Armenian-Australians thank New South Wales Parliament for 20 years of siding with truth and justice at Gala Dinner [VIDEO]

By ANC-AU | Thursday, 08 March 2018

[PIC: Members of NSW Parliament, past and present, pictured with members of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, past and present]

SYDNEY: Leaders of the Armenian-Australian community joined together to thank members of the New South Wales (NSW) Parliament, past and present, for their steadfast and continuing support of human rights issues, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Australia's largest state's Legislative Assembly recognising the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU), which organised the event, presented the NSW Parliament with the ANC-AU Gratitude Award, recognising it as the first Australian legislature to recognise both the Armenian Genocide and the Republic of Artsakh, and consistently promoting national and international recognition of both issues of importance to Armenian-Australians.

Before presenting the Gratitude Award to NSW Premier, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian and representativeof the NSW Opposition, the Hon. Walt Secord, ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian expressed the Armenian-Australian community's appreciation for the work of successive governments and oppositions in Australia's oldest Parliament (watch below or click here).

"Over two decades, successive NSW Parliaments, representatives of all parties, across most seats, in both chambers, have taken a road that is notoriously difficult. The road of standing up for an issue of human rights," said Kayserian at the event, which was held at NSW Parliament House.

"The NSW Parliament has travelled this road, by deciding to recognise and consistently condemn the Armenian Genocide. The NSW Parliament has also taken this principled path by recognising the rights to self-determination for the Armenians of the Republic of Artsakh."

Kayserian added: "Over two decades, successive NSW Parliaments have stared down the tanks of denial square in the face, and responded with a shield of truth. Over two decades, successive NSW Parliaments have fended off the nudges, and the charges from their Federal counterparts protecting an invisible national security agenda with Turkey, and responded with backbone, waving a flag of justice."

"To the NSW Parliament, from 1997 to today, Armenians say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!"

Premier Berejiklian (watch below or click here) and Secord accepted the ANC-AU Gratitude Award on behalf of the NSW Parliament.

Premier Berejiklian heaped praise on her non-Armenian colleagues in the NSW Parliament, stating: "I have an Armenian background, and as you would know if you had Armenian heritage, it is not just a duty but an obligation and responsibility to pursue such important issues. But for all of you [fellow NSW Parliamentarians], you do it because it is an important human rights issue. You do it because it's important to our community."

The first Armenian Premier of an Australian state then asked her colleagues to stand and receive the applause of those gathered, before delivering a message to denialists of the Armenian Genocide.

Premier Berejiklian said: "Those denialists who deny the facts surrounding the Armenian Genocide do so on a whole range of human rights issues, and tonight we reiterate as a NSW Parliament our vigilance in stamping that out, and ensuring that those denialists don't achieve their objectives."

The Premier added her appreciation for the opportunities NSW and Australia have given her, as a descendant of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

"I am grateful for this opportunity that this state and this nation has afforded all of us with Armenian heritage as a safe haven, and I'm incredibly proud to now lead this state as someone of that background because I do think it does offer an empathy to certain communities who have arrived here after suffering generations of torment overseas."

Secord (watch above or click here), who has personally visited Armenia and Artsakh on several occasions, was grateful for the award and pledged to continue advocating for justice for the Armenian Genocide.

Secord remarked: "I believe it is only by truly acknowledging what happened that you can prevent acts of genocide happening again in the future."

"We all know that the status quo grips hard in political circles; it is hard to change things," he added. "That is why it is important to be persistent in your efforts and in our efforts. After all, the perpetrators of such atrocities rely on their deeds being overlooked in time."

"I'd like to thank the ANC-AU for the award, it is an honour and a pleasure," Secord concluded.

Premier Berejiklian and Secord (representing the Leader of the NSW Opposition, Luke Foley) headed a list of over 30 State Parliamentarians who were among the attendees at the Thank You Dinner. Jonathan O'Dea was in attendance as Chair of the NSW Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, as was the Hon. Rob Stokes - NSW Minister of Education, the Hon. Victor Dominello - NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, the Hon. Thomas George - Deputy Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, Andrew Fraser - Assistant Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, the Hon. Natasha MacLaren-Jones - Government Whip in the Legislative Council, Rev. the Hon. Fred Nile and Anna Watson -  Deputy Opposition Whip in the Legislative Assembly.

