Australian Lebanese Historical Society Inc.

PO Box 712 Coogee NSW 2034 - mail@alhs.org.au - Tel (02) 96657478

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History Week 2007 Lebanese Legacy

ALHS in conjunction with the Maronite Heritage Centre and St George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral at Redfern and the Lebanese Moslem Association at Lakemba welcomed the public to Lebanese Legacy, a project for History Week 2007.

Lebanese Legacy included a walk or drive around Redfern. Many buildings and sites from the early days remain or can be still identified so it was a good time to establish our heritage trail so it is not forgotten as progress redefines and gentrifies the area.

Alderson Street, for instance, housed many of the pioneer Lebanese settlers and included what is believed Sydney’s first Moslem Prayer hall but the street has been demolished. Other streets remain but their buildings were destroyed as part of post-World War 2 slum clearances, including homes and businesses of early Lebanese immigrants and the original St George Antiochian Orthodox Church. Only written records and some private photographs remain.

History Week was also a chance to introduce our diverse Lebanese culture and our Australian heritage to people who may not have had an opportunity to visit our historical precinct or important institutions before. We are certain members and friends enjoyed this unique experience to have a tour of Redfern and the Mosque at Lakemba. The Society has plans to conduct the Redfern again in the future - watch for details.

Great Buckingham Street, Redfern

Launch of Queensland Branch

Around 100 people gathered at Yungaba Hall at kangaroo Point in Brisbane on Satuday 21st April 2007 for the gala Launch of the Queensland Branch of the Society. Society President Freda Backes welcomed members and friends to the event and outlinned the progress the Society has made in recording the history of Lebanese settlement in Australia since it was formed and said she felt the formation of the Queensland Branch would be a new milestone for the Society.

Board Member and Queensland Convenor Dr. Anne Monsour presented a paper called The Stories Jiddi didn't tell : Lebanese Settlement in Australia a fascinating look at how Lebanese have become an integral part of Australian society in the face of official and unofficial sanctions.

Following a musical interlude by Phil Monsour and a lunch of traditional Lebanese food, Dr Youssef Taouk presented a paper Rashid Arida (1873-1944): a Philantropist and Partriot which dealt with the life and career this important figure from Queensland, Australian and Lebanese history.
Freda Backes Dr Anne Monsour


Annual General Meeting for 2005

The Annual General Meeting of the Society was held Wednesday 9th November 2005 at The Jubilee Room in Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney. The room is a magnificent example of Victorian heritage architecture proved to be a beautiful and interesting setting for our meeting.

At the formal business of the meeting, our colleague and Parliamentarian Barbara Perry, MLA said a few words and introduced our guest speaker Nelia Hyndman-Rizik. Nelia is undertaking doctorial studies on the Hadchiti community and she spoke about her research. Her fascinating talk raised new perspectives about Lebanese settlement in Australia.

Folling dinner at the Parliamentary Carvery, Barbara Perry took time out from her very busy Schedule (Parliament was sitting!) to show us around Parliament House, including the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assemby in session. She arranged for the Speaker to acknowledge the Society while we were in the Speakers gallery, and as a consequence we had the honour of our visit being recorded into Hansard.

AGM Parliament House 9 Nov. 2005
AGM Meeting at Parliament House, Sydney, Nov. 9 2005


History Week:
Braidwood, NSW : Saturday 24/25th September 2005

Braidwood and Beyond: Some aspects of Lebanese immigrant participation, South Eastern NSW, 1880s to 1930s

Around 80 people enjoyed a day in Braidwood celebrating the history early Lebanese settlement in that area. A morning seminar in the town's historic National Theatre included presentations from Christine Yeats from State Records NSW; Maggie Sahley from the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the ANU who presented regional snapshots of commerce and labour; and a profile of one immigrant family’s journey by Judy Atallah, George Manning and John Koorey. After a lunch of Lebanese food, a bus tour of historic Braidwood identifying sites of Lebanese interest was conduct, finishing with afternoon tea. The day included a photographic exhibition on the history of the pioneer Lebanese settlers in New South Wales and in the Braidwood area. Many locals took the opportunity to visit the theatre to view the exhibition.

