This is the untold story of how the Lebanese community overcame the odds and found their place in multicultural Australia. This is a community that has been besieged by events beyond their control. But they have emerged stronger than ever with a resilience and strength that will carry them into the future.
Cronulla Riots - The Day That Shocked the Nation
Go beyond the media headlines with SBS’s interactive experience: watch the documentary, explore the themes and delve deeper into the riots.
The History of Lebanese-Australian Migration
The great Hazem El Masri retires
Lebanese-Australian Hazem El Masri retires from the National Rugby League (NRL).1
Hazem has been dubbed the greatest point scorer in the NRL with a pointscoring legacy of 342 points in a single season (16 tries and 139 goals) in 2004.
His career spans from the 1990s to 2000s where he has represented Australia and Lebanon in international games, played for NSW in the State of Origin as a representative winger and was a devoted supporter of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with whom he won the 2004 NRL Premiership.
El Masri is a devout Muslim and has been widely respected for his involvement in the community.
He won the NRL's Ken Stephen Award in 2002 for his contribution to the betterment of the community away from rugby league.2
1'Hazem El Masri announces retirement', Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 2009: http://goo.gl/uotXbl
2Sully, Sandra; Bill Woods (2007). El Magic: The life of Hazem El Masri. Australia: HarperCollins. pp. xi. ISBN 978-0-7322-8402-2
Mecca Laalaa and the burqini
Lebanese-Australia Mecca Laalaa becomes Australia's first Muslim female lifeguard. Laalaa qualified after taking a 10-week course run by Surf Life Saving Australia aimed at widening the racial mix on beaches.
Following this feat, Laalaa also becomes the role model of the "burquini", a compromise between a burqa and bikini.
The burquini's designer Aheda Zanetti hopes to widen the garment's appeal beyond Muslim women at the beach.
"We are also encouraged in Australia to cover up not due to modesty but for sun protection, so this is not just a modesty aspect swimming suit, it is also a protection against the sun, surf and sand."
'Lifesaver Laalaa rides a wave of support', The Age, 17 Nov 2007: http://goo.gl/kPneqJ
'Race For The Beach', Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Dec 2007: http://goo.gl/MU6dzF
'From bikini to 'burqini', Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Jan 2007: http://goo.gl/fay5d9
Hilaly becomes Australia’s first Mufti
Egyptian-born Sheik Taj El-Din Al-Hilaly came to Australia from Lebanon in 1982 on a temporary visa.1 His visa was repeatedly extended until 1986, when Immigration Minister, Chris Hurford tried to have him deported because of his divisive, anti-Semitic speeches.2
Hilaly was named mufti of Australia in 1988, by the AFIC, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.3 In the same year he gave speech in which he accused Jews of trying "to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason and economic hoarding". 1
In 1990, during the final term of the Hawke government, Immigration Minister Gerry Hand granted Hilaly permanent residence.
1'Immigration mistakes return to haunt us', The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Oct 2006: http://goo.gl/lROLCc
2'Former minister outlines reservations over sheik', ABC Radio, 26 June 2003: http://goo.gl/Vuu7ux
3'Sheik Al-Hilaly', ABC Sunday Profile, 7 March 2004: http://goo.gl/oNH6aV
4'Think murder and then call it poetry', The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2004: http://goo.gl/cSgAmF
Gulf War begins
2 AUGUST - Iraq invaded and seized control of neighbouring Kuwait.1 On 29 November 1990, the United Nations warned that if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not withdraw his troops by 15 January 1991 then the US and her allies would drive them out. Saddam’s forces did not move. On 24 February, after a month of air raids, ground forces attacked. Four days later, President George Bush Senior declared a ceasefire. Kuwait had been liberated.
However brief, the Gulf War had a lasting impact on Muslims and Lebanese in Australia.2 The words “Arab” and “Muslim” begin to be regarded as synonyms for “terrorist”. There was a distinct change in how Arab-Australians were perceived by the wider community. Incidents of incivility, abuse, threats and even violence become a part of life for Arab and Muslim Australians.
Wood Royal Commission
Launched in 1994, the Wood Royal Commission investigated corrupt activities of the New South Wales Police Force. Arrested during the Royal Commission, Lebanese-Australian, Bill Bayeh, a ‘Kings Cross underworld figure’, pleaded guilty and was jailed, for a maximum of 18 years, for cocaine and heroin trafficking.1,2
After Bayeh went to jail, there was a changing of the guard in terms of Lebanese-Australian criminals operating in and out of Kings Cross.
The new gangs did not go about their business quietly, directing extreme violence towards the police and public alike.
1'Thank you sir: underworld figure Bill Bayeh to be released', The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 June 2011: http://goo.gl/gUGufc
2'After 15 years, ex-underworld figure Bayeh begins his new life', The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 2011: http://goo.gl/MBeuBq
Edward Lee murder
17 OCTOBER - Fourteen-year-old Korean-Australian schoolboy Edward Lee and his friends turned up for a party in Telopea Street, Punchbowl. They entered the wrong property and were challenged by a group of young Lebanese-Australian men. A fight broke out, during which Edward Lee was fatally stabbed.
Police Commissioner Peter Ryan and Premier Bob Carr were drawn into the media storm the murder generated. Telopea Street Punchbowl and the “evil” Lebanese gangs became public enemy number one. In the days after Lee’s killing up to 130 police officers launched blitzes across the Punchbowl, Campsie, Bankstown and Lakemba.
