Louis Kyriacou collapsed and passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 86 while out shopping with his wife Eleni at Knox on Sunday 10 November 2019.

He was born on 2 January 1933 in the village of Komi Kebir just outside of Famagusta in Cyprus.the son of Kyriacou (Kakos)Pavlouri and Eleni (Sharaba) his siblings that all came to England were brother Andreas Pavlouri (Deceased) sisters Foufoula (deceased), Vasilicou and Miroulla Hajimichael.

As a youth, he did his apprenticeship with a local tailor in the village, but this was not where he saw his future. At the age of eighteen he decieded he wanted to expand his horizons; he was not keen on following his siblings who had all migrated to London.

Louis chose to migrate to Australia; he sailed on The Corsica in 1951. He borrowed the money for his fare from his father and arrived in Melbourne with only one pound in his pocket, and half a suitcase of clothes. Like so many other new settlers he arrived with no English language skills.

Louis’ early years in Australia were spent doing itinerant manual labour in regional Victoria.  He became a “jack-of-all-trades” mainly with the (then) Victorian Country Roads Board; and he learnt to speak English in various workplaces along the way. On return to Melbourne he took-up shift-work employment at IXL, a prominent canned fruit and jam manufacturer.

In 1955 he returned to Cyprus to marry Eleni Georgiou from the Cypriot village of Pano Lefkara. The village is famous for its lace embroidery. It is known that Leonardo da Vinci visited Cyprus and took with him embroidery to the Milan Cathedral for the High Altar.

Louis and Eleni’s first child, a daughter, was named Kyriaki.  She was born at sea on the migrant ship Junmouriet in international waters en route to Australia in 1956.  On its return journey, the Junmouriet was caught-up in the Suez Crisis and was sunk in the Canal along with any records of Kyriaki’s birth.  The three of them settled in South Melbourne.  Eleni enrolled Kyriaki at Dorcas Street Primary School when she turned five.  The teacher was unable to pronounce her given name – Kyriaki – and deemed she was to be known as “Julie”.  That is the name she became known by outside of their home. Brother George was born three years later.


Louis on Father’s day 2019. Photo: Supplied

As a youth in Cyprus, Louis had always wanted to be a carpenter, but his father did not support this and pushed him into an apprenticeship as a tailor. He did not pursue a tailoring career in Australia.

In Melbourne during the 1960’s Louis started working for a furniture manufacturer called Gainsborough as a cabinet maker learning his trade on the job. He was a union activist and became a shop-steward for the Federated Furnishing Trades Society.  He initiated and led a number of successful campaigns including equal pay for women who worked at his factory. This was the first such campaign by a Victorian union.

The next major campaign he initiated and led was the fight for a redundancy package when the company decided to reduce the number of its employees. The strike lasted several weeks and the negotiated package was for payment of three weeks’ wages for every year of service; employees who had been there for many years walked away with significant settlements.

In the mid-1970’s Louis was invited to become an industrial organiser with the Victorian Branch of the Federated Furnishing Trades Society (FFTS) following his successful campaigns in the factory where he worked.  Louis was elected State Secretary of the FFTU a few years later.

The 1970’s saw Louis significantly increase the membership of the union and, through his hard work and campaigning, he raised the FFTS out of its indebtedness and into the black.  There were reforms in the management and administration of the organisation which led it to achieve a much higher profile in the broader Australian union movement.

More industrial strikes and campaigns led to more improvements for the union members. These were unprecedented and led the way for things such as a 35 hour week at Pilkington Glass where process workers were able to earn up to $800 a week.  This was unheard of at that time and was very much above what was the minimum wage of workers in other industries.

Louis early in 2019. Photo: Supplied

The 1980’s was the time when Louis decided to focus on the Glass Industry and the employment conditions of those workers who had very little by way of health and safety regulations. There was a push to enhance the award conditions and workers on building sites led the way with the 36 hour week and the same conditions were then applied to those working on the factory floor. Sub-contracting, and the use of cheap labour through this loophole, was finally closed after a long dispute between the employers and the union.

Technological change seminars were introduced by the FFTS in anticipation of global industrial change.

During this time Louis took on additional responsibilities after being elected by the membership to become the Federal Secretary of the FFTS.  At this time the union was in the process of being incorporated into the broader Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

More changes were underway.  Louis was determined to ensure all FFTS workers in Australia were covered by the same conditions as those won by the members in Victoria. New awards were made in the Australian Capital Territory and improvements made to the awards in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia.

A new campaign was run in the Federal Court to ensure the use of cheap labour through sub-contractors in the carpet industry came to an end. This took a number of years to achieve.  The lawyers briefed by Louis were impressed with his strategic thinking which achieved a historic decision to end this practice being handed down by the court.

In 1998 Louis decided it was time to retire.  He handed over the reins to a younger generation of officials and moved on. From the rented office accommodation and debt when he first became an FFTS official, Louis left the union in a building it owned with state-of-the-art computer fit-out and IT systems and enviable financial resources.

Louis and Eleni went on enjoy a quiet retirement between their Melbourne home and a holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula.  For many years Louis continued an active interest in woodworking and enjoyed gardening right up to his passing.  He was a wonderful parent who worked hard to give his wife and children a good life in Australia.

Louis was a rough diamond with a heart of gold. Always an independent thinker, living life to the full and on his own terms. A fighter for social justice until the end, without any regrets.

He will be greatly missed and loved always by wife Eleni, children Julie and George, and by other family, and his many close friends.

  • Julie Pagonis is the daughter of Louis Kyriacou. 

One Response to Australian Cypriots mourn the loss of Louis Kyriacou a fighter for social justice till the end

  1. Maria Solomon says:

    Rest in Peace Louis!!!Our dearest father was the one who arranged his visa and he travelled on the Corsica with our dearest mum,our brother Minos and me!!!He will surely be missed.Rest in Peace Louis Kyriacou!!

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