In the evening a dinner for 65 people was held in Cafe Altenberg featuring Lebanese cuisine and authentic Middle Eastern folk dancing the the Tallaganda Dancers.

The Moses/Manning family also invited people to join them at Mass at Gundillion Church on Sunday 25th September at 10am. A Cedar of Lebanon tree was planted as a memorial to the Moses family who settled in the area followed by morning tea and bar-b-que lunch.(Gundillion is about 40 mins drive south of Braidwood).

Planting Lebanese Cedar at Gundillion
Members of the Moses Family plant a Cedar of Lebanon at Gundillion NSW 25th September 2005 in commemoration of Moses family who settled in the village and other Lebanese pioneer settlers..

Throuhout September 2005, an exhibtion was also on display in the windows of Wehby's shop in the town. The exhibition featured the history of Lebanese settlement in New South Wales and in Braidwood and also included a display of stock from an old fashioned Lebanese draper!.


Exhibition at Hornsby Shire Library

The Society mounted a small exhibition of photographs at Hornsby Shire Library from Monday 18th April to Friday 29th April 2005, covering Anzac Day. It dealt with Australian involvement in Lebanon during World War II abd the experiences of Australian troops stationed at Mar Antonius Monastery near Tripoli from 1941 to 1942. The exhibition was compiled in partnership with Ralph Hawkins, the archivist at the Society of Australian Genealogists, who has generously donated copies from his private collection that relate to his father's army service in Lebanon.

Heritage Week 2004 Event

Saturday 24th April 2004 (12noon to 2pm) - Canterbury City Library: As part of the celebrations for Heritage Week 2004, the Society in partnership with Canterbury City Library (Amy Street, Campsie) organised a display and talk relating to Lebanese migration and the Lebanese in the Canterbury area. The main speaker was the noted academic Dr Michael Humphrey who has written extensively on the history and sociology of Lebanese migration.

Around 70 members and friends and members from historical societies from the Canterbury area heard Dr Humphries interesting talk and later were able to get together over an afternoon of Lebanese savouries and sweets.

Cedars of Lebanon

One of the projects the Society is working on at the moment is locating examples of Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani) growing in Australia.

So far we have located trees in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, a number on the lawn of Old Parliament House in Canberra in 1938 as a gift from the Republic of Lebanon and a 1988 Bicentenary commemorative planting; and 11 remaining from a 1923 planting in Orange NSW as a Great War Memorial. We have also located a number of other individual trees.

If you have any information about these trees, or further examples, we would love to hear from you. We plan to publish the full details shortly.

ALHS stall at Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) Showcase- May 28-29th 2004

The Society was represented at the 2004 SAG Genealogical Showcase & Family History Fair, as it did at the 2003 and 2003 Showcases. This is the 9th Showcase but only the third that has featured multicultural representation. The Program included displays, stalls, lectures, information and help.

Our ALHS stall was located at Rumsey Hall 24 Kent Street Sydney and was staffed by Denise Debeck, Freda Backes and Paul Convy.

Many people visited the ALHS stall to discuss the activities of the Society and pick up tips on tracing their Lebanese ancestors.

Heritage Week 2003: ALHS Exhibition at Bankstown City Library

To celebrate Heritage Week 2003, the Society mounted an exhibition that explores the history of early Lebanese settlement in Australia. Featuring photographs, documents and memorabilia, it outlines the contributions the Lebanese have made to Australian society.

The exhibition was on display in the foyer of Bankstown City Library for the month of April 2003. Feedback indicates that it was well received and created a lot of interest in the Bankstown community.

ALHS Book Launch

Alan Ventress (noted historian, Associate Director of State Records NSW and former Mitchell Librarian) launched the Society's first publication at History House on Friday 15th November.