'Four years down the street', The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Feb 2003: http://goo.gl/R1SHTH
'Dib sentenced to 30 years for deadly attack on witnesses', The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Nov 2012: http://goo.gl/8JFH58
'One street paved the way for city's notorious crimes', The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Nov 2012: http://goo.gl/2DqkHm
Lakemba Police Station shooting
1 NOVEMBER - At one in the morning, a car pulled up outside the Lakemba Police Station. The occupants fired up to 18 shots into the building. This was the gangs’ response to the police blitzes. Three members were charged but only one was successfully convicted.
The police station shooting was but one of a string of armed offences committed by the gang. On July 17, a gang member fatally shot two men outside a pub in Five Dock. On October 13, they shot a man in Greenacre. On November 11, they shot up houses in Redfern. On December 13, they executed their leader. On 22 December, they were involved in a shootout with police in Paddington.
Ultimately, the key perpetrator was charged with three murders and sentenced to life in prison. In May 2009, only one member was convicted and jailed for the Lakemba Police Station shooting but was acquitted and released four years later.
'Police station attack: Saleh Jamal acquitted and freed', The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2013: http://goo.gl/c8c1rK
'Pair acquitted of Lakemba police drive-by', ABC News, 16 May 2005: http://goo.gl/eVteyl
Steve Bracks elected Victorian Premier
19 OCTOBER - Elected in 1999, Lebanese-Australian Steve Bracks served three terms as Victorian Premier. In the 1890s, Bracks’ grandparents on both sides came to Australia as toddlers with their families.1 Theirs was a common story. They had wished to go to America but found themselves on a boat to Australia.
Bracks’ maternal great grandfather settled in Ballarat with his family and worked as a hawker.1 His success allowed him to open a drapery store and other businesses. After the Second World War, Bracks’ parents married and also settled in Ballarat.
Bracks began his working life as a high school commerce teacher. He entered parliament as the Labor Member for Williamstown in 1994. In 1999, Bracks defeated Jeff Kennett to become the 44th Premier of Victoria. After three terms he resigned in July 2007.2
Led by 18-year-old railway worker Bilal Skaf, a group of up to 14 Lebanese-Australian males committed a series of rapes. The gang raped six girls aged between 16 and 18 and made other unsuccessful attempts on girls as young as 14.
The perpetrators lured or forced their victims to go to public parks where they were repeatedly raped, sometimes at knife-point or gun-point.
The victims spoke of being taunted with racist slurs, one being told during her ordeal, “You deserve it because you are Australian.” Another victim said she was called an “Aussie pig” and was told: “I’m going to f*** you Leb-style.”
In December, Bilal Skaf appeared in Bankstown Local Court on rape charges. He was taken into custody on 16 March 2001.
2002: Skaf sentenced to 55 years
On 15 August, Bilal Skaf was sentenced to 55 years, with a non-parole period of 40 years. This was the most severe penalty ever given for the crime of rape in Australia.
“People talk about rape as a sexual crime, but in reality it’s a crime of domination and contempt,” Judge Michael Finnane said. “No human being should be treated in this terrible fashion, no-one.” He also said Skaf had shown no remorse about his crimes and had treated proceedings as a joke.
The severity of the sentence sparked debate. While some considered it apt, others considered it to be racially biased.
Nine of the 14 charged with rape were convicted and received sentences totalling 240 years in prison. Most sentences were reduced on appeal. In 2005, Bilal Skaf’s maximum sentence was halved to 28 years.
'Ethnicity linked to brutal gang rapes', ABC The 7:30 Report, 15 July 2002: http://goo.gl/d4P8rJ
'Gang Rape Convictions Trigger Ethnicity Debate', CNS News, 16 July 2002: http://goo.gl/aN62jH
'Sentencing of Bilal Skaf', ABC Four Corners, 15 Aug 2002: http://goo.gl/5QZ98h
'Gang rapist's horror drawings of girlfriend', The Sun Herald, 20 July 2003: http://goo.gl/jGtRwP
'Sword of justice fells worst rapist', The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Aug 2002: http://goo.gl/fWOjzi
'What we learnt from Skaf case', The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Jan 2013: http://goo.gl/rmeeh3
Professor Marie Bashir appointed Governor of NSW
1 MARCH - Professor Marie Bashir was sworn in as the Governor of New South Wales.1 She became the first woman to hold the office, and the first person of Lebanese descent to do so. Along with Sir Roden Cutler and Lachlan Macquarie, she is only the third person to hold the post more than ten years.
The child of Lebanese-born parents, Marie Bashir graduated from the University of Sydney in 1956 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.2 She later completed post graduate studies in psychiatry and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. At Sydney University, she met Nicholas Shehadie and they married in 1957.5 In 1971 she became Lady Mayoress when Shehadie was made Lord Mayor of Sydney.3,5
Professor Bashir was a lecturer at Sydney University and in 2007 was appointed Chancellor of her alma mater. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including Mother of the Year in 1971, an Officer (1989) and then a Companion in the Order of Australia (2001) and the Centenary Medal in 2003.3,4
1Parliament of New South Wales, Governor of New South Wales: http://goo.gl/hjDVkv
2Professor Marie Bashir elected University Chancellor, The University of Sydney: http://goo.gl/QLgyLr
3Marie Bashir, The Women's College: http://goo.gl/4bboSo
4The Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO: http://goo.gl/DNUyZQ
5The Governor of New South Wales, Sir Nicholas Shehadie AC OBE: http://goo.gl/vUz4Ei
Al Queda attacks New York and Washington
11 SEPTEMBER - 19 members of the Islamist terrorist group Al Queda hijacked four passenger jets to use as suicide bombs. Two planes were crashed into the two main World Trade Centre towers, one hit the Pentagon and the other crashed after passengers attempted to retake their plane. Around 3000 people in total were killed in the attacks.
