Mary Kostakidis

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Mary Kostakidis (born 1954) is the former weeknight SBS World News Australia presenter and was the face of SBS across two decades.

Mary Kostakidis was the first woman appointed to present a national prime time news bulletin in Australia.

She was a member of the management team that set up and developed SBS Television in 1980 and went on to present its flagship World News for 20 years, resigning in 2007.

Her board and committee appointments during nearly 3 decades at SBS and subsequently reflect a strong commitment to social justice and the arts.

She has served as a member of the Fred Hollows Foundation Board, the Sydney Theatre Board, the National Library of Australia Council, the ResMed Foundation Board, and is a former Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation. She is currently on the Advisory panel of the Sydney Peace Foundation, USYD, the Freilich Foundation, ANU and The Privacy Foundation.

The Sydney Peace Foundation is a University of Sydney Foundation and its major Partner in Peace is the City of Sydney. Annually it awards Australia's only international prize for peace, the Sydney Peace Prize. Past recipients include Muhammad Yunus, Xanana Gusmão, Mary Robinson, Hanan Ashrawi, Arundhati Roy, Hans Blix, Irene Khan, Patrick Dodson, and Noam Chomsky, and in 2011 its third-ever Gold Medal for 'exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights' was awarded to her fellow Australian journalist Julian Assange.

In 2009 Kostakidis served on the National Human Rights Consultation Committee chaired by Frank Brennan. The Committee inquired into the adequacy of the protection and promotion of human rights in Australia, holding consultations in metropolitan, rural and remote areas across the country, and receiving over 35,000 written submissions. They recommended a raft of measures, the most contentious of which was a Human Rights Act. Human rights education was the measure that had the greatest support of those that took part in the consultation, but the overwhelming majority supported human rights legislation. The four member Committee also included Mick Palmer and Tammy Williams.

From 1997 till 2003 she served on the Advertising Standards Board; in 1993 she was appointed by then Prime Minister Paul Keating to Republic Advisory Committee chaired by Malcolm Turnbull; in the early nineties she also served on the Council for the Order of Australia and in 1992 was a founding member of the James Joyce Foundation Board along with Ed Campion and Don Anderson. She has also been an active member of the Kazantzaki society.

Kostakidis has also served as an Ambassador for Beyond Blue and was also a member of the Drug and Alcohol Council, the Breast Cancer Council Advisory Committee and the Constitutional Centenary Foundation.

Early life and career[edit]

She was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and migrated to Australia with her family two years later. Kostakidis attended Fort Street Girls' High School, and the University of Sydney, where she studied Modern Greek, Philosophy, French, German and Italian. She was also a founding member and first President of the University's Greek Society. She went on to complete a Diploma of Education. Kostakidis was awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Before joining SBS, Kostakidis worked as a tutor at the University of Sydney, as a research officer for the Departments of Health and Youth and Community Services in New South Wales and as a court interpreter and a translations editor. She once worked for ABC Radio news. During her assignment as an interpreter on the so-called Greek Conspiracy Case in the late 1970s, she organised a conversion course for Greek interpreters at the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission in conjunction with Sydney University Modern Greek lecturer Dr Alfred Vincent, to facilitate a conversion from the formal katharevousa to demotic or vernacular Greek so that the defendants in the case would be able to understand the language being used. Some years later, Greece also adopted the vernacular as the language of all official documents.


Kostakidis acted in a children's television series called Five Times Dizzy in 1986 with Rebekah Elmaloglou. She has also appeared in the movies Jindabyne and Look Both Ways as a newsreader.


Kostakidis joined SBS as part of the original management team in September 1980 and worked to set up the Subtitling Unit. She became Director of Programme Preparation where she was involved in developing policies of censorship and classification.

After being the face of SBS news for many years, in her final year only she co-hosted the main SBS World News at 6.30 pm weekdays with Stan Grant. She also hosted an interview program, The Talk Show.

