Maria is the good Greek girl who grew up above her parents’ Melbourne milk bar and shared a bedroom with her yiayia – until university, where she discovered her rebellious side, realised her true sexuality and abandoned nine-tenths of an economics degree for a career in the theatre.
After finally finding the courage to come out as a lesbian to her Greek Orthodox family and community, Maria’s reveal was not received as planned and she was eventually ostracized by her family and culture.
Maria embraced her independence and aimed extremely high with her achievements, including attending Harvard University and graduating with a Masters of Public Administration – however, five years later she found herself alone on a bed in a white psych ward fighting for her life.
Experiencing a complete mental breakdown that shattered her professional and personal identity, Maria is now a senior executive in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, an ambassador for beyondblue and advocate with the Australia Council for Mental Health, Maria has more than conquered the forces that held her back – she owns them.
While she now lives with a chronic mental illness, Maria leads an active, meaningful and extraordinary life – her story of triumph over adversity is nothing short of inspiring.
Maria explains that she wrote The Good Greek Girl to de-stigmatise mental illness and give voice to the lived experience of depression, “I also wanted to provide an insight into Greek-Australian culture, cultural stereotypes and convention from a female perspective.”
“In the space of five years, I went from graduating at Harvard to becoming a psych patient. I overcame the stranglehold of depression and chose not to die. Instead, I embraced life only to discover I am a good Greek girl at heart, albeit an unconventional one.”
Maria Katsonis began her career in the theatre, managing companies such as Anthill and Theatre Works. She then became an independent arts management consultant and theatre producer, touring shows to Asia, Europe, and South America.
After a decade in the arts, Maria decided it was time for a career change and became a bureaucrat. She is currently the Special Adviser, Productivity and Delivery in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and a public policy lecturer at the Melbourne School of Government.
In 2008, Maria experienced a severe episode of depression and was hospitalised for over a month. She now lives with an ongoing mental illness and has become a vocal advocate for mental health. She is a beyondblue Ambassador and a consumer advocate with Mental Health Australia.
Maria has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was named a Lucius Littauer Fellow for academic excellence and commitment to public service.
Image: The Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis