Woman Paxinos, Kaliope

Community leader and Ethnic leader
Alternative Names
  • Paxinos, Kali

Written by Wendy Rankine, Independent Scholar

Kaliope (Kali) Paxinos was born in Australia in 1927. Her father, Platon Varvaregos, had migrated from the island of Ithaca, Greece in 1913 and her mother in 1922. Kali, the eldest of three girls, spoke English fluently by the time she was five and was constantly translating for her mother. She grew up within a very traditional Greek culture. In the early years the family lived in Brunswick moving several times until they bought a home in East Malvern about 1940. From there Kali went to Canterbury High School until Grade 10, then to Emily Macpherson College where she studied dressmaking for two years. This was followed by a year at Stott's Business College where she learnt book-keeping - all things expected of a good Greek girl who would become a good Greek wife, mother and housekeeper. She then went to work under the very watchful eye of her uncle in his shop. Throughout this time Kali's family maintained a traditionally close social connection with their many Melbourne friends from Ithaca.

In 1947 Kali happily entered into an arranged marriage with Tatsi Paxinos who had migrated in 1938 from the same island in Greece. It was a wonderful marriage and they had 5 children. As migration to Australia increased after World War II, Kali realised the difficulties that many young families faced coping not only with the migrant experience but the trauma of their war experiences. Because of her own experiences with the language and having babies, she was able to help the many young Greek mothers during their pregnancies, hospital visits and after the birth of their babies right up until the children started school. During the 1970's Kali was appointed a migrant teacher aide at Swinburne Technical School and worked there for 17 years.

In 1985 her youngest son was diagnosed with serious mental illness - Schizophrenia. As a result of this experience Kali became a carer and advocate for families of people with mental illness. From 1996 she has worked as a carer/consultant in the Victorian Mental Health System. During this time she has met and worked with a myriad of families from all parts of the world. She especially advocates for members of culturally diverse communities with mental illness in their families.

Because of both her personal and professional experiences Kali has been involved in teaching programs for many mental health professionals. Videos and DVDs of her presentations are now used as teaching tools. She has spoken at many conferences and symposiums presenting family/carer issues and has also been a speaker at plenary sessions at Diversity in Health Conferences in recent years. In 2012 she is a carer representative with the collaborative and community committee of the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Psychiatry as well as representing carers on the National Register of the Mental Health Council Australia.

Kali's story has been told in Shedding the Black Coat co-written with Jill Parris.

Published Resources


  • Parris, Jill and Paxinos, Kali, Shedding the Black Coat: Living with Schizophrenia, Parris Consulting, Parkville, Victoria, 2011. Details

Online Resources