16 Prominent Australians Join Friends of Artsakh to Take Network to Over 70 Members

CANBERRA: Federal Senators Andrew Bragg and Janet Rice lead a group of 16 prominent additions to the ever-growing cohort of the Australian Friends of Artsakh, helping mark the two-year anniversary of the network established to support the right to self-determination of the Armenian Republic of Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia.

The Australian Friends of Artsakh was launched in August 2019, when the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) and Mr. Kaylar Michaelian – the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh in Australia – hosted a delegation from the Republic of Artsakh led by then-Foreign Minister, His Excellency Masis Mayilian and the Hon. Davit Ishkhanyan MP.

The network established under the #MOVINGMOUNTAINS catchphrase has grown from 40 inaugural signatories to now number over 70 prominent Australians who have all lended their names in support for the basic human rights and principles of self-determination of the indigenous Armenian population of the Republic of Artsakh, which is currently under majority occupation by the petro-dictatorship of Azerbaijan.

The latest additions to the group include Federal Senators Andrew Bragg and Janet Rice, New South Wales Parliamentarians Damien Tudehope MLC, Janelle Saffin MP, James Griffin MP, Mark Coure MP and Anna Watson MP, as well as South Australian legislators Joe Szakacs MP, Sam Duluk MP, Zoe Bettison MP, Andrea Michaels MP, Irene Pnevmatikos MLC and Tammy Franks MLC – the South Australian additions follow the Parliament of South Australia recognising the right to self-determination of the Republic of Artsakh during Azerbaijan’s latest invasion of the indigenous Armenian homeland in 2020.

In addition, recent signatories include former New South Wales Opposition Leader, John Dowd QC, City of Ryde Councillor Peter Kim and prominent former broadcast journalist, John Mangos.

ANC-AU Executive Director Haig Kayserian welcomed the new additions to the group as a signal that the Armenian-Australian community will never give up the rights of the heroic people of the Republic of Artsakh.

“Following their egregious attacks on the Republic of Artsakh last year, Azerbaijan has only occupied 70 per cent of historical Armenian lands, but has also broken international laws to desecrate Armenian cultural and religions sites while illegally detaining over 150 Armenian prisoners of war to use as political bargaining chips,” said Kayserian.

“These actions, as well as dictator Ilham Aliyev’s open and hostile Armenophobic attitudes to the Armenian people makes it an even greater priority for the Armenian-Australian community to build allies for the Republic of Artsakh,” Kayserian added.

“These new additions exemplify the Australian spirit and history when it comes to upholding human rights and justice and that Australia, like in the cases of Kosovo and East Timor, will not tolerate the endangerment of indigenous peoples seeking self-determination.”

Senators Bragg and Rice join a steadily growing number of Federal parliamentarians who have declared their support, including Australia’s Communications Minister Paul Fletcher MP, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar MP, Shadow Home Affairs Minister Senator Kristina Keneally and former Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon MP.

Fitzgibbon is the co-convenor of the Armenia-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Union along with the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Aged Care & Sport Trent Zimmerman MP, who is also part of the Australian Friends of Artsakh, along with fellow Chairs of Federal parliamentary committees including John Alexander MP, Senator Eric Abetz, Julian Leeser MP, Jason Falinski MP and Tim Wilson MP, who is the only current Member of Australia’s Federal Parliament with Armenian heritage.

Additionally, Federal parliamentarian Josh Burns MP is also a Friend of Artsakh, as is former Leader of The Australian Greens, Richard Di Natale.

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope MP, Janelle Saffin MP, James Griffin MP, Mark Coure MP and Anna Watson MP join Gladys Berejiklian MP – the Premier of Australia’s largest state of New South Wales – on the list of New South Wales State parliamentarians among the Australian Friends of Artsakh, which also includes Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello MP, Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly Jonathan O’Dea MP and his fellow convenor of the NSW Armenia-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, Shadow Roads Minister Walt Secord MLC, as well as Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies MP and Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans Natalie Ward MLC.

Hugh McDermott MP – who is one of several on the network to visit the Republic of Artsakh and earn a spot on Azerbaijan’s persona-non-grata blacklist – and Rev. Fred Nile MLC are also among the NSW parliamentarians in the group, along with their former colleagues, including  former President of the Legislative Council John Ajaka, Marie Ficarra and Amanda Fazio – and now the recent addition of John Dowd QC.

More recently, South Australia’s recognition of the Republic of Artsakh has led to several exciting additions from the State’s parliament including Joe Szakacs MP, Sam Duluk MP, Zoe Bettison MP, Andrea Michaels MP, Irene Pnevmatikos MLC and Tammy Franks MLC.

Peter Kim will join his fellow Local Government representatives including Mayor Jerome Laxale, Councillors Sarkis Yedelian, Jordan Lane and Trenton Brown – from the City of Ryde, Deputy Mayor Paul Adam Azzo, Councillor Adrian Wong – from the City of Fairfield, Councillors Hugh Eriksson, Wendy Norton, Brendan Zhu, Angelo Rozos, Stuart Coppock and Lynne Saville – from the City of Willoughby and Councillors Vicent De Luca and David Walton – from the Northern Beaches Council.

John Mangos and Jon Dee now make up the two media personalities in the network, both being outspoken advocates for Artsakh.

The group also features religious leaders and academics, along with former politicians, including Australia’s former treasurer and the first Federal parliamentarian of Armenian origin, Joe Hockey.

“On behalf of the citizens of the Republic of Artsakh, I would like to welcome the new members of the Australian Friends of Artsakh Network. I would also like to thank each and every member of the group for their outstanding efforts in ensuring Australia’s values such as integrity, justice, human rights and the principles of the right to self-determination are upheld,” said Kaylar Michaelian – the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh in Australia.