‘South Australia’s Greek community opened their arms to me’: Labor’s Olivia Savvas

At the age of 25, Newland Labor MP Olivia Savvas, is the youngest member of South Australia’s state parliament. 

However, with her recent maiden speech, she proved that wisdom and resilience are not virtues that only come with age.

“I can stand in this place -even when it’s incredibly difficult- and use my experiences to guide my decision making. Your traumas cannot define your goals,” she said, addressing her parliamentary colleagues earlier this month, for the first time.

The young politician who won her seat with a 6.3 per cent swing and was elected to Tea Tree Gully Council in 2018, thanked her mother Rachel Coopers and aunties, father Michael Savvas and her stepfather for shaping her to the person she is today and shared how her childhood experiences motivated her to enter the political arena.

“My memories of being a four-year-old are somewhat tarnished by alcoholism and domestic violence that followed,” Olivia Savvas said.

“I was raised in sometimes a bit of a difficult environment,” she told The Greek Herald.

“I’ve got two cousins who are in state care. They were raised by addicts. And myself, my stepfather was an alcoholic. We moved around a lot and I did not have a lot of security in my life growing up. And so, I felt I had the ability to do something. 

“I owed it to my cousins, my sisters and my brothers.”

Olivia with her late Greek grandfather Dennis

Savvas, whose paternal grandfather, migrated to Australia from the island of Samos in the eastern Aegean, joined the Labor Party at the age of 16 and ever since she has been fighting to give a voice to young people and women.

“Politics and policies are better made and adapted when the people who make them understand firsthand their communities,” she said, explaining that despite the “significant progress” made in recent years, young women from diverse backgrounds are still not represented equally in political and public life.

“We, the women in the Labor Party, have a saying. We say, you cannot be what you cannot see,” Savvas said.

With fond memories of spending Greek Easter with her ‘pappou’ Dennis Savvas and her father’s stories about the Greek ‘filoxenia’ and ‘filotimo’ the politician said she admires “how proud the Greek community is”.

“Greek community groups have opened their arms to me and have included me as one of their own. That’s really important to me. 

“We often talk with my dad about how Greek people make you feel part of a big family. That’s a real Greek thing and it’s very special,” she said.

Olivia Savvas was recently identified as one of South Australia’s rising stars in politics and time is on her side.

I asked her where she sees herself in five years.

“I hope that I’ll still be elected and representing my community because by then I’ll only just have turned 30,” she said with a steady but kind voice.

A phrase of her parliamentary speech echoes in my mind.

“I come from a line of strong, independent women… In our family we were bred to be fighters”.


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