Once it became known Saudi nationals were the perpetrators, Muslims minorities worldwide were regarded with added fear, suspicion and enmity. Eleven days after the attacks, a man burnt down the Kuraby Mosque in Brisbane. Overall, the effect was to refresh and sharpen anti-Muslim sentiments that had been brewing since the 1991 Gulf War.
The 9/11 attacks came weeks after the “Tampa Affair”, in which the Howard government ordered special forces to board the cargo vessel Tampa to prevent rescued asylum seekers being deposited on Australian soil.
Howard’s rigid stance proved to be very popular, especially after the 9/11 attacks. With many Australia-bound refugees hailing from the Middle East, the idea that some may be terrorists became embedded in the “border security” debate.
The events of late 2001 made “Muslim” all the more interchangeable with “terrorist”. In the newly minted “War on Terror” the enemy was Muslim. In Australia, politicians vied to both allay and prey on fears of a terror threat that had two fronts: Muslims in the midst and from Muslims coming on ships.
12 OCTOBER - Muslim extremist group Jamaah Islamiyah detonated bombs in two nightclubs at Bali’s Kuta beach killing 202 people, 88 of them Australian.
To Jamaah Islamiyah, Australia was a “Crusader state” opposed to Islam. Days after the bombings, Osama bin Laden declared the bombings were payback for Australia’s support of the invasion of Afghanistan.
Back in Australia, as with the Gulf War in 1991 and the attacks of 11 September 2001, there were reprisals against Muslims. There were reports of verbal and physical abuse as well as vandalism. A mosque and Muslim school were firebombed. Muslim women were warned not to travel alone, day or night.
Australia suddenly found itself on the frontline of the War on Terror, with many citizens believing an attack within Australia was inevitable.
With terrorism and security at the fore, the Howard government launched a $15m counter-terrorism campaign entitled “Look out for Australia”. Issuing information kits and a 24-hour hotline, Australians were told to “be alert, not alarmed”.
The effort was paradoxical, reassuring with one hand and fanning suspicion with the other. Driving home the fact that Australia was in the thick of the War on Terror, the effort was viewed by some as a way to bolster support for the government’s backing the US-led invasion of Iraq.
'Muslims prepare for backlash after Bali attack', ABC Lateline, 19 Oct 2002: http://goo.gl/EISLif
“Islamophobia in Australia” by Alice Aslan (Agora Press 2009)
“Be Alert, Not Alarmed: Government communication of risk in an era of insecurity” by Diana Bossio (RMIT July 2005)
Invasion of Iraq
On the night of 19 March, US-led forces bombed Baghdad to begin the invasion of Iraq. Just a month earlier Australia, like other countries around the globe, witnessed record numbers of people demonstrating for peace. Regardless, the Australian Government joined the US and Britain in a mission to forcibly disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. The War on Terror had a new theatre, the villain part of President George Bush Junior’s “Axis of Evil”, and once again the enemy was Muslim.
Despite the huge turnouts for peace, once the war began and Australia was pitched against Saddam Hussein, Muslims were subjected to fresh acts of vilification, violence and discrimination.
Task Force Gain
22 OCTOBER - Following a spate of drive-by shootings in Sydney’s south-west, Commissioner Ken Moroney and Police Minister Tony Watkins announced the formation of Task Force Gain. In the year to that point there had been 118 gun offences.
The bulk of citizens involved in the shootings, both perpetrators and victims, were members of the Lebanese community. The rolling violence sprang from drug wars and family feuds and sometimes military-grade weapons such as grenade launchers and assault rifles were used.
Task Force Gain had 160 officers whose mission was to combat an interlinked web of serious crime - guns, drug trafficking, extortion and car re-birthing.
After 20 months’ operation Gain had resulted in 1,297 arrests, 3,134 charges and 67 operations. Nine people had been charged with murder or attempted murder and another 54 with shooting offences.
Task Force Gain paved the way for the establishment of the permanent Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad in 2006.
'Military weapons in hands of gangs', Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Oct 2003: http://goo.gl/uuJN66
'Ring of steel to shut down the drive-by gunmen', Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Oct 2003: http://goo.gl/AIOkQw
Parliament of New South Wales, Task Force Gain: http://goo.gl/ZLLteY
Parliament of New South Wales, South-western Sydney Policing: http://goo.gl/708RkV
Terrorist leader Benbrika charged
8 NOVEMBER - A tip-off from members of Melbourne’s Muslim community spawned the largest counter-terrorism investigation ever conducted in Australia. Given information that an extremist group was plotting to commit a terrorist act, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the Victorian Police Force together formed Operation Pendennis to investigate.
Their focus was a group of men led by Algerian-born Muslim Sheikh Abdul Nacer Benbrika. After 17 months of surveillance and gathering evidence, it emerged that the group was planning attacks using fertiliser-based bombs in a bid to force Australian troops out of Iraq.
On 8 November 2005, nine men aged between 21 and 45 appeared in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court charged with planning a terrorist attack in Australia.
Benbrika was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.
'Men charged after terrorism raids', ABC The World Today, 8 Nov 2005: http://goo.gl/I5YI2k
'Terror cells in Sydney and Melbourne connected', ABC PM, 20 Sept 2011: http://goo.gl/nuCFOu
'Lies, bombs and jihad', The Australian, 16 Set 2008: http://goo.gl/Khn4l8
'Let's deport this terror boss', Herald Sun, 21 Nov 2011: http://goo.gl/dGwQJu
Cronulla Riots & Maroubra revenge
On Sunday, December 4, three volunteer lifeguards left Cronulla beach after finishing their patrol. They got into an argument with a group of Lebanese-Australian men, were bashed and ended up in hospital. The incident made the news and talkback radio.