The Hon. Peter Collins, who was formerly the Leader of the Opposition in NSW, was also in attendance as a Special Guest, along with his former Ministerial colleague, the Hon. Michael Photios. Both were integral in the 1997 motion recognising the Armenian Genocide. They were joined by former NSW Parliamentarian, Amanda Fazio, who was part of the Legislative Council that recognised the Republic of Artsakh in 2012.

The Chair of ANC-AU at the 1997 passing of the Armenian Genocide motion was Dr. Tro Kortian, who delivered remarks recollecting the historic step by the NSW Parliament of the day (see video below or by clicking here).

The Premier in 1997 was the Hon. Bob Carr, who moved the motion that passed unanimously. Carr was unable to be at the event in person, but sent the following video message (watch below or click here).

The Opposition Leader in 1997, instrumental in passing the motion unanimously, was Peter Collins, who was in attendance and delivered the following remarks (see video below or by clicking here).

Former Member for Ermington, the Hon. Michael Photios, who spoke at the time the 1997 motion was being debated by the NSW Legislative Council, delivered the following remarks to the gathered guests (see video below or by clicking here).

A common theme throughout the evening was repeated calls from all speakers for Australia to follow the NSW Parliament's lead and finally recognise the Armenian Genocide.

Kayserian said during his speech: "It is time for the Parliament of Australia to follow the lead of NSW, to display the courage of representing constituents rather than bowing down to empty foreign threats. It is time this line in Australia’s foreign policy was written by Australians, for Australia. It is time Australia recognises the Armenian Genocide."

The guest list at the ANC-AU Thank You Dinner also included Her Excellency, Martha Mavrommati - Head of the Cyprus High Commission in Australia, Mr Kaylar Michaelian - The Republic of Artsakh’s Representative to Australia, The Hon. Jason Falinski - Federal Member Mackellar, Dr. Stepan Kerkyasharian - NSW Cemeteries and Crematorium Board, Councillor Sarkis Yedelian - City of Ryde, and representatives from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the United Indian Association, Cypriot Federation of Australia and New Zealand, the Assyrian Universal Alliance, the Arab Council of Australia and the Australian Coptic Movement.

Visiting Lebanese-Armenian Philanthropist, Mr Nar Khatchadourian was also in attendance, as was prominent business leaders, including ANC-AU Partners and the Chair of South Sydney Rugby League Club and the Bank of Sydney, Mr. Nicholas Pappas.

The MC for the evening was ANC-AU Communications Director, Garineh Torossian (see her opening address below or by clicking here).

Bishop Haigazoun Najarian delivered a Prayer of Thanks (see his address below or by clicking here).

Artsakh Representative to Australia, Kaylar Michaelian delivered words of thanks from the government of the Republic of Artsakh (see his address below or by clicking here).

Captain and Vice-Captain of Galstaun College, Ari Simonian and Hrant Boujikian also addressed the audience, with thanks on behalf of Armenian-Australian students (see his address below or by clicking here for Ari Simonian and clicking here for Hrant Boujikian).

Jonathan O'Dea MP delivered some closing remarks on behalf of the NSW Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group (see his address below or by clicking here).

ANC-AU Vice-Chair Vache Kahramanian closed proceedings with a powerful address of gratitude (see his address below or by clicking here).

Those in attendance were also treated to evidence that the NSW Parliament continues to stand with the Armenian people. On the morning of the event, O’Dea of the Liberal Party, and Dr Hugh McDermott of the Australian Labor Party stood in Parliament to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Sumgait Massacres. Videos of the speeches were shown (click here).

Dramatic Soprano and Principal Artist at Opera Australia, Natalie Zabel Aroyan performed two songs, accompanied by pianist Alex Sahagian, while Meghry Ounjian and Hovsep Emirzaian of the Armenian Youth Federation of Australia performed a piece with traditional Armenian instruments, the Kanon and Dhol.

The event began with a traditional Welcome to Country, delivered by Uncle Ray Davison of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, and the anthems of Australia and Armenia, performed by Galstaun College Captain, Anna Berberian.