Fruit tycoon ‘shoots for the stars’

Keysborough South Ward candidate Stephen Fanous, right, with wife Rana and children Marcus, Isaac and Evangelina.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

MarketFresh Place managing director Stephen Fanous says he has time and energy to make a positive change on Greater Dandenong Council.

He is locked in a hot contest for Keysborough South ward in the October council elections.

Challengers include Greens member Rhonda Garad and non-endorsed ALP member Ramy El-Sukkari of the South East Environment Group (SEEG) – with the field to be finalised on 22 September.

Mr Fanous, a non-endorsed ALP candidate and a “local” Keysborough father of three, says stopping the waste-to-energy plant from being built in the area is a key priority.

He also wants a truck ban on the Chapel and Perry road rat-runs, and the completion of the long-awaited Keysborough South Community Hub.

“The Keysborough South ward has a very diverse community particularly with young families.

“I want to make sure that when I go for a walk with my family through the reserves, we are proud of what we have.”

His stance on the Green Wedge, as reported by Star Journal, is against “over-development” of the “significant open space”.

But he is open to more housing in the zone, new parks on the “run-down land”, and “more activation” of the Keysborough end with a winery or other uses.

Mr Fanous runs the MarketFresh Place franchise with stores across Melbourne, including Parkmore shopping centre and Dandenong Plaza.

He has risen steeply with “high hopes” from “humble beginnings”. Growing up in a Housing Commission home in Dandenong South, he has always looked to “shoot for the stars”.

There are sharp early memories of his father being unemployed for a long time during the recession in the early 1990’s. He got work at fruit and veg stalls at Dandenong Market to make ends meet.

“He would bring home boxes of mixed fruit and vegetables that my family would always look forward to eating.

“I believe that the lessons my father taught me in humility, being humble and hardworking have had a positive influence on my upbringing and have held me in good stead as I grew older.”

His business is open during Covid-19 but other sectors like hospitality have been hit hard, Mr Fanous said.

In the council’s relief response, young adults and youth in Keysborough South also need to be remembered. Youth services could be part of the mix at the to-be-built community hub.

Mr Fanous said he’d taken particular inspiration from mayor and fellow successful businessperson Jim Memeti.

“I look up to Jim. His story is similar to mine, going into business at a young age and having high hopes.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for the community. That’s the beautiful thing about Australia – we live in the best place in the world.

“It’s people like us that recognise that we need to give back.”

Cr Memeti was supportive of Mr Fanous’s decision to run for council, he said.

As “clarification”, Cr Memeti told the Journal Star that he’d never asked Mr Fanous or any candidate to run for council.

But he vouched for Mr Fanous, his “hard-working family background” and his ability to run a large retail company.