Assyrians in Sydney celebrating more than just 6769 years of Assyrian history
On Sunday 31 March 2019, the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) and the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) hosted another successful Assyrian New Year festival at Fairfield showground. An estimated fifteen thousand people were in attendance to celebrate this important Assyrian holiday.
The proceedings began with the official opening of the Dr. Donny George Exhibit at 1:30 pm. The Dr. Donny George Exhibit was established to highlight Assyrian contributions to the advancement of civilization. This year’s exhibit was organised by The Young Assyrians, with Miss Leyana Alkhas providing a detailed explanation of the images contained in the exhibition, the theme of which was to raise awareness about Assyrian costumes, past and present, sports, and educational establishments since the beginning of the last century. The exhibit provided historical evidence of the continuation of Assyrian identity and culture after the fall of the Assyrian Empire. Photos from the last year’s Assyrian New Year celebration in Sydney were also displayed, reflecting how this celebration has grown over the past 15 years.
The customary New Year program commenced at 2:00 pm with the singing of both the Australian and Assyrian national anthems, followed by a blessing prayer by Rev Ablahad Zetoun, Parish Priest of St. Malkeh Syriac Orthodox Church. After welcoming the attendees, the masters of ceremonies Miss Melanie Alkhas and Miss Adorena Shahen, members of the Young Assyrians of the AUA invited Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the AUA, to officially welcome the guests. Mr. Shahen extended a warm welcome to representatives of the local, State and Federal governments for their attendance and support over the years. He congratulated the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, on her election to becoming the 45th Premier of New South Wales; he also acknowledged the presence of The Hon David Coleman MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs representing the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP. Mr. Shahen welcomed representatives of Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Jewish, Italian, Mandean, Vietnamese, and Assyrian organisations from Sydney and Melbourne, as well as guests from Iraqi Parliament, the United States and Sweden and thanked them for their attendance. Mr. Shahen spoke about the importance of the Assyrian Babylonian New Year for the expression of national identity and deep-rooted history. Mr Shahen went on to urge the Australian government to develop a comprehensive strategy to empower the Assyrian nation in its efforts to establish a self- governing protected region in the Assyrian heartland in northern Iraq.
Next, Mr. David M. David, president of the AANF, welcomed the attendees. Speaking in the Assyrian language, he stressed the importance of this national day for all Assyrians. Mr. David thanked our sponsors for their continued support.
Other guest speakers were: The Mayor of Fairfield city, who applauded the work of the AUA and AANF and presented the AANF a cheque of $2000 from Fairfield City to help cover the festival expenses. The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian delivered a historical speech showing great support to the Assyrian cause and the important role the Assyrian community has played in shaping this blessed country of Australia. The Premier was then presented with a plaque in recognition of her hard work and dedication to the people of NSW and for attending the Assyrian New Year Festival.
The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Shadow Treasure, during his speech spoke about his short trip to Iraq, and his meetings with important community figures and representatives of the Iraqi Government. Mr. Bowen pledged to provide a grant of $350,000 to the AUA, should he be elected in May, to support AUA in establishing its own community Centre. Other speakers included, Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells; the Hon David Coleman MP; Mr Chris Hayes MP, chief opposition whip; the Hon. Tanya Davies MP; Reverend The Hon. Fred Nile, MLC, president of the Christian Democratic Party; Mr. Guy Zangari MP, State member for Fairfield; and Dr Hugh McDermott MP, State member for prospect.
All speakers praised the role of the AUA for working productively with the Australian government. They talked about the inevitable success of the Assyrian people in their struggle to obtain full rights and freedom in Iraq.
Other guests included Detective Superintendent Peter Lennon, NSW Police Force, Fairfield Local Area Command and Ms Karen Bos, vise president of Christian faith and Freedom.
One of the spectacular shows that attracted attention of all audience was the folkloric dance performance by three dancing groups; the Hamazkiane Armenian Sydney Dance Ensemble; the United Benevolent Brotherhood of NSW Pontoxeniteas dancing group and the Assyrian Khabour Dancing groups, which was a show of solidarity between the three nations, who survived this horrific genocide by the Ottoman Turkey and the promise to continue to stand united as they demand justice.
The conclusion of the official opening program saw many awards presented to prominent people and various sponsors.
The 2019 Friend of Assyria Award was presented to Dr Panayiotis Diamadis, for his outstanding contribution, advocacy and research towards promoting recognition of genocide and crimes against humanity. Dr Diamadis has lectured and written extensively on the fate of the Assyrian people, and the Assyrian connection to Australia. He has organised two conferences in Sydney on the Assyrian Genocide – Macquarie University (1999) and The University of Sydney (2000). These historic events were some of the earliest academic meetings on the genocide of the Assyrian people. He has given many presentations during annual commemorations of the Assyrian Martyrs’ Day on 7 August.
The 2019 Assyrian of the Year Award was presented to Ms Nahren Odisho, in recognition of selfless devotion and tireless efforts in promoting the Assyrian culture and for being a role model of creativity in one of the most spectacular Assyrian fashion shows in the world.
The 2019 Australian Assyrian of the Year award was presented to Mr John Homeh a well-known Assyrian who is considered one of the founding pioneers of the Assyrian movie era, a Film Director, Writer and Producer. This award was in recognition of selfless devotion and tireless efforts in promoting the Assyrian culture, and for being a role model of creativity in raising the standard and quality of the film production to a professional level.
The AUA introduced their guests from Iraq and were presented with a plaque in appreciation for attending the Assyrian New Year Festival; Mr. Emanuel Khoshaba, Secretary General of the Assyrian Patriotic Party; Mr Aswan Salim Dadda MP; Mr Hoshyar Yalda Ajmaya MP; Mr Nawfal; and Shareef Joudah MP. Mr Khoshaba gave a short speech in the Assyrian language thanking the organisers of the festival and asking for the people to support the efforts of unity in Iraq amongst Assyrian political groups, emphasizing the critical situation of the Assyrian people in Iraq.
The Hon David Clarke was presented with token of appreciation for years of support to the Assyrian community. Mr Clarke is currently retired after serving 16 years in the NSW government, 6 years as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, and two years as a Chairman of the Parliamentary Friend of Assyria.
Detective Superintendent Peter Lennon also received a certificate of appreciation award on behalf of NSW Police Force, Fairfield Local Area Command in recognition of selfless devotion, outstanding contribution to our society, and appreciation for their services to keep the city safe.
At 6:00 pm, a dramatic arts piece was performed by Assyrian youth. The theatrical piece simulated some of the rituals Assyrian people held in ancient times for welcoming the King and Queen of Assyria to their towns.
The festival concluded at 9:00 PM with a beautiful fireworks display accompanied by live music.
Assyrian Universal Alliance-Australian Chapter