Greek-Australian politician Kon Vatskalis has claimed re-election as Lord Mayor of the city of Darwin on Sunday after a convincing lead on first preference votes.
While only 56 percent of votes have been counted so far, Vatskalis leads by more than 10,000 first preferences. Following in second place, opponent Amye Un had just over 3,400 votes with the Greek-Australian counting over 15,000.
Vatskaliis: first Greek in Darwin’s history to be elected as Mayor
Born in Cephalonia in 1957, Vatskaliis is the first Greek person in Darwin’s history to be elected as the city’s Lord Mayor.
Vatskalis studied public health in Athens. He became involved in student politics while there, becoming a student representative at the Athens Higher Vocational School and taking part in the 1970s pro-democracy protests, where he witnessed people being arrested for speaking freely.
He married an Australian woman, Linda Cotton, in 1982, and in 1983 they emigrated to Western Australia. Once they had arrived in Perth, Vatskalis found that his Greek qualifications were not recognized, and was forced to start his professional life all over again, beginning a degree in environmental health at Curtin University, where he also joined the Labor Party.
After graduating in 1985, he worked as an environmental health officer and surveyor in the Western Australian towns of Port Hedland and Wanneroo from 1986 to 1993. This period was also marked by personal tragedy, however, as his wife died in 1988.
In 1992, not long before leaving Western Australia, Vatskalis completed post-graduate studies, this time in environmental science from Murdoch University.
In 1993, Vatskalis secured a job managing the NT Health Department’s Darwin Environmental Health Unit, which meant relocating to the Northern Territory. He quickly became involved in Darwin’s multicultural community, taking up a position hosting a Greek community radio show the same year, and going on to present a weekly nationwide Greek news segment on SBS Radio.
He was nominated for Labor Party pre-selection to contest the seat of Casuarina at the 2001 election. Vatskalis was successful in gaining preselection, but was not widely expected to be elected. Not only had the ALP ever won Casuarina, but Vatskalis was facing incumbent MP and Arts, Sciences and Ethnic Affairs Minister Peter Adamson.
However, in an unexpected result, a massive Labor wave swept through Darwin, allowing the party to win government for the first time ever. Notably, Labor took every seat in the northern portion of the capital—among them Casuarina, for the first time ever. Vatskalis took the seat on a swing of 13 percent.
He served in various ministerial positions before elected to become the Mayor of Darwin.