxonline.com/shop/photo_crew.htm

Quality print of the crew photograph taken in early 1978 on the set of Mad Max – signed by the following twenty cast and crew who were in attendance at the Mad Max 25th Anniversary Reunion held at the Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills Sydney, on the 12th April 2004:

George Miller (Director)
Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter)
Steve Bisley (The Goose)
Tim Burns (Johnny the Boy)
Roger Ward (Fifi MacAfee)
Paul Johnstone (Cundalini)
Nic Gazzana (Starbuck)
John Ley (Charlie)
Robina Chaffey (Cabaret Singer)
David Eggby (Director of Photography)
Grant Page (Stunt Co-Ordinator)
Jenny Day (Production Co-Ordinator)
John Hipwell (Unit Manager)
Lindsay Foote (Gaffer)
Gary Wilkins (Sound Recordist)
Mark Wasiutak (Boom Operator)
Viv Mepham (Make-Up)
Merren Kingsford-Smith (Wardrobe Assistant)
Stuart Beatty (Traffic Supervisor)
Andrew Jones (Traffic Supervisor)

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Shooting Babe. 1995.

Babe Plot Synopsis

by Judd Blaise

A young pig fights convention to become a sheep dog — or, rather, sheep pig — in this charming Australian family film, which became an unexpected international success due to superior special effects and an intelligent script. The title refers to the name bestowed on a piglet soon after his separation from his family, when he finds himself on a strange farm. Confused and sad, Babe is adopted by a friendly dog and slowly adjusts to his new home. Discovering that the fate of most pigs is the dinner table, Babe devotes himself to becoming a useful member of the farm by trying to learn how to herd sheep, despite the skepticism of the other animals and the kindly but conventional Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell). Because technically impeccable animatronics and computer graphics allow the farm animals to converse easily among themselves, first-time director Chris Noonan can treat the film's menagerie as actual characters, playing scene not for cuteness but for real emotions. The result is often surprisingly touching, with Noonan and George Miller's script, based on Dick King-Smith's children's book and, indirectly, a true story, seamlessly combining gentle whimsy and sincere feeling. These same qualities are embodied by in Cromwell's beautifully understated performance as Farmer Hoggett, which anchors the film. Despite its unlikely premise and low profile, Babe's inspirational story was embraced by audiences and critics, and the movie became an international sleeper that won an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It was followed in 1999 by the sequel Babe: Pig in the City.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Mumble, the hero of Happy Feet.

Babe creator's cool new role

Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

August 02, 2006 p. 3


Put Shrek and Nemo on ice - they're about to be replaced by Mumble, the tap-dancing penguin hero of Happy Feet, an animated blockbuster due to hit the big screen this Christmas.

Directed by (Kytherian-Australian) George Miller - the Australian filmmaker behind the box-office smash Babe - it features the voices of a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams.

A US-Australian co-production, the animated musical comedy has been four years in the making and is in the final stages of production at Fox Studios.

Although the finished product will not be released until December 26 - the traditional opening day for summer blockbusters - Miller yesterday treated a small audience to a sneak peek at the film.

He confessed the inspiration for Happy Feet - which tells the story of a penguin branded a social outcast because he can't sing - came from watching natural history documentaries about Antarctica.

"We decided to make the film as photo real as possible and I think that's turned out to be a good strategy, given that there are so many computer generated imagery animations coming out now.

"We sent two expeditions down to Antarctica to research and take photographs, to capture the landscape and the light," Miller said.

The filmmakers are determined to surpass the realism previously captured in a CGI-animated film.

"If this was the Olympics and this was the diving, then we'd be diving with the highest degree of difficulty," Miller said of the process.

Their efforts are already paying off, with the film enticing the likes of Pink, kd Lang and Prince to lend their musical talents to the project.

Australian actors will feature heavily in the film, with Magda Szubanksi, Anthony LaPaglia and even crocodile hunter Steve Irwin signing on for cameo roles.


To view pictures, videos, previews, & information about Happy Feet go to,

http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Happy Feet. Night scene.

Babe creator's cool new role

Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

August 02, 2006 p. 3


Put Shrek and Nemo on ice - they're about to be replaced by Mumble, the tap-dancing penguin hero of Happy Feet, an animated blockbuster due to hit the big screen this Christmas.