The book, Records Made Real: Lebanese Migration 1865 to 1945 - papers from a seminar on historical sources brings together the papers of six noted researchers that presented at the Records Made Real seminar in September 2001.

Over 100 members and guests of the Society heard Alan say that it was to the credit of the Society that in its short existence it had been able to achieve so much and that the production of such a good quality publication was an example of the progress it was making in developing the history of Lebanese settlement in Australia.

Members and guests were able to enjoy a function in association with the Launch sponsored by Judy and Wally Atallah of Allendale Wines. The sincere thanks of the Society go to Judy and Wally for their support.

Copies of the book are available from the Society for $23 including postage.

2002 Annual General Meeting

The third Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Society was held on Friday 15th November 2002 starting at 5.30pm at History House, 133 Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW. It was followed by a function where a book of the papers from the Records Made Real seminar from 14th September 2001 was launched.

The AGM considered:

  • Election of the Board of Directors. The members are: Freda Backes, Edmund Joseph, Alissar Chidiac, Paul Convy, Denise Debeck, Georgina Whitehouse, Mounira Saad and Claude Awad-Broomhead.
  • Presentation of Accounts 2001/2002.
  • Notice of motions.
  • The Program of the Society for 2003

See Secretary's Report. A copy of the previous year's Secretary's Report is also available.

Royal Australian Historical Society State History Conference at Wingham - November 2002

The Royal Australian Historical Society, to which this Society is affiliated, held its 2002 State History Conference from Saturday 2nd to Sunday 3rd November 2002 in this historic Manning Valley town of Wingham NSW.

The Conference, called Broadening the View: the other side of our histories, concentrated on the theme of the migrant experience in Australian history.

ALHS Board Member Mounira Saad was a keynote speaker on Saturday 2nd November. Her talk focused the history of Lebanese experience in Australia and the Manning Valley and her experience as settler from Lebanon. There was also display material relating to the Lebanese settlers of the Manning Valley.

The President and Secretary also represented the Society at the Conference. Members of other historical societies commented favourably on the ALHS participation in the Conference which provided a great opportunity to highlight the history of the Lebanese in NSW to a new audience.

August Luncheon at Brighton

Around 100 members and friends gathered at Ravel's Restaurant at Brighton on Sunday 9th August to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of incorporation.

The Society's guests included the Consul for Lebanon Mr Nicholas Elias, Archpriest Father Nicholas Mansour and Khourie Mrs Mansour, and the Mayor Rockdale, Cr. Shaquat Moselman (in whose area Brighton falls).

The function was judged a great success and those who attended commented on how much they enjoyed the afternoon.

ALHS represented at S.A.G. Showcase

The Society was represented at the Society of Australian Genealogists' (SAG) annual Showcase which was held on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of May 2002 at SAG's premises in Kent Street, Sydney. A number of the Society's members staffed the ALHS stall and offered advice to those with Lebanese ancestors who are undertaking family history research.

Some thousands of people visit the Showcase when it is held each year, and the event also provided the Society with the opportunity to make contact with other like-minded societies, and to promote its activities to the members of the public who visited the Showcase.

Heritage Week - Afternoon Tea 14th April 2002

To celebrate Heritage Week 2002 and in partnership with the South Sydney Heritage Society, the ALHS held an afternoon tea at Redfern Town Hall on 14th April 2002.

Around 100 from both Societies heard Nola Bramble give a talk on the important part Redfern played in the development of the Lebanese community in New South Wales. Those attending were also able to view an exhibition of photographs and documents relating to the early Lebanese settlers in Redfern, while enjoying an afternoon tea of Lebanese sweets.

Afternoon Tea at Redfern Town Hall, April 2002

The event was judged a great success and the venue, which has many associations with the Lebanese pioneers of Redfern, proved to be an excellent setting.

