One thousand Armenian-Australians and guests present at the 108th Anniversary National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide were left disappointed after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made major retreats in Canberra’s position on the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).
Whilst it was announced that both Mr Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton failed to utilise the word genocide in their commemorative statements released on 24 April 2023, Mr Dutton maintained his party’s consistency by describing the events that occurred in 1915, including the brutal barbarity of the deportations and murders of 1.5 million Armenians. Mr Albanese walked back his 2022 statement, which deliverd similar descriptions of 1915.
ANC-AU Executive Director Michael Kolokossian, who delivered the community’s Advocacy Address, criticised both major party leaders for failing to use the “word that was coined to describe what happened to the Armenians”, he voiced his community’s core frustration at the Prime Minister’s failure to deliver consistency with his own statement as Opposition Leader only one year ago.
In 2022, as Opposition Leader, Mr Albanese’s statement read, “We cannot forget the 107 years of suffering of the Armenian people – resulting from the deportation, massacre and death… We continue to encourage the Turkish Government to come to terms with the historical facts about the events of 1915.”
Yet, his statement for 2023 failed to even touch upon any description of the events that transpired between 1915-1923. This also walks back the last statement from a Prime Minister, when Scott Morrison went into great detail, with many believing use of the word genocide was forthcoming as a final step towards Australia’s recognition of the Ottoman Empire’s systematic attempt to wipe out he Armenian race.
In contrast to both Mr Albanese and Mr Dutton, an unprecedented 27 Australian parliamentarians sent messages of support to the Armenian National Committee of Australia, accurately reflecting on the solemn anniversary for the Armenian-Australian community, with most calling on Canberra to stand with its allies and recognise the 1915 Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides for what they were: genocide.
For the first time, statements were received from parliamentarians from six jurisdictions across the country, including the Federal Parliament, and the parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
Statements of support and calls for recognition were received from several Federal Australian parliamentarians, including:
- Jerome Laxale MP – Chair of the Australia-Armenia Inter-Parliamentary Union and Member for Bennelong;
- Josh Burns MP – Member for Macnamara; Mike Freelander MP – Member for Macarthur;
- Paul Fletcher MP – Vice-Chair of the Australia-Armenia Inter-Parliamentary Union and Member for Bradfield;
- Senator Jordon Steele-John MP – Senator for Western Australia and Australian Greens Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs;
- Julian Leeser MP – Member for Berowra;
- Senator Andrew Bragg – Senator for New South Wales;
- Kylea Tink MP – Member for North Sydney;
- Allegra Spender MP – Member for Wentworth;
- Senator David Shoebridge – Senator for NSW; and
- Andrew Wilkie MP – Member for Clark.
Elected representatives from states and territory jurisdictions also provided messages of support, including:
- Chris Minns MP – Premier of New South Wales and NSW Member for Kogarah;
- Steve Kamper MP – Minister for Small Business, Lands and Property, Multiculturalism and Sport and NSW Member for Rockdale;
- Hugh McDermott MP – Member for Prospect;
- Mark Coure MP – NSW Member for Oatley;
- Jordan Lane MP – NSW Member for Ryde;
- Matt Cross MP – NSW Member for Davidson;
- Tim James MP – NSW Member for Willoughby;
- Michael Pettersson MLA – ACT Member for Yerrabi;
- Peter Cain MLA – Shadow Multicultural Minister and ACT Member for Ginninderra;
- Samantha Ratnam MP – Victorian Leader for the Greens and Victorian Member for the North Metropolitan Region;
- Kat Theophanous MP – Victorian Member for Northcote;
- Michael Galea MP – Victorian Member for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region;
- Ann-Marie Hermans MP – Victorian Member for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region;
- Chris Crethwer MP – Victorian Member for Mornington;
- Cassy O’Connor MP – Tasmania Leader of the Greens and Member for Clark; and
- Lara Alexander MP – Tasmanian Member for Bass.
ANC-AU Executive Director Michael Kolokossian said; “The will of elected representatives across Australia is clear – full, unequivocal and accurate recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It is time our country’s leaders take notice and action based on those representing the Australian people that elect them, rather than a foreign dictatorship exporting their oppression by attempting to shape our country’s foreign policy.”
“It is disappointing that Australia stands opposite 34 of some of its closest allies, bowing to Turkish threats as the country’s leaders fail to mention the word that was literally created to describe and criminalise the massacres of 1915, Genocide.”
“After four years of progress, defined by graduating euphemisms carefully crafted by speech writers and signed by Prime Ministers, as well as this Government’s commitment to deliver Indigenous Australians their stolen voices, there was serious hope Prime Minister Anthony Albanese would take that final step forward. Instead he’s opted for a slick moonwalk, which we will vociferously reject and demand correction,” Kolokossian added.
The keynote speaker at the National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide was Dr Umit Kurt, a Turkey-born Middle East lecturer currently based at the University of Newcastle. He detailed the Ottoman Government’s forced and illegal confiscation of Armenian-owned properties following the deportations of 1915, erasing any doubt of the coordinated nature of the Armenian Genocide.