Directed by (Kytherian-Australian) George Miller - the Australian filmmaker behind the box-office smash Babe - it features the voices of a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams.

A US-Australian co-production, the animated musical comedy has been four years in the making and is in the final stages of production at Fox Studios.

Although the finished product will not be released until December 26 - the traditional opening day for summer blockbusters - Miller yesterday treated a small audience to a sneak peek at the film.

He confessed the inspiration for Happy Feet - which tells the story of a penguin branded a social outcast because he can't sing - came from watching natural history documentaries about Antarctica.

"We decided to make the film as photo real as possible and I think that's turned out to be a good strategy, given that there are so many computer generated imagery animations coming out now.

"We sent two expeditions down to Antarctica to research and take photographs, to capture the landscape and the light," Miller said.

The filmmakers are determined to surpass the realism previously captured in a CGI-animated film.

"If this was the Olympics and this was the diving, then we'd be diving with the highest degree of difficulty," Miller said of the process.

Their efforts are already paying off, with the film enticing the likes of Pink, kd Lang and Prince to lend their musical talents to the project.

Australian actors will feature heavily in the film, with Magda Szubanksi, Anthony LaPaglia and even crocodile hunter Steve Irwin signing on for cameo roles.


To view pictures, videos, previews, & information about Happy Feet go to,

http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Happy Feet. The Poster.

Babe creator's cool new role

Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

August 02, 2006 p. 3


Put Shrek and Nemo on ice - they're about to be replaced by Mumble, the tap-dancing penguin hero of Happy Feet, an animated blockbuster due to hit the big screen this Christmas.

Directed by (Kytherian-Australian) George Miller - the Australian filmmaker behind the box-office smash Babe - it features the voices of a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams.

A US-Australian co-production, the animated musical comedy has been four years in the making and is in the final stages of production at Fox Studios.

Although the finished product will not be released until December 26 - the traditional opening day for summer blockbusters - Miller yesterday treated a small audience to a sneak peek at the film.

He confessed the inspiration for Happy Feet - which tells the story of a penguin branded a social outcast because he can't sing - came from watching natural history documentaries about Antarctica.

"We decided to make the film as photo real as possible and I think that's turned out to be a good strategy, given that there are so many computer generated imagery animations coming out now.

"We sent two expeditions down to Antarctica to research and take photographs, to capture the landscape and the light," Miller said.

The filmmakers are determined to surpass the realism previously captured in a CGI-animated film.

"If this was the Olympics and this was the diving, then we'd be diving with the highest degree of difficulty," Miller said of the process.

Their efforts are already paying off, with the film enticing the likes of Pink, kd Lang and Prince to lend their musical talents to the project.

Australian actors will feature heavily in the film, with Magda Szubanksi, Anthony LaPaglia and even crocodile hunter Steve Irwin signing on for cameo roles.


To view pictures, videos, previews, & information about Happy Feet go to,

http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Tap into adventure, with Happy Feet.

Babe creator's cool new role

Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

August 02, 2006 p. 3


Put Shrek and Nemo on ice - they're about to be replaced by Mumble, the tap-dancing penguin hero of Happy Feet, an animated blockbuster due to hit the big screen this Christmas.

Directed by (Kytherian-Australian) George Miller - the Australian filmmaker behind the box-office smash Babe - it features the voices of a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams.

A US-Australian co-production, the animated musical comedy has been four years in the making and is in the final stages of production at Fox Studios.

Although the finished product will not be released until December 26 - the traditional opening day for summer blockbusters - Miller yesterday treated a small audience to a sneak peek at the film.

He confessed the inspiration for Happy Feet - which tells the story of a penguin branded a social outcast because he can't sing - came from watching natural history documentaries about Antarctica.

"We decided to make the film as photo real as possible and I think that's turned out to be a good strategy, given that there are so many computer generated imagery animations coming out now.

"We sent two expeditions down to Antarctica to research and take photographs, to capture the landscape and the light," Miller said.

The filmmakers are determined to surpass the realism previously captured in a CGI-animated film.

"If this was the Olympics and this was the diving, then we'd be diving with the highest degree of difficulty," Miller said of the process.

Their efforts are already paying off, with the film enticing the likes of Pink, kd Lang and Prince to lend their musical talents to the project.

