More than 2,500 Armenian-Australians honored the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and demanded justice for the Armenian nation during a series of events held across Australia as part of Armenian Genocide Commemorative Week.
The National Armenian Genocide Commemoration observed at the Willoughby Concourse Concert Hall on Tues., April 24 saw a record turnout of more than 1,000 community members who were joined by a multitude of state and federal MPs from across the political spectrum, as well as descendant of survivors of the Greek and Assyrian Genocides.
Keynote speaker Professor Henry Theriault, chair of the philosophy department at Worcester State University, delivered a powerful speech on the ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide for the present-day Republic of Armenia as well as the Armenian Diaspora. Theriault advocated the importance of reparations, including land reparations, to the Armenian nation as a long-term and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide.
“A big part of the reason for the prevalence of poverty in Armenia today and the ongoing threat to Armenia’s future sustainability goes back to the genocide,” said Theriault.
“The lives lost during the genocide, the generations they were never able to bear, the wealth confiscated in the form of land and institutional and individual property and belongings, have led to a significant power differential between a Turkish state strengthened as a result of the genocide and a weakened Armenia,” he said.
Theriault also discussed the mass violence committed against Armenian women during the genocide in a comparative context. Recalling examples of similar injustices against the comfort women of World War II and women in Sudan, Congo, and other places, he highlighted the legacy of such violence committed during the Armenian Genocide on these subsequent events.
The National Armenian Genocide Commemoration also provided a platform for Australian elected representatives to lend their support for Australian recognition of the genocide. The Honorable Joe Hockey, MP, shadow treasurer; the Honorable John Ajaka, NSW MLC, parliamentary secretary for roads and transport; the Honorable Walt Secord, NSW MLC; the Honorable David Shoebridge, NSW MLC, all pledged their support to the Armenian-Australian community in their quest for Australian recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
A significant number of both Federal and State MPs also sent statements of support to the Armenian-Australian community. Several of these were read during the National Commemoration, including statements by the Honorable Tony Abbott, MP, leader of the opposition; Senator Nick Xenophon; Michelle Roland, MP, member for Greenway; the Honorable Barry O’Farrel, MP, premier of New South Wales; and the Honorable John Robertson, MP, leader of the New South Wales opposition.
In his commemoration address, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, Varant Meguerditchian spoke about the irreversible momentum achieved in Australia in the last few years for the Australian recognition of the genocide.
The program for the event also included a musical performance of “Dle Yaman’’ and the screening of a documentary by Armenian-Australian filmmaker Shahane Bekarian on the tragic yet triumphant life journey of his grandfather, genocide survivor Boghos Tavrayan.
Commenting on the event, Meguerditchian said, “The National Armenian Genocide Commemoration was a major success characterized by outstanding grassroots support, decisive political leadership and brilliant academic insight.”
“To all who were present, thank you for your support. The road toward true justice is long, but a resolution is near. Let us remain united in our struggle for a just and more peaceful world,” he added.
The Armenian Genocide Commemorative Week in Australia started with a commemorative evening in Western Sydney on Fri., April 20. Keynote speaker Dr. Panayiotis Diamadis of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies (AIHGS) spoke to some 300 members of the region’s Armenian community about how laying witness to the Armenian Genocide played a crucial role in Raphael Lemkin’s efforts to coin the word “genocide.”
Another 150 members of the Armenian-Australian community attended the City of Ryde memorial at the plaque erected by the Council in Meadowbank on Sat., April 21.
In Melbourne, 400 members of the Armenian Australian community were joined by Jenny Mikakos, MP, and the Honorable Coleen Hartland, VIC MLC, in observing the 97th anniversary of the genocide on Sun., April 22.
On Mon., April 23 over 250 Sydney-Armenians attended the prayer and wreath laying ceremony at the Armenian Genocide monument in the Peace Garden of the NSW State Parliament House. The Wreath Laying Ceremony was followed by the AIHGS Armenian Genocide Commemorative Lecture, delivered by Theriault.
Parallel to the National Armenian Genocide Commemoration, 50 members of the small Armenian community of Adelaide gathered at the city’s Immigration Museum to pay respect to the memory of the victims. Tony Zappia, MP, federal member for Makin, and the Honorable Michael Atkinson, MP, joined the community members in their remembrance.