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submitted by Kytherian Newsletter Sydney on 14.04.2014

Peter Clary Castrission OAM

A rare breed of individual: altruistic in a world where self-interested
ambitions are often prized and admired. His determination to succeed
and his compassion for his fellow man are indeed exceptional traits

View / download a copy of this entry as a .pdf:

Clary Castrssion.pdf

In the Australia Day Honours List it was announced that Peter Clary Castrission had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to international relations through providing educational opportunities to people in India.

Clary Castrission (as he is known) is no ordinary medal recipient. At the age of 30 years he has packed in a lifetime of charitable endeavour and demonstrated an incredible spirit of humanity that the rest of us could only dream about.

Clary is the son of John and Vivienne Castrission of Gordon. His paternal grandfather, Jim Castrission, originally from Kastrissianika in Kythera, established the iconic Niagara Café at Gundagai.

His younger brother James Castrission has become a well-known adventurer, crossing the ditch to New Zealand in a two man kayak and walking unassisted to the South Pole.

The essence of adventure is seemingly embedded in the Castrission DNA.
Clary attended Knox Grammar and then obtained degrees in Arts and Law (with Honours) at the University of Technology of Sydney. But as a 22-year old law student at UTS, Clary was trying to work out how to get involved in international issues when one of his lecturers, Professor Sam Blay, gave him a telling piece of advice that would forever change Clary’s
world outlook: “If you really want to get involved in international poverty-reduction, don’t do it from a high-rise in New York or Geneva; go to the developing world and get your hands dirty.”

So it was that in 2005 Clary set off with a fellow student, Karyn Avery, to go to India. What they saw outside of the main cities was very disturbing as they were confronted by the extreme level of poverty and despair, particularly around the city of Bangalore where the local granite mines and quarries employed workers on as little as $2 a day to break rock. These exploited workers often extended beyond several generations within the same family and the primitive slum conditions in which they lived and worked meant that they could not afford even a basic education for their children.

Clary Castrission knew that a proper education could change the life of these children and provide them with a more positive future. He thought it would cost $40,000 and so he set up a non-governmental organisation (or NGO) called 40K Foundation Australia with the goal of raising enough funds to purchase land and build a new orphanage and school for the children of the quarry workers.

The 40K actually refers to Clary’s initial investment in the project of $40,000 which amounted to his life savings at the time. Although that was in hindsight a naïve estimate for establishing a school, Clary was more determined than ever. As he later wrote: “I think the best thing about starting out as naive as we were, is that if we knew how much work we were getting into, we would have been scared off. I think naiveté is one of our greatest gifts. You’ll actually have the courage to take on something big.”

Five years later the Banyan School opened on the outskirts of Bangalore. The school now has 300 pupils. But Clary has not stopped there. It is not a one school wonder. As the CEO of the Foundation, Clary is overseeing an organisation that is providing more than a 1,000 children a quality education throughout India with the establishment of after-school education centres called ‘pods’ for kids living in poverty in rural Indian villages who need that extra support in English, maths and reading through game-based learning through computer tablets.

The 40K Foundation, now with many sponsors and backers and volunteers, is looking to help empower India’s children to rise above the poverty trap. Clary is also interested in pursuing strategies to eradicate child labour in Indian quarries.

For his work Clary Castrission was one of the final three young Australians nominated for "Young Australian of the Year" in 2011. He has also received numerous awards including the Commonwealth Day Award for Citizenship in 2009 and the Australia-India Friendship Award in 2012.

And now his extraordinary commitment to striving for the rights of India’s
underprivileged citizens to receive a basic education has been recognised at a national level with his richly deserved OAM.

As one journalist has recently written, Clary Castrission is a “rare breed of individual: altruistic in a world where self-interested ambitions are often prized and admired”. His determination to succeed and his compassion for his fellow man are indeed exceptional traits.

The Kytherian Association heartily congratulates Clary for making a real difference in this world.


Empowering individuals in India UTS

SMH. Whats happened to our sense of fair go

Clary Castrission Graduation speech

Clary Castrission

Published under the title - Ordinary Kytherians - Extraordinary achievements, pages 22 & 23, The Kytherian, Newsletter of the Kytherian Association of Australia, March, 2014

Author: George Vardas

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by Kytherian Biographies Project on 20.12.2011

James Castrission on the front of Lot 41 in the middle of the Tasman Sea

James Castrission.

James Castrission was born, 14 March 1982. That makes him only 29 years of age in 2011. But in those 29 years he has crammed a “hell of a lot of living”.

His heritage is Kytherian. His paternal grandfather was Jim Castrission, originally from Kastrissianika, and his paternal grandmother was Theothora Coroneos (Belo Kostandinos) from Potamos. Jim Castrission established the famous Niagara Café at Gundagai, in New South Wales. Jim would later sponsor his brothers Vic and Jack to Australia from Kythera. The Niagara was famous for having piped music that could be dialled to every cubicle, and for the Southern Cross constellation, which lit up on a blue domed ceiling, that arched over the interior of the café. The Southern Cross stars were painted stars, set into the ceiling. You can read more about the Castrission family's Niagara Café

James Castrission fathers’ name is John. Mother Vivienne’s Hellenic heritage derives from Akrata, Greece.

In his book Crossing the Ditch, James states “that almost from the day I was born I always seemed to have too much energy. My parents had a rough time chasing me around and trying to protect me from myself. They did a pretty good job, though, until I decided it was time for my first BASE jump.
Climbing my first peak – the kitchen bench-top – during a rare moment when my parents had turned their backs, I threw myself off, yelling, “Look at me – I’m Superman!” before thudding into the tiled kitchen floor and bursting into tears, with a broken leg.