There were angry calls for retribution. The urge to make stand against long-felt intimidation was transformed via circulating text messages into “wog-bashing day”. The date was set for the following Sunday.
On December 11, around 5,000 people gathered in Cronulla. Alcohol was widely consumed and as the day progressed individuals who were considered to be Middle Eastern were attacked and police had various objects hurled at them. Various racist chants - such as, “F*** off, Lebs!” - broke out.
Footage of the mob violence headlined the evening news. In response, Lebanese men gathered in Punchbowl Park and, blocked from entering Cronulla, drove in convoy to Maroubra. There they ran riot, damaging cars and attacking people at random. Two men were stabbed.
In total police charged 104 people, the number evenly split between those involved in the riot and retaliation.
After becoming a permanent Australian resident in 1990, Hilaly continued to spark controversy with extremist Islamic public statements. His title of “Grand Mufti of Australia”1 was honorary and Hilaly was never authorised to speak on behalf of all Muslims in Australia.
While he may have grown more moderate during his time in Australia, he repeatedly offended Australians at large as well as many Muslims. In a 2004 sermon given in Lebanon, Hilaly stated that the attack of “September 11 is God’s work against the oppressors”2.
In a 2006 sermon, he declared that “the uncovered meat is the problem”3 by way of saying that an immodestly dressed woman invites rape. Coming in the wake of the Skaf gang rape trials, there was a severe public outcry and Pru Goward, the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, called for Hilaly to be sacked.
In 2007, although the Australian National Imams Council offered him another two-year term, Hilaly stepped down.
1'Sheik Al-Hilaly', ABC Sunday Profile, 7 March 2004: http://goo.gl/xWT33I
2Sheikh Hilaly Sermon at Sidon Mosque, 13 Feb 2004: http://goo.gl/KdlWcO
3'Deport rape comment cleric, says Goward', The Age, 26 Oct 2006: http://goo.gl/4gr3on
Sydney CBD Riot
In early September, an anti-Islamic video called “Innocence of Muslims” found on YouTube sparked Muslim outrage in various parts of the world. Demonstrations started in Egypt on 11 September and spread across the Middle East, Africa and the sub-continent. Most protests centred on US diplomatic missions, as the target of outrage went beyond the film to the US itself. US Marines were deployed to protect embassies in Libya and Yemen. In all, around 50 people were killed in the violence.
On 15 September, around 100 people gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall to stage their own protest. The group attempted to enter the US Consulate but were repelled by police. They then made their way to Hyde Park where there were clashes with police. One young boy wore a placard that read: “Behead all those who insult the prophet”. The violence spilled into the streets as police pursued protesters. Six officers were injured and eight arrests made.
'As it happened: Violence erupts in Sydney over anti-Islam film', ABC News, 16 Sept 2012: http://goo.gl/ELH4jD
'Text messages and terror connections inflame Muslim protests', ABC News, 17 Sept 2012: http://goo.gl/swQpJP
Muslim leaders denounce extremism
18 SEPTEMBER - In an unprecedented display of unity, the leaders of 25 Australian Muslim organisations issued a statement to denounce the violence of the Sydney CBD protest. They also refused to endorse any further demonstrations about the “Innocence of Muslims” film, a stance that broke with their counterparts overseas as well as the more radical voices in Australia.
Referring to the extremists involved in the riot, head of the Lebanese Muslim Association Samir Dandan said, “It’s our shortcoming, we have not really engaged with these individuals.” He said the Muslim leaders would take steps to prevent any unlawful or violent protests in the future.
'Muslims inundated with messages of hate', Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Sept, 2012: http://goo.gl/WQp051
The Third Wave of immigration to Australia
Under relaxed immigration, Australia’s processing facility in Cyprus accepted 4,000 Lebanese immigrants in 1976 alone.1
Between 1975 and 1977 about 60 per cent of the immigrants were Muslim.1,3 There were immediate concerns about the ability of the community to cope with the high intake of Muslim3 immigrants and questions about their ability to integrate.
Most were sponsored by relatives in Sydney’s southwest and that is where they settled.1,4
Compounding their poor employment prospects was a shrinking demand for unskilled workers as the manufacturing sector went into decline.3,4
1‘Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants’, Matthew Franklin, The Australian, 1 January 2007
2‘Immigration mistakes return to haunt us’, Gerard Henderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2006 Lebanese since 1970, Michael Humphrey in James Jupp (ed.)
3The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 565
4‘Threat from enemy within makes anti-terrorism laws indispensable’ Gerard Henderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 2012
Relaxed immigration for displaced Lebanese
The Civil War forced thousands of Lebanese to flee their homes. Some 600,000 were displaced during the war and many fled to Cyprus. 1
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser relaxed immigration entry qualifications on humanitarian grounds.2,3,4 The aim was to provide express entry into Australia for displaced Lebanese who were sponsored by relatives.
