Australian Women's Register

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Liangis, Sotiria (1941 - )


Keratea, Attica, Greece
Developer and Philanthropist
Alternative Names
  • Prifitis, Sotiria (birth name)


Sotiria Liangis is the developer behind a number of commercial properties in Canberra. She was the first Telstra ACT Business Woman of the Year in 1995. In 1996 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for 'for service to the Greek community, particularly the aged and through St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Canberra'. She received the Centenary Medal in 2001, also for service to the Greek community.

With her husband and son, Sotiria Liangis had received a Real Estate Institute of the ACT award in 1994.


Sotiria Liangis arrived in Canberra from Greece with her new husband Angelo (previously Evangelos) in 1961. They could not speak English and said that they had no money. Angelo had first migrated to Australia and Canberra in 1954. He returned to his hometown, Keratea, in 1960 to marry Sotiria.

Sotiria worked as a sales assistant in a fruit shop for £8 per week. Her husband, a trained and experienced shoemaker, worked in his trade for £18 per week. They spend £2 or £3 each week on their needs and saved the rest. After 18 months, they opened their first business, Angelo's
Shoe Repairs in Narrabundah. Their son was born on the same day.

A second shoe store was opened in 1965. While her husband operated the shoe stores, Sotiria started Liangis Investments in 1967. The first project for the company was a warehouse, completed on time, within budget and tenanted immediately. This gave Sotiria satisfaction and the confidence to continue in construction and finance.

She has been quoted as saying, 'It was harder back then, because at first there were people around who were against a woman "on site" or who thought I should be at home with my son, but I just ignored them.'

One builder with whom she worked recalls the way she was always picking up the tools on site. She would make the workers straighten three-inch nails to use again.

Projects which Sotiria and her company developed include an indoor recreation facility in the Kippax Centre, Woden Churches Centre, the Capitol Theatre in Manuka and Kingston Plaza.

Despite the 'shepherd's daughter' description headlining one 2014 Canberra Times article about her, she grew up in a wealthy family in Greece. None of the family's money came to Australia with her when she married her shoemaker. Her mother had said to her: 'You marry, I am your neighbour. And don't ever come back here to complain about what kind of life you have, that you don't have money or you are working hard.'

Organisations supported financially by the Liangis family include Hartley Lifecare, the Open Family Foundation and the construction of Canberra's St Nicholas Home for the Aged. The family also built and donated the St John the Baptist Church for the Greek Orthodox community of Batemans Bay, New South Wales.

She and her son John became Founding Benefactors of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia prior to its relocation to its current dedicated building on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. In recognition of their generous gift, two Gallery spaces were named: the Liangis Theatre and the A & S Liangis Gallery. The Gallery name also commemorates Angelo Liangis.

In 2013, Sotiria and John Liangis committed to support The Canberra Hospital and its Centenary Hospital for Women and Children to the level of $1 million over five years through the Canberra Hospital Foundation.

In 2015, their generosity enabled the National Portrait Gallery to buy the Portrait of William Bligh, in Master's Uniform, painted by John Webber around 1776. This portrait of the younger Governor Bligh will hang besides another Webber Portrait of Captain James Cook RN in the Gallery's Canberra building.

Sources used to compile this entry: Kich, Jennifer, National Portrait Gallery, email correspondence with Ann Tündern-Smith, May 2014; National Portrait Gallery Liangis Panel text, provided by the National Portrait Gallery, May 2014.

Archival resources

National Archives of Australia, Canberra Office

National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection

  • Sotiria Liangis interviewed by Marg Carroll in the Centenary of Canberra oral history project, 19 August 2014, ORAL TRC 6545/43; National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection. Details

Digital resources

Sotiria Liangis


Ann Tündern-Smith

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124