June 25, 2018 - 14:47 AMT
Australia takes major step towards Armenian Genocide recognition

Australia’s House of Representatives has debated, for the first time, a Motion recognising the Armenian Genocide through the prism of Australia’s first major international humanitarian relief effort, and has called for a vote to change the government’s foreign policy, reports the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

The debated Motion recognises, among other things, “the extraordinary humanitarian efforts of the then newly formed Commonwealth of Australia for the orphans and other survivors of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire including Greeks and Assyrians”.

It was moved on Monday, June 25 in the Australian Parliament’s Federation Chamber by Trent Zimmerman (Liberal MP for North Sydney) and seconded by Joel Fitzgibbon (Labor MP for Hunter) and John Alexander (Liberal MP for Bennelong). Chris Bowen (Labor MP for MacMahon), Stuart Robert (Liberal MP for Fadden) and Anne Aly (Labor MP for Cowan) also spoke favourably on Australia’s helping hand for the victims of Ottoman Turkey’s crime against humanity.

This comprehensive, bipartisan support indicates that the House of Representatives has taken a major step towards Australia recognising its first major international humanitarian relief effort was to aid survivors of the Genocide that decimated the Christian Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire.

Significantly, the Motion accurately reflects and accepts as a historical fact the Armenian Genocide was a “genocide”, moving Australia closer to international norms of recognising the systematic murder of over 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915.

ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian said: “This Motion recognises that Australia's first major international humanitarian relief effort was to help the survivors, especially the orphan survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and today’s bipartisan debate paves the way for an eventual vote to formalise this recognition by the nation’s Parliament.”

Kayserian said that Armenian-Australians faced “some obstacles and a considerable road ahead” to achieve full recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Australia, however “that journey is that little bit shorter after this debate broke many taboos”.

“All speeches recognised Australia’s relief efforts during the Armenian Genocide, as that was the focus of this motion, however we must seek more to honour the memory of the survivors of the Genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians,” Kayserian said. “We need more of our political leaders, to follow the lead of some of the honourable members during today’s debate, and Australia to properly recognise the Armenian Genocide.”

“When debates such as today’s and when these calls for recognition evolve into a binding vote on a Motion, such as the one debated today, by one of the Houses of Parliament, we would have ensured an important shift in Australian foreign policy from one that appeases a foreign dictatorship to one that sides with truth and justice on the issue.”

Zimmerman, who is the Co-Chair of the Armenia-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Union (Friendship Group/Caucus), was unequivocal in his call for the importance of Armenian Genocide recognition during his speech.