From a young age, father John encouraged his children to enjoy camping, allowing them to light their own fires, and to pitch their own tent. By age five James had developed impeccable navigation skills. He was intrinsically adventurous by nature.

He attended Roseville Public school, until 5th class, when he proceeded to the prestigious Knox Grammar school situated in the northern Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, NSW.

His adventures continued during his school years. He and two friends trekked to the source of the stream in the New South Wales Southern Highlands that fed into the Murray River. They then proceeded to float down the stream, through rapids, on their backpacks, where James’ father and other support crew, including Greg Thanos and John Miller, were waiting at the streams end.

His first major adventure involved kayaking the entire length of the Murray River, from the source of the Murray to the end. The first time this had been done.

On another occasion while he was in the cadets and undertaking a Duke of Edinburgh Award, he undertook a 250 kilometre walk with other colleagues through the Snowy Mountains. The group was caught in a huge snowstorm, and many of them where winched to safety. James and a few colleagues were allowed to continue their trek in the dangerous conditions. We just knew that they could and would survive, said the coordinator.

After completing his Higher School Certificate, he went onto Sydney University, where at age 25, he gained a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Finance and Accounting. He gained employment as a consultant and analyst for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu before deciding that mountaineering, rock climbing, bushwalking and kayaking should be the focus of his life. He decided to pursue dreams beyond the corporate world.

He has climbed some of the most challenging peaks in Australia and New Zealand and walked some of the most breathtaking tracks. He shot to world prominence however, when he and close friend Justin Jones completed the first Trans-Tasman kayak expedition from Australia to New Zealand. For photographs and a great deal more information about that epic journey, see:

Dual paddlers in kayak

On November 13 2007 James, Justin and their kayak Lot 41 departed Forster, Australia, and 62 days later they arrived in New Plymouth, New Zealand. They had kayaked 3318km, braved 10 meter swells, faced howling winds of over 50 knots, endured severe food and sleep deprivation, wasting muscles and adverse winds and currents to become the first kayak expedition across the Tasman Sea as well as become the longest trans oceanic kayaking expedition undertaken by two expeditioners.

Crossing the ditch Tasman Map

Wasted legs walking up onto the beach in New Zealand

A documentary was produced about Crossing the Ditch (Ditch would be translated as lagathi in Greek, and is colloquial language used to refer the expanse of water, the Tasman Sea, which lies between Australia and New Zealand). The documentary won it's category for best film on adventure and exploration at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada - the "el primo" outdoor film festival in the world! Cass expressed “a big thanks to the crew from Quail Television for helping this all happen, especially Greg Quail and Doug Howard who saw the merit in our expedition and made it possible for us to share our little trip with the rest of the world”!

On Sunday 20th November 2011, Crossing the Ditch won the Grand Prize at the prestigious Kendal Mountain Film Festival, which is staged in England.

The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal

Kendal's Brewery Arts Centre, is the main venue for the Kendal Mountain Festival More than 7,500 people are estimated to have attended the festival over the November weekend to watch films ranging from high-level mountaineering epics, to behind-the-scenes looks at the production of nature documentaries in high environments, as well as listen to a host of speakers. Now in its 12th year, the festival featured 61 films totaling 150 hours, covering a wide range of outdoor and adventure subjects including climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, kayaking, culture and exploration. Cas (James Castrission’s “nick name is Cas), and Jonesy’s efforts to be awarded the Grand Prize against such illustrious competition is extraordinary.

The DVD Crossing the Ditch can be purchased on the website:

Cas, spoke for both young men when he commented that “through committing ourselves to achieving one of "Australia’s last great first" adventures, we wish to inspire others not to be afraid of pursuing their own adventures and dreams”.

In New Zealand, the New Zealand Education Department contracted them to lecture to school students, on the need to aspire to achieve their dreams and fulfill their potential. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop, held a ceremony blessing them, and thanking them for what they had done for New Zealand.

In 2008, after the Tasman Sea crossing, James Castrission was a fitting Guest of Honour at the Kytherian Ball, the youngest guest of honour in the history of the event.

When he is not training for, or engaged in adventures, he has a full time career as a motivational speaker, lecturing to schools, organisations, and corporations at the highest level.

Cas is currently engaged in his most difficult adventure yet. You can read all about it at Cas ands Jonesy’s website:

In 100 years of polar exploration no-one has EVER walked from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again without assistance. Many have tried, none have succeeded.

Facts about Crossing the Ice:

•This will be the first EVER unsupported return journey to the South Pole.
•The summer of 2011/12 will mark the 100 year anniversary of Scott and Amundsen.
•Cas and Jonesy will be the youngest team to ever reach the South Pole.
•Previous attempts: Jon Muir, Peter Hillary and Eric Phillips attempted the return journey in 1998. They reached the South Pole after 84 days on the ice and didn’t complete the return. Kiwi adventurers: Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald also attempted the return journey in 2007, their attempt was also unsuccessful.
•Distance: 2200km return (1100km from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole)
•Less people have man hauled to the South Pole (58 people) than have stood on the summit of Mt Everest (4600).

At this moment (Saturday 26th November is day 25), James Castrission and Justin Jones are attempting to achieve the impossible. For the next three months and over 2200km they will drag 160kg sleds with everything they need to survive in the harshest environment on Earth.

[See the website (Nov-Dec 2011) for their current location.]

Antarctic route & Comparative Map

Antarctica - a lonely expanse

21st century hero

Cas and Jonesy are using this expedition to raise much needed funds and awareness for ‘You Can‘; an Australian national fundraising campaign to build specialised youth cancer centres across Australia. This expedition is called Crossing the Ice – and everyone on the planet can be a part of adventure by following their progress on the website, and by interacting with the pair of adventurers. You can read up on the expedition here on the site, or leave a message of support on Facebook.

This is James Castrission’s most challenging and dangerous adventure yet.