ALHS SEMINAR: SEPTEMBER 14 2001

Our Society hosted a one-day seminar at the Sydney Records Centre (formerly Archives Office) at the Rocks on 14 September 2001. It highlighted the history of settlement of the Lebanese in Australia and how this history can be discovered using various types of records. The day proved to be a great success and has added to our history.

Around 80 peope attended. They included Society members, as well as others from the community. We were especially happy to welcome representatives from other historical societies and collection managers from a number of libraries and museums.

The seminar was conducted in partnership with the State Records NSW and was designed to be part of the celebrations for History Week and Carnival 2001.

The Society also mounted an exhibition using photographs, documents and memorabilia dealing with the history of the Lebanese in Australia in the main foyer of the Records Centre and was on display for a month. A major theme of the exhibition is the way in which Lebanese migration helped to settle and develop regional areas and their local economies. Feedback indicated that many members, people from the Lebanese Community and the general public viewed the exhibition, were impressed and came away with a greater understanding of the history of Lebanese settlement in NSW.

The Program for the Day was:
  • Opening by Director of State Records and President of the ALHS
  • Dr Trevor Batrouney - Overview of the History of Lebanese Settlement in Australia, and the state of research into the history of Lebanese settlement in Australia.
  • Christine Yeats - (Manager, Public Access State Records NSW) - Using State Records for research on the history of the Lebanese in NSW
  • Fiona Burn - (Deputy Directory, National Archives of Australia) - Using Commonwealth Records for research into the history of the Lebanese in Australia
  • Nola Bramble - Country Links: Rural NSW Case Studies of the use of a wide range of sources for locating information on the History of the Lebanese in Australia
  • Anne Monsour - Discusses academic research with particular reference to her Doctorate study of the role of Lebanese women in Queensland
  • John Koorey - Value and pitfalls of developing an oral history program for a small organization.
  • Lunch was sponsored by Mr George Khouzame of Lebanese Catering

Wanted - Photographs, Documents and Memorabilia

We are keen to locate photographs, documents and other items associated with Lebanese settlement, work and businesses in Australia. For instance, a photograph of the interior of a country shop, or the owner of a Lebanese family business: photographs of the proprietor and family, a business letterhead, advertisement, calendar, a photograph of get-togethers in country locations are a very interesting.

The Society has been collecting material for inclusion in its exhibitions and is interested in items of general historical interest that demonstrate the history of the settlement of the Lebanese in Australia. Some items have been donated to the Society and are destined for inclusion in a Lebanese archive in a public institution. Other items have been loaned to the Society for copying. It has collected around 350 images which are stored on CD-ROMs.

Items that connect the old country with the settlement of Lebanese pioneers in this country are extremely interesting. For example, one member loaned her late paternal grandfather's narghile (water pipe) along with a photograph of him smoking it out in the Australian bush. Another, a bolt of silk woven by her great-grandmother from her own silkworms for her dowry long before she ever thought of migrating to Australia.

Afternoon Tea - June 2001

An afternoon discussion and assessment meeting was be held on Saturday 2 June 2001 at the Bowen Library, Maroubra to allow members and their friends bring along items to be considered for the September exhibition at the Sydney Records Centre.

Many members very generously donated historical items to the Society or allowed images to be copied into the collection. The Society gained a substantial amount of very interesting material.

Those present also hear from two guest speakers;

  • John Procopiadis, a member of the Greek Community outlined his research about the early history of the Greek Orthodox Community in Sydney and the way in which Lebanese of the Orthodox faith co-operated in the early days to establish the Orthodox Church in Sydney.
  • Nola Bramble, Society Member, spoke of some of her extensive research into the Lebanese pioneers of New South Wales and highlighted early days of "Little Lebanon" in Redfern.

And of course members and their friends were able to have a great afternoon tea, and to enjoy swapping stories and memories.

Second Annual General Meeting - November 2001

The Annual General Meeting for 2001 was held on 21st November at the Bowen Library, Anzac Parade Maroubra, from 6.30pm.