Lebanese immigrants were treated as quasi-refugees but they had to have relatives already living in Australia who would guarantee accommodation and other needs.4
1‘Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants’, Matthew Franklin, The Australian, 1 January 2007
2‘Immigration mistakes return to haunt us’, Gerard Henderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2006
3‘Threat from enemy within makes anti-terrorism laws indispensable’ Gerard Henderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/threat-from-enemy-within-makes-antiterrorism-laws-indispensable-20120206-1r1rn.html
4Lebanese since 1970, Michael Humphrey in James Jupp (ed.) The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 561
Lebanese Civil War begins
By the 1970s, the Christians in Lebanon were no longer the majority.2 Muslims now made up two-thirds of the population with Shiites being the largest single group.2 Rapid economic change led to widening of the gap between rich and poor.2 The poor were mainly Shií and Sunni Muslims. Muslims demanded reform to grant them majority political representation. The Christians refused. All political factions then ramped up the firepower of their militias.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) presence in Lebanon became the catalyst for civil war.2 The Maronite Christians wanted the PLO out while many Muslims and groups seeking political change regarded them as an ally and opposed any move against them.2
In 1975, a series of attacks and reprisals between Christian and Palestinian militias escalated to civil war as other groups of varying religious and political persuasions joined the fray.1,2 The war lasted 15 years, during which militias shifted from one alliance to another.
In 1978, in response to Palestinian attacks, Israel invaded southern Lebanon.1 After withdrawing, Israel left the border strip area in the hands of its proxy, the Southern Lebanon Army, comprised of Christian militia.
In 1982, following the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to Britain by Palestinians, Israel again invaded Lebanon, determined to destroy the political and military power of the PLO.1 The Israeli siege of West Beirut ended with the evacuation of the PLO. Despite assurances regarding their safety Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila were massacred by the Kata’ib.1 After international peacekeeping forces arrived, Israel withdrew.
1Lebanon Profile, BBC News Middle East,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14649284
2A History of the Arab Peoples, Albert Hourani, London: Faber and Faber, 1991, pp. 429-431
Official end of ‘White Australia Policy’
The March 1966 announcement was the watershed in abolishing the 'White Australia' policy, and non-European migration began to increase. Yearly non-European settler arrivals rose from 746 in 1966 to 2,696 in 1971, while yearly part-European settler arrivals rose from 1498 to 6054.
In 1973 the Whitlam Labor government took three further steps in the gradual process to remove race as a factor in Australia's immigration policies.
These were to:
- legislate that all migrants, of whatever origin, be eligible to obtain citizenship after three years of permanent residence
- issue policy instructions to overseas posts to totally disregard race as a factor in the selection of migrants
- ratify all international agreements relating to immigration and race.
Because the Whitlam government reduced the overall immigration intake the reform steps that it took had very little impact on the number of migrants from non-European countries.
An increase in the number and percentage of migrants from non-European countries did not take place until after the Fraser government came into office in 1975.
Sir Nicholas Shehadie elected Lord Mayor of Sydney
Born to Lebanese immigrant parents, Nicholas Shehadie played 30 Test matches for the Wallabies (the Australian rugby union team) between 1947 and 1958, captaining the side three times.1,2
In 1962, he became an alderman on the City of Sydney Council and in 1969 was elected Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney.3 In 1973 he became Sydney’s Lord Mayor and officiated, among other events, the opening of the Sydney Opera House by Queen Elizabeth II.
Awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1971, he was knighted in 1976 and made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1990.1,2
2Sir Nicholas Shehadie AC OBE, http://www.rugby.com.au/wallabies/TheTeam/WallabyHallofFame/SirNicholasShehadieACOBE.aspx
3Sir Nicholas Shehadie, Biography, http://www.governor.nsw.gov.au/her-excellency-professor-the-honourable-dame-marie-bashir-ad-cvo/sir-nicholas-shehadie-ac-obe/
PLO moves into Lebanon
In 1970, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), after being expelled from Jordan, moved to southern Lebanon.1
Since the June 1967 war, Palestinian fida’iyin (commandos) had launched attacks on Israel from Lebanese soil.2 As well as retaliating, Israel demanded that Lebanon forcibly suppress the Palestinians.2 The PLO drew recruits from the camps and effectively created a Palestinian state within Lebanon.
1The Panorama Middle East Archives: rise of the PLO, http://goo.gl/Xe3HO7
2A Modern History of Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, pp. 152-153
Lebanese Muslim Association formed
In the 1960s, Australia experienced its first significant intake of Muslims, predominantly from Turkey and Lebanon.1 The Lebanese Moslems Association (later changed to Lebanese Muslim Association) was formed in Sydney in 1962 to provide Muslim newcomers with community, welfare and religious services.2
The Lebanese Muslim Association bought a house in Lakemba that was used as a place of worship for Sunni Muslims. The LMA set out to replace the house with a purpose-built mosque.
In 1972, construction began on the Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque, better known as the Lakemba Mosque. And it was completed in 1977. In 1983, the Al Zahra Mosque established in Arncliffe to cater to Sydney’s Shia Muslims.3
Most new Muslim arrivals during this period were from Lebanon shaping the “Third Wave” of Lebanese immigration.2
Today the organisation is known as the Lebanese Muslim Association.
1“Lebanese Muslims in Australia and Social Disadvantage”, Katherine Betts and Ernest Healy, People and Place (vol. 14, no. 1, 2006)
2Lebanese Muslim Association, http://www.lma.org.au
3The Lebanese in Sydney’ Anne Monsour and Paul Convy, Sydney Journal, June 2008, pp. 70-78.
US troops enter Lebanon
In the late 1950s, the Middle East emerged as a new theatre of the Cold War. The United States was interested in Lebanon as it had ‘one of the best harbors and communication centres on the Eastern Mediterranean’, ‘potentially good air bases’ and was the end point for many of the pipelines which transported oil from the Persian Gulf and Iraq.1US interests in Lebanon also increased because of the rise of Abd al-Nasr in Egypt as Arab nationalism was considered a threat to US interests and non-alignment was seen as siding with the Soviets.2
Syria was teetering towards Communism and leftists in Iraq assassinated their King and Prime Minister.3
In mid-July 1958, fearing the onset of civil war or leftist revolt, the pro-Western of President Chamoune asked the US to help preserve Lebanon’s independence.