Walk-out and legal action[edit]

On 21 August 2007 it was reported that Kostakidis had stormed out of the newsroom a week and a half earlier, furious at changes to the news bulletin. Although SBS said she was ill and taking leave, it was reported she had concluded her role as co-host due to differences in opinion over the increasingly commercial direction SBS was taking since the 2003 arrival of former New Zealand TV boss Shaun Brown.[1]

On 5 October 2007 Kostakidis lodged a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Australia, alleging a breach of contract and contravention of the Trade Practices Act 1975 on the part of SBS, citing alleged bullying by fellow presenter Stan Grant.[2] Kostakidis secured the services of a prominent Melbourne lawyer, Julian Burnside QC and was expected to argue that her contract stated she would be the primary presenter of the programme, and that she would be able to exercise some editorial control.[3]

The matter was settled out of court and on 23 November 2007 SBS & Kostakidis were reported to have reached an "amicable settlement". The financial details of the settlement have not been disclosed.[4]


Kostakidis has a long-standing interest in social justice and continues to engage in public discourse, delivering lectures, chairing public forums and contributing editorial opinion articles in the mainstream press and independent online media.

Talks include:

ACCC International Women's Day Keynote Address 2012, Empower a Woman, Empower a Nation.

The Dame Roma Mitchell Memorial Address, Law Institute of Victoria, 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day 2011, The Cost of Courage: Has Freedom of Information Gone Too Far?

Department of Justice, Victoria, International Human Rights day Address, 2009, Making a Difference.

The Alice Tay Lecture on Law and Human Rights, Freilich Foundation ANU, 2009, The Protection of Human Rights in Australia - a Way Forward.

The Gilbert & Tobin Centre of Public Law, Human Rights Conference, Opening Address, 2009, Human Rights & the National Consultation.

The James Joyce Foundation, Opening Address, Bloomsday 2001, Homeric Joyce.

Australian Academy of the Humanities, University of Melbourne, 2006, The Real Future Fund: in Search of Lost Relevance.

Banff Television Conference, Canada 1999, Globalisation and Cultural Diversity in the Media.

Dept of Psychiatry, University of NSW 1990, Media Portrayals of Popular Culture - the Dilemma for Youth.

In Conversation with:

Noam Chomsky, Sydney Opera House 2011, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom.

Barry Jones, Politics in the Pub, Sydney 2012.

Angela Hewitt, inaugural Musica Viva Chamber Music Festival, Bach Masterclass Sydney 2008.

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, "Guantanamo Bay", Glebe Books Sydney 2008

Michael Leunig, Festival of Sydney, State Theatre 2002.

Chair / Moderator:

Wikileaks, Assange and Democracy Forum, University of Technology Sydney, 2012

Don't Shoot the Messenger, Wikileaks Forum presented by the Sydney Peace Foundation, GetUp, Amnesty International Australia and Stop the War Coalition, Sydney Town Hall 2011.

Social Business Public Forum with Muhammad Yunus presented by Sydney Peace Foundation and the Centre for Social Impact, Wesley Centre Sydney, 2010.

Wolfgang Sievers Human Rights Forums: Bias in the Media, Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law, Charter of Rights, fortyfivedownstairs Melbourne 2008.

Australian Graduate School of Management - MBA course, CEO Panel discussions, 2005.

Global Television Conference, Final Plenary Session: Globalisation in Broadcasting, Banff, Alberta 1999.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 5 city link up with Washington, Trade and Investment breakfast 1995.

Editorial Opinion:

Awards include:

University of Sydney, Community Achievement 2012

Monash University, Professor John O. Miller Distinguished Achievement Medal, 1999.

University of Salonika, first post graduate scholarship awarded to an Australian student 1977.

University of NSW, Speech Competition, First Prize Qantas Round the World trip, 1972.


  1. ^ Wellings, Susan (21 August 2007). "Mary walks out on SBS". The Age. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  2. ^ "Kostakidis sues SBS for walk-out". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  3. ^ "Mary Kostakidis engages top QC in SBS row". AAP. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  4. ^ "Kostakidis strikes 'amicable' deal". Sydney Morning Herald. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
Preceded by
George Donikian
SBS World News Australia

Succeeded by
co-anchor with Stan Grant

External links[edit]