CANBERRA: Senator The Hon. Kristina Keneally rose in the Federal Parliament’s Upper House on 4th December 2018, adding her voice in support of a motion debated in the House of Representatives last June, acknowledging Australia’s first major international humanitarian relief effort. The Senator from New South Wales also called for Australia to recognise the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) reported that Keneally became the seventh speaker in just two days to speak on the Armenian Genocide in Australia’s Parliament, after a debate on the 70th Anniversary of the UN Genocide Convention took place on 3rd December 2018.

“We thank Senator Keneally for her principled and public stance, calling on Australia’s Parliament to recognise the Armenian Genocide,” commented ANC-AU Executive Director, Haig Kayserian. “The Senator has been a steadfast supporter of issues raised by Armenian-Australians since before her election into Federal Parliament and has continued her advocacy since her election.”

“In May 2018, Senator Keneally grilled former SBS CEO Michael Ebeid in Senate Estimates on the public broadcaster’s position on the Armenian Genocide, and has followed that effort up with this exemplary speech.”

Keneally, who is a former Premier of NSW and an outspoken Catholic, told the Senate that “the Armenian Relief Fund raised the modern-day equivalent of $1.5 million and sent supplies” to the

Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians suffering under Ottoman rule.
“All told, it’s estimated that 1.5 million people perished during this period,” Keneally said. “Their stories echoed so strongly here at home because many of our brave Anzacs bore witness to it. Our soldiers were brought into direct contact with the extraordinary suffering of the Armenian people while serving our country in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I.”

She added: “Their accounts inspired the thousands of stories that were published in Australian newspapers at the time detailing the systemic attempt to eliminate the Armenian people and their culture. These newspapers reported ‘atrocities’, ‘massacres’ and ‘decimation’ but never used the term ‘genocide’, simply because we hadn’t yet invented a word that could fully encapsulate the myriad cruelties that were inflicted on the Armenian people.”

Keneally mentioned her inspiration at the words mentioned by Pope Francis, when he recognised the Armenian Genocide.

She said: “As a Catholic, I was stirred by the words of Pope Francis in 2015 when he called on the entire human family to heed the warnings of this tragedy to ‘protect us from falling into a similar horror’. Pope Francis called the genocide: … the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims … And warned that: Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

Keneally added: “As a former member of the New South Wales parliament, and indeed Premier of the great state of New South Wales, I am proud that a motion was passed in 1997 that acknowledged the Armenian genocide and honoured its victims. Today, that historic action is still commemorated with a memorial on the ninth floor of the New South Wales parliament building.”

Keneally, who was a Candidate for the Federal seat of Bennelong at the December 2017 by-election when she pledged to advocate for Armenian Genocide recognition, fulfilled that promise with her final words.

“If we are to stop the bleeding, we must denounce crimes against humanity whenever and wherever they occur,” she said. “I join my colleagues who have spoken in this house and in the other, both past and present, in calling on the federal parliament to acknowledge our first humanitarian effort as a country and to recognise the Armenian Genocide.”