US President Eisenhower responded with Operation Bluebat, a deployment of 14,000 American troops to Lebanon to restore order and allow for a political resolution to the crisis.3 With a more stable parliament established, US troops left Lebanon in October.
1A Report by the Joint Committee on Programs for Military Aid for the Middle East, Us Joint Chiefs of Staff, 3 February 1957, cited in A Modern History of Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, p. 128.
2A Modern History of Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, p. 130
3Operation Blue Bat – 1958http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/blue_bat.htm
The Australian Lebanese Association (ALA) was formed
The Australian Lebanese Association (ALA) was formed in 1949, became a legal entity in 1956 and a Chapter of the World Lebanese Cultural Union in 1961.It sought to create a non-sectarian association able to positively represent Lebanese in Australia and liaise with the Lebanese and Australian governments. However despite the original intention, from 1968 the ALA was dominated by Maronites.1
1Sectarianism and the Politics of Identity: the Lebanese in Sydney, Michael Humphrey in The Lebanese in the World, pp. 456-457.
Refugees flee Arab-Israeli War
The state of Israel was declared 14 May 1948. Its mandate ended, Britain withdrew from Palestine and on 15 May the first Arab-Israeli war began.3
The conflict created a wave of Palestinian refugees pouring into Lebanon and other neighbouring states.1,2 Estimates of how many Palestinians are still living in refugee camps inside Lebanon range from 200,000 to 400,000 - up to ten per cent of Lebanon’s total population.
1Refugees flee Arab-Israeli War http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=73
2‘Palestinian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon: The Social Situations and Their Repercussions’ by Nick Smith, Centre for Strategic Studies, The University of Jordan
3The Arabs: a History, Eugene Rogan, New York: Basic books, 2009, p.262.
The Second Wave of immigration to Australia
During the period 1947 to 1976 some 43,000 Lebanese immigrants came to Australia.1 Most did so through family connections, or chain migration, and like the first wave the vast majority were Christian.2 Almost all had received at least a primary education and many were bilingual (Arabic and French).1 Like their predecessors, they were economic immigrants. With manufacturing industries thriving in Australia, they did not have a lot of difficulty finding work.
1Lebanese in Australia, Trevor Batrouney, http://www.racismnoway.com.au/teaching-resources/factsheets/55.html
2Australian Communities: Lebanese Australians, http://alhsv.org.au/resources_lebaneseinaus.html
Lebanon gains independence
22 NOVEMBER - During the Second World War, Lebanon gained independence, ending France’s mandate over the country.
A key element of this transition was the Lebanese National Pact, a verbal agreement between Christian and Muslim stakeholders regarding the character of an independent Lebanon. Essentially it was a political compromise to promote unity. The Christians (who were a marginal majority) agreed that they would not call upon France for protection and to accept that Lebanon should identify more with Arab states than Western Europe. The Muslims agreed to support the legitimacy of the state of Lebanon and stop demanding that it be ceded to Syria.
The 1932 census was used as grounds to give Christians a six-to-five majority of parliamentary seats over Muslims.
The Lebanese National Pact also established the custom of spreading important government posts across the religious groups. So the President should be a Maronite, the Prime Minister, a Sunni, and the House Speaker, a Shiite.
Library of Congress, Country Studies, Lebanon.
Australian forces liberate Beirut
12 JULY - As part of an Allied campaign to wrest Syria and Lebanon from the pro-German Vichy French, Australian troops marched on Beirut from Palestine. In June, the Allies took Damascus, and as the Australians neared Beirut the Vichy French commander in the city surrendered.2,3
The Allies liberated the city and the Australians set up a garrison there. In the so-called Syria-Lebanon campaign, 416 Australian soldiers were killed and 1,136 were wounded.
The first Australian casualty was a soldier of Lebanese descent: Bombardier Nicholas Koorey.1
1 Nicholas Koorey, 2nd A.I.F., Australian Lebanese Historical Society, http://www.alhs.org.au/koorey.htm
2 Australia commemorates seventieth anniversary of liberation of Beirut, Australian Embassy Lebanon, http://www.lebanon.embassy.gov.au/birt/ACSAOLOB_EN.html
3War History, Syrian Campaign, Australian War Memorial, http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_295.asp
Lebanese not Syrian
In Australia the replacement of the term Syrian by Lebanese occurred gradually. In 1938, the Consul-General of France informed the Minister of External Affairs that the Lebanese are do not want to ‘be called Syrians’ and from 1 January 1939, Lebanese and Syrian nationals were for the first time classified separately in official records.1
1Tremoulet, Consul General of France to William M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs, No. 202, 18 November 1938, A1/1, 38/32817, NAA (ACT). (Ronald Wilson, 30 December 1938 to Secretary Department of the Interior, A1/1, 38/32817).
Anthony Alexander Alam elected NSW Labor representative
Anthony Alexander Alam, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was elected as a Labor representative in the NSW Legislative Council, a position he held until 1958 and from 1963 to 1973.
1Mr Anthony Alexander ALAM (1896 - 1983),
Leniency for Lebanese under the Nationality Act
Lebanese were considered to be a special case when it came to the White Australian Policy - because they were Christian and looked European. 1,4
In 1920, when the racial disqualification in the Naturalization Act was removed by the Nationality Act, it was Lebanese rather than other non-Europeans who benefited. 2,3,4
1Lebanese Settlement in New South Wales (Migration Heritage Centre, July 2008) by Paul Convey and Dr Anne Monsour
2Commonwealth of Australia. Nationality Act. No. 48 of 1920.
