Born: Established: 27 Mar 1921 Ithaca Greek islands
The Raftopoulos family's connection with Australia goes back to the 1860s when the brothers Platon, Demosthenes and Spiro left the Greek island of Ithaca on a British merchant ship. The Ionian Islands were then a protectorate of Britain and the British governor thought the agricultural skills of the Greeks could be transplanted to Australia. Stathis's grandfather and father, Spiro, migrated in 1895 and 1922 respectively. Father and son only got to know each other in 1932 when Spiro made a return visit to Greece. The family settled at Merbein, west of Mildura, in 1935 and were successful in cafes, fruit shops and real estate.The family moved to Abbotsford, Melbourne in 1937 and ran a milk bar and fruit shop.
Raftopoulos bought his first movie camera at this time and developed a magic act, 'Raffo the Magician', working with the Glad Eye Review Company and the National Follies in such venues as the Tivoli and Kings. He served in the Australian military forces in World War II as an entertainer. Raftopoulos began writing and reciting poetry from the age of sixteen with his first poems in print appearing in the Greek newspaper, Phos, in 1942. He had the first book of poetry published in Australia in the Greek language. His poetry during the war and in later years exhibited a strong nationalistic spirit. Before setting up his own printery in the family house in 1939 he worked variously in factories, in his father's shop and for the newspaper Phos. During the 1940s and early 1950s Raftopoulos assisted with the staging of plays at the Greek School and acted in many of them. He also staged and acted in comedies in Melbourne.
In 1949 Raftopoulos founded the company Dionysus Films, the only company in Australia to import and screen Greek films. In that year he imported the first Greek film to Australia, Voice of the Heart. In 1953 he filmed the documentary, To Get to Know Greece, which was screened extensively in Australia. In 1960 Raftopoulos co-founded another company, Cosmopolitan Motion Pictures, which, for the next 20 years, played a vital role in Greek entertainment. He went on to run a chain of theatres, importing films from Greece, France, Yugoslavia, Italy and other countries. Raftopoulos was also the founding editor of the Greek newspaper, Ulysses, which he edited for twenty years, and he lectured in Greek literature at RMIT University.
Raftopoulos was a committee member, vice-president and president of several Greek community organisations. He was awarded an MBE for his services to the Greek community in 1983. A poet of the oral tradition, he recited his poetry on numerous occasions, and, having memorised all his poems, was able to recite for hours. Raftopoulos and his wife, Cassiani, had four children.
(Source: Adapted from George Florence, 'Enterprising Migrant Put a New Spin on Greek Theatre', The Age (28.11.2003): 9; 'Stathis Raftopoulos', in George Kanarakis Greek Voices in Australia : a tradition of prose, poetry and drama (1987): 140-141.).