The meeting heard reports from office bearers and considered proposals for a program of activites for the forthcoming year. See Secretary's Report. It also elected the new Board of Directors. The members are: Freda Backes, Edmund Joseph, Allissar Chidiac, Paul Convy, Denise Debeck, Georgina Whitehouse and Mounira Saad.

First Annual General Meeting - November 2000

The first Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on Wednesday 30th November 2000 and was attended by many members. The meeting considered proposals for a program of activities for the forthcoming year for the Society and elected the first Board of Directors. The Board Members are: Freda Backes (President), Alyssa Chidiac, Paul Convy (Secretary) Edmund Joseph, John Koorey (Vice President), Lillian Melick, Margaret Poole, and Peter Shehadie (Treasurer). See Interim Convernor's Report for an outline of the acitivies of the Society over the last year.

Australian Lebanese Historical Society Incorporated

The Australian Lebanese Historical Society is now incorporated, effective 2nd June 2000, under the New South Wales Associations' Incorporation Act 1984. The Society can now operate as a legal entity and therefore able to develop organisationally. With the holding of the first Annunal General Meeting in November 2000, the Society will have its first elected Board of Directors.

Inauguration Function - November 1999

An enthusiastic crowd of around 180 celebrated the establishment of the Society at a gathering in the Dixson Room of the State Library of New South Wales on November 30, 1999. This historic room, part of the original building of the Mitchell Library with its portraits and fine bookcase donated by the benefactor, Sir William Dixson, was a most fitting venue for what everyone felt was an historic occasion.

Dr. Glen Coorey acted as Master of Ceremonies. Sir Nicholas Shehadie opened the Official Proceedings by reminding his audience that Lebanese Australians had experienced over 130 years of integration and achievement in Australia, during which time they had made significant contributions in many walks of life. He strongly supported the establishment of the Society and in particular of an Archive at the Library which would provide a focus for an historic record of Lebanese Settlement in Australia and of its culture. Our history is part of Australia's history and should be a visible part of it.

The guests were welcomed by Mr Alan Ventress, Librarian of the Mitchell Library who emphasised the Library's special role in documenting the lives of all the people of New South Wales. In the past decade, the Library had become conscious of the need to encourage ethnic communities to preserve the historical record of their arrival and life in Australia, an increasingly valid form of Australian history. Projects to establish Archives were in train with the Italian (already established), Greek, Chinese and Ukrainian Communities.

Mr Jim Andrighetti, Manuscript Librarian at the Mitchell Library and the person most involved with the establishment and cataloguing of the Italian Collection, drew attention to the virtual invisibility of the Lebanese Community in New South Wales and especially, of its 130 years of history. He stressed the need, not just to establish a historical record of the past, but to raise the profile of the Community and its current contributions to Australian society. "Celebrate your prominent sports people, writers, artists, financial, business and political luminaries", he urged, "and make sure they are identified to the wider community as Lebanese Australians." His talk was full of invaluable advice for us as a Society which, if followed, could do much to revise current stereotypes of the 'Lebanese'.

On behalf of the Organising Committee, Dr Helen Bashir spoke of the overwhelming interest and support the group had received since the idea of the Society was first raised. The desire to establish an Archive at the Library and a Historical Society of wider interest was a reaction to the realisation that as the older members passed away, so too did the wonderful stories, the history and the experiences of the early years of our settlement in Australia. Important documents, diaries, photographs and business materials were lost and discarded and, with them, the chance to establish a coherent story or record of history. Not only was there a need to establish a formal repository for such materials, but as well it seemed important that members of the Community be reminded of the treasures in their possession both in a material sense and in the memories and experiences of themselves and their older relatives.

"By now, many of us have become Seniors and much to our surprise, we have become the custodians and this has become OUR responsibility."

The excitement, support and commitment of everyone we have approached, identifies a great love and respect for our forebears and a great sense of pride in their achievements. We can best honour their memory and contribution by ensuring them a proper place in the history of our country.

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