3‘Protecting the Citizen Body: The Commonwealth’s Role in Shaping and Defending an “Australian” Population’, Tom Clarke and Brian Galligan, Australian Journal of Political Science, 30 (1995), pp. 452-468.
4Not Quite White: Lebanese and the White Australia Policy 1880 to 1947, Anne Monsour, Brisbane: Post Pressed, 2010, pp.53-60.
The creation of Greater Lebanon
At the end of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was broken up and despite the inhabitants’ desire for independence, the Arab lands were split between the British (Palestine and Mesopotamia) and the French (Lebanon and Syria).1 On the 26 April 1920 the San Remo conference granted France a mandate over Syria and Lebanon, and the creation of Greater Lebanon was announced on 1 September 1920.
The Maronites convinced the French to extend the Mount Lebanon borders to form the state of Greater Lebanon in 1920.2 The new areas encompassed by this rezoning - such as Beirut, Tripoli and the Beqaa Valley - were mainly Muslim (Sunni, Shiite, Druze and Alawi).2 These Muslims felt they belonged to Syria and wanted to keep it that way. Additionally substantial numbers of Orthodox Christians and Greek Catholics also opposed the French Mandate and favoured annexation to Syria.1
1A History of Modern Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, London: Pluto Press, 2007, pp. 75-87.
In the First World War, the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Britain and her allies. As a result, Lebanese in Australia became enemy aliens and were required to report to the police once and subsequently only to supply a change of address.1,2
In May 1916, when the definition of an enemy subject was extended to include naturalized residents as well as ‘any Australian natural-born subject whose father or grandfather was a subject of a country at war with the King’, all Lebanese residents in Australia were required to register.3 As it happened, some Lebanese had family members in the Australia Defence Force fighting in Europe.
1El Australie - A History of Lebanese Migration to Australia, ABC Radio National, Hindsight program, 3 February 2008
2Not Quite White: Lebanese and the White Australia Policy 1880 to 1947, Anne Monsour, Brisbane: Post Pressed, 2010, pp.79-82.
3Enemy Aliens: Internment and the Homefront Experience in Australia 1914-1920, Gerhard Fischer, St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1989, p. 75.
The Naturalization Act
13 OCTOBER - Section 5 of the Naturalization Act of 1903 explicitly prevented ‘all aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, or the Pacific Islands, except New Zealand’ from obtaining naturalization.1 So, from 1904 to 1920, Lebanese immigrants experienced total exclusion from citizenship based on their racial classification.2
1Naturalization Act, no. 11 of 1903, s. 5.
2Not Quite White: Lebanese and the White Australia Policy 1880 to 1947, Anne Monsour, Brisbane: Post Pressed, 2010, pp.51-55.
Immigration Restriction Act
23 DECEMBER - One of the first actions of the new Australian Federal Government was to introduce the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901.1 This was the cornerstone of the ‘White Australia’ Policy. The Act introduced a device to keep non-Europeans out: a dictation test that immigrants had to pass to be granted entry. Custom officials could give the test in any European language.
The Syrians were officially classified as Asian.2,3 And although they were leaving Lebanon in increasing numbers up to World War One, the dictation test was used to keep them out of Australia. However, they were eventually treated more leniently than other Asians because they had migrated in family groups, were Christian and in appearance were similar to southern Europeans.
1 1901 Immigration Restriction Act http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime/im...
2Asian Migration to Australia: The Background to Exclusion 1896-1923,Alexander T. Yarwood, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1967), pp. 141-150.
3‘Religion Matters: the Experience of Syrian/Lebanese Christians in Australia from the 1880s to 1947’, Anne Monsour, Humanities Research, vol. XII, no. 1, 2005, pp. 95-106.
Australia’s first Maronite church
By 1889 there were enough Maronite Catholics in Australia to justify a Maronite mission being established and two priests were sent to Sydney.2 Cardinal Moran attached them to the Latin rite churches of St. Vincent de Paul in Redfern and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Waterloo from where they attended to the spiritual requirements of the Maronites.2
By 1894, the move to establish a distinct Maronite Church began and a private house in Raglan Street, Waterloo, was used as a chapel.2
In January 1897, Australia’s first Maronite Catholic Church was completed, St Maroun's Maronite Catholic Church located in Elizabeth Street, Redfern, NSW.1
The First Wave of immigration to Australia
An increasing though still small number of Lebanese arrived in Australia in the 1800s to begin what is known as the First Wave of Lebanese immigration to Australia (1880-1920).3,4 Carrying Turkish papers, they were officially classified as Turks but were commonly referred to as Syrians.3 Most landed in Sydney and settled in New South Wales. In Sydney, the Lebanese settlement in the inner city suburbs of Redfern, Surry Hills and Waterloo became known as Little Syria.4
Several Lebanese merchants established warehouses in Redfern and they recruited newcomers as hawkers.1,2 Armed with cases packed with small items like undergarments, sewing kits and other wares, Syrian hawkers became a familiar sight in rural settlements throughout the Australian colonies.4
There were some Muslims among the early immigrants but most were Melkite, Maronite and Orthodox Christians.1 However, a small number of Druze, a faith that sprang from Shia Islam, settled in South Australia.3
2Redfern Municipal Council, Souvenir of Redfern Municipal Jubilee 1859-1909, Redfern : The Council, 1909.
3The Lebanese in Australia, 1880-1989, Trevor Batrouney in The Lebanese in the World, pp. 417-419.