Australian actors will feature heavily in the film, with Magda Szubanksi, Anthony LaPaglia and even crocodile hunter Steve Irwin signing on for cameo roles.


To view pictures, videos, previews, & information about Happy Feet go to,

http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 03.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer. Happy Feet.

Babe creator's cool new role

Daily Telegraph, Sydney.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

August 02, 2006 p. 3


Put Shrek and Nemo on ice - they're about to be replaced by Mumble, the tap-dancing penguin hero of Happy Feet, an animated blockbuster due to hit the big screen this Christmas.

Directed by (Kytherian-Australian) George Miller - the Australian filmmaker behind the box-office smash Babe - it features the voices of a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams.

A US-Australian co-production, the animated musical comedy has been four years in the making and is in the final stages of production at Fox Studios.

Although the finished product will not be released until December 26 - the traditional opening day for summer blockbusters - Miller yesterday treated a small audience to a sneak peek at the film.

He confessed the inspiration for Happy Feet - which tells the story of a penguin branded a social outcast because he can't sing - came from watching natural history documentaries about Antarctica.

"We decided to make the film as photo real as possible and I think that's turned out to be a good strategy, given that there are so many computer generated imagery animations coming out now.

"We sent two expeditions down to Antarctica to research and take photographs, to capture the landscape and the light," Miller said.

The filmmakers are determined to surpass the realism previously captured in a CGI-animated film.

"If this was the Olympics and this was the diving, then we'd be diving with the highest degree of difficulty," Miller said of the process.

Their efforts are already paying off, with the film enticing the likes of Pink, kd Lang and Prince to lend their musical talents to the project.

Australian actors will feature heavily in the film, with Magda Szubanksi, Anthony LaPaglia and even crocodile hunter Steve Irwin signing on for cameo roles.


To view pictures, videos, previews, & information about Happy Feet go to,

http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Photos > Working Life

submitted by James Victor Prineas on 01.08.2006

George Miller. Film Producer.

A Scene from Mad Max 2. Beyond Thunderdome. 1985.

Astro Pilot. (Bruce Spence).

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Victor Panaretos on 25.06.2013

Beautiful aspect leading into Kythera Park, Grafton.

The road leads into a Property development wasundertaken by George Peter Bernard  ( Venados ) —- Son of Peter Bernard ( Venardos ) of Karavas. Grafton, NSW.

Kythera Park, is a residential housing estate, with each block on several acres.

The estate is on the main road leading to Nymboida.

The development was undertaken by Denise and George Bernard, son of Peter Bernard (Karavas).

Bernard Family, Grafton. Brief history.

Adapted from Peter Tsicalas' notes, held in repository, Clarence River Historical Society, Grafton

Panagiotis Athanasios Venardos, (Peter Arthur Bernard), b. Aug 1900 Karavas, son of Arthur Emmanuel, landed Mar 1911 with father and brother. Spent lyr Allora, 2yrs Esk, lyr Sydney, until going into business with father at Cessnock. Remained for 4yrs until moving to Katoomba for 1-2 yrs thence Grafton early 1931. Married Violet White (b. 1911 NZ) 1931 Paddington. Arthur born 30/6/33 Grafton, George b. 20/10/36 Grafton.

Peter Bernard owned the Popular Cafe,75 Prince Street

He is believed to be related to the Aroneys of Murbah. His son Arthur still lives in Grafton.  George is enjoying annual trips to Kythera with his wife in retirement.


Peters' son George retired to the Gold Coast. His married sister Kerani is living in Marybourgh Qld.

 

Peters Popular Cafe in Prince Street was purchased by son George  on 3 /7/ 1961 closed the doors 16 /9 /1968 when he established the Gold Fish Bowl coffee shop  in Parkway arcade ( built by the brothers ) Prince Street Grafton until 25 /1/ 1971.

 

The brothers in partnership then  built, and George managed  the Camden Lodge Motel in Villiars Street Grafton.


Peter Bernard was Deanna Psaros’s (Inverell) Nono, in fact she was christened at the Cafe. Subsequentley he was the best man at her wedding to Peter McCarthy in Inverell in 1962. The McCarthys moved to Grafton in 1964, at which time Peter had retired and the shop was run by his sons George and Arthur.