GEORGE CARPIS: OAM

Greek Orthodox priest, Father George Carpis.

In 50 years Father George Carpis never took sick leave. Photo: Graham Tidy

Acting as a translator at medical and other professional appointments was just one of the ways George Carpis served his Greek Orthodox parishioners in Canberra during the early 1960s.

''I was a bit like a welfare worker really,'' Father Carpis recalled of his early years building up what is now a thriving parish.

Father Carpis has been awarded the Medal (OAM) in the general division of the Order of Australia for his five decades of service to the Greek Orthodox Church and to the community.

Father Carpis moved from Greece to Brisbane in 1953, knowing only about 100 words of English.

''We had learnt French at my school but that helped a bit because there were some French and English words in common,'' he said.

Father Carpis was ordained a priest in March 1962 after moving to Canberra. He initially held services in an old army barracks in Barton before St Nicholas Church was built in 1967.

Father Carpis said many newly arrived Greek migrants had made significant financial sacrifices to help pay for the church.

''I give credit to the pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s who deprived themselves of some of the essentials of life to pay for the construction of the church and the other establishments we have,'' he said.

As well as the church building, Father Carpis was involved in the construction of St Nicholas Home for the Aged, St Nicholas Bilingual Preschool and St Nicholas Afternoon School.

He was also a founding member of the Hellenic Club.

In the early years of his ministry, Father Carpis was responsible for an area that stretched to Cooma, Goulburn, Albury, Wangaratta and the Riverina.

He was an assistant chaplain at the Goulburn prison during the 1960s and 1970s.

In 50 years Father Carpis never took sick leave, on one occasion leaving hospital against doctor's order to celebrate the Liturgy of the Dormition of the Holy Mother.

He retired in 2011.

Father Carpis said he was incredibly proud of Canberra's Greek-Australians, who had integrated easily into mainstream society.

''It is really their award bestowed upon me for their contributions to Canberra and Australia,'' he said.

Father Carpis also dedicated the award to his wife, Presbytera Crysanthe, with whom he has two children and five grandchildren.