4 Lebanese Settlement in New South Wales (Migration Heritage Centre, July 2008) by Paul Convey and Dr Anne Monsour, http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/mhc-reports/ThematicHistoryOfLebaneseNSW.pdf
Mount Lebanon gains autonomy
9 JUNE - The Turks signed a convention that made the predominantly Christian Mount Lebanon area an autonomous province (Mutasarrifiya) within the Ottoman Empire, guaranteed by the European powers (France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and later, Italy) and governed by a non-Lebanese Christian.1,2
While the civil war of 1860 is often cited as the reason for Lebanese emigration, it was ten to twenty years later that large scale emigration began.2,3 Under the Mutasarrifiya (1861-1915), Mount Lebanon enjoyed the ‘Long Peace’ (Akerli). However, a period of economic prosperity, due particularly to the expansion of the silk industry, was followed by an economic crisis which, combined with the scarcity of land and rapid population growth, resulted in a massive migration from Mount Lebanon.2,3,5
Facing bleak prospects at home, from the 1880s many migrants turned to the vibrant New World – North America in particular but also South America, Australia and New Zealand.3,4,5
1Lebanon 1860-1960: A Century of Myth and Politics, Claude Boueiz Kanaan, London: Saqi, 2005, p. 75.
2A History of Modern Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, London: Pluto Press, 2007, pp.41-47
3The Lebanese in the World: a Century of Emigration, Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi (eds), London: Centre for Lebanese Studies & I. B. Tauris & Co, 1992, pp. 4-5.
4Lebanese Settlement in New South Wales (Migration Heritage Centre, July 2008) by Paul Convey and Dr Anne Monsour
5Middle Eastern American Resources online, http://www.mearo.org/lesson2.php
Australia’s first Lebanese church
6 JANUARY - St Michael’s Melkite (Catholic) church, Wellington Street, Waterloo was opened by Cardinal Moran.1,2 After receiving permission to build a church, Father Sylvanus Mansour, who arrived in Sydney in 1891, travelled throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria to raise funds and building began in 1893.3
Fr. Mansour appointed the Very Rev. Archimandrite Archipos Zarzour (for a period of four years) and Father Nicholas Madawar (who returned to a more senior position in the Middle East in 1925) in order to assist him in the parish.
1Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 1895, p.6
2Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia & New Zealand, 2010, http://www.melkite.org.au/default_stmichael.aspx
3Mansour, Sylwanos (Sylvanous) (1854–1929, Chris Cunneen and H. L. N. Simmons, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mansour-sylwanos-sylvanous-7479/text13035, accessed 16 November 2013
The Syrian Hawker ‘Menace’
The 1890s in Australia was a decade of recession, strikes and drought. The union movement was openly racist in seeking to make jobs only available to whites: they were determined to keep ‘cheap’ non-European labour out. The increasing number of Lebanese hawkers attracted official and public attention in a negative light.2
While many rural townsfolk welcomed the sight of these door-to-door salesmen and women (it was not uncommon for female hawkers to travel alone), there were strident protests about the Syrian hawker “menace”.2
In 1896, Redfern magistrate S. M. Smithers refused to renew 100 of the 116 licences submitted by Syrian hawkers. He described them as “a curse to the country”.1
Despite such prejudice, Lebanese hawkers continued to operate and hawking was an enduring occupation, particularly for new arrivals.2 Many did well enough to establish their own shops and by the Second World War hundreds of rural towns across the country featured a Lebanese store of some kind.2 From such roots rose family businesses prominent in the clothing trade including Mansour, Bracks, Saba, Scarf and Gazal.2
1Barrier Miner (Broken Hill 1888-1954), Friday, 3 January 1896
2Lebanese Settlement in New South Wales (Migration Heritage Centre, July 2008) by Paul Convey and Dr Anne Monsour
The rule of the Ottoman Empire
Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (1516-1918), the territory of today’s Lebanon was part of the province of Syria.1
In response to violent conflict between Maronites and Druze in Mount Lebanon, the Ottomans (pressured by European powers, especially the French and British) introduced a new administrative system designed to separate these two dominant religious communities. Mount Lebanon was divided into a Maronite and a Druze administrative district governed by an official of their own religion who was answerable to the Ottoman appointed Amir. Because this division did not reflect the distribution of the population, it did not actually separate the two communities and the conflict for control of Mount Lebanon continued exploding into violent conflict in 1860. In response to the bloody conflict and the massacre of some 10,000 Maronite Christians by Druze, France led a European military intervention to stop the bloodshed and to protect and increase European interests in the area.2
1Lebanon 1860-1960: A Century of Myth and Politics, Claude Boueiz Kanaan, London: Saqi, 2005, pp. 69-75.
2A History of Modern Lebanon, Fawwaz Traboulsi, London: Pluto Press, 2007, pp. 24-25, p.37-38
Massoud El Nashbi promotes Australia
While some claim the first Lebanese came to Australia as early as the 1860s, such claims have not been verified; however, there is evidence Lebanese had definitely arrived by the early 1880s.1
The first Lebanese migrant is thought to be Massoud El-Nashbi whose experience enhanced Australia’s reputation as a destination for Lebanese immigrants.2 El-Nashbi apparently arrived in Adelaide by accident in 1880 (although one account dates his visit as early as 1864), but he proceeded to make good money selling Holy Land souvenirs. After he returned to Lebanon, reports of his success and of Australians being friendly and generous customers inspired others to follow.
1Lebanese Settlement in New South Wales (Migration Heritage Centre, July 2008) by Paul Convey and Dr Anne Monsour
2Kfarsghab Migration, Australian Kfarsghab Association http://www.kfarsghab.com.au/documents/the_first_exodus.html
The Heart of Punchbowl
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