Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


GonIs, Mr B.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (15:45): With a heavy heart, I would like to pay tribute and acknowledge the enormous community work of the late Bill Gonis OAM, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia, a respected public servant and a pioneer administrator in South Australia's taxi industry. It came as a shock to all of us who knew and loved Bill when he passed away two weeks ago from complications following heart surgery. He was just days shy of 63, with a lot more to give.

There were glowing and deserved tributes to Bill at his funeral last Thursday. As you would expect from a person who touched so many, the Greek Orthodox community's cathedral in Franklin Street was packed to the rafters. Among those attending the celebration of Bill's life were the Premier, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas, who spoke about Bill's engaging personality and sense of giving; the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis; the Hon. Andrea Michaels; my colleague the Hon. Connie Bonaros; the Hon. Jing Lee, who had much to do with Bill in her capacity as the multicultural representative in the previous Marshall Liberal government; the member for Morphett, Stephen Patterson; the Mayor of West Torrens, Michael Coxon; the member for Adelaide, Steve Georganas, the Chair of South Australia's Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, Adriana Christopoulos; and prominent Adelaide developer Theo Maras. Such was the mark of respect for Bill.

Leading the tributes were his daughter, Betty, and son, Peter, who spoke of their father's love for family, so much so that they all resided in the same street in Plympton, his selfless work in the community not just to the Greek community but also his dedication to making life brighter for residents at the Julia Farr Centre every Christmas, where he would visit with presents and that welcoming smile of his.

If there was a needy cause in our community or wider that needed a helping hand, you could be assured the first to raise theirs was Bill Gonis. He would work tirelessly to ensure it was a success, like the fundraising efforts for victims of bushfires here and his homeland in Greece. Nothing was too difficult for Bill. He made things happen with his easygoing and engaging approach. He was a champion of philhellenism.

For the past eight years, as president of the Greek Orthodox community of South Australia, he led that organisation in exemplary style and steered it through some occasional turbulent waters with his commonsense, collaborative style that endeared him to so many. Bill worked hard to try to mend the bridge of differences between his organisation and that of the Greek archdiocese of Australia.

Speaking on behalf of my fellow board members of the Gold Foundation, a charity not-for-profit set up to help families and children with neurodivergent disorders like Asperger's syndrome, we are all so indebted to Bill and the Greek Orthodox community of South Australia for providing a splendid centre—a home—for us at the Camden Community Centre in the City of West Torrens. Its work is enriching so many young lives and providing them with hope and opportunities. The GOCSA revived the once struggling centre and its facilities are now also open to a range of community activities and for the disability sector. That is the kind of visionary Bill and his team were.

After his family migrated from Greece, Bill began his working life in South Australia as a cabbie. You probably could not ask for a better informed, cheery and talkative person to have pick you up than Bill Gonis. He went on to become a leading administrator in the industry as well as being one of the driving forces in the establishment of Adelaide Independent Taxis.

Bill's advocacy also led to the introduction of a fleet of cabs for disabled persons. Bill's skills and knowledge were so highly regarded that he represented the Australian taxi industry and the Taxi Council of South Australia at an international level and were recognised with his Order of Australia award. Bill kept telling me, over the past year, of his intention to retire this year and spend more time with his family. I would often rib him and say, 'Bill, you're just not the retiring type.'

South Australia is a better place thanks to the often unsung but invaluable and generous contributions made to so many by Bill Gonis. His efforts will always be remembered far and wide. I know that those in this chamber who knew and met Bill would join me in passing on the Legislative Council's sincerest condolences to Bill's family—his wife, Christine, children Betty and Peter, and the grandchildren he adored so much—as well as extending our sympathy to the Greek Orthodox community of South Australia.