For us, Australia is a place to call home. After fleeing the Lebanese civil war in the 80s and 90s – hundreds of thousands of Lebanese migrated to Australia. Most with just a few dollars in their pockets, not a word of English and just the clothes on their back.
Nonetheless, years later, Lebanese Australians have given back to society in multiple ways. Wherever we go in the world, we are leaders in commerce and industry – they say it’s because of our ancestors.
Since calling Australia home, Lebanese migrants have actively contributed to everything from business to education and hospitality – taking risks and opening up cafes, businesses and education colleges across the country.
And for 25 consecutive years, the United Australian Lebanese Movement (UALM) has made it out duty to recognize a handful of those hard working Lebanese as part of our Australia Day celebrations.
The successful event was hosted by Mrs Jasmen Dib and was well attended by representatives from various political parties as well as individuals representing local councils and a vast array of Australian Lebanese social, political and religious associations.
The ceremony was opened by Clr Lisa Lake, Mayor of Cumberland City. Then UALM-NSW coordinator Mr Charbel dib welcomed the guests and stressed on the importance and the value of this yearly event as part of our UALM beliefs and constitution. Followed Ms Julia Finn MP for Granville and Shadow Minister for Sports and Youth, representing the opposition leader of NSW, the Hon. Chris Minns, highlighted the input of the Lebanese migrants into the community since their arrival to Australia and the contribution of all the previous successful award recipients over the last 25 years.
Our Secretary Mr Michel Nakhoul then presented the Australia Day pin to our Australia Day Ambassador for this year Ms Jo Taranto who gave an inspirational speech that left all guests astonished by her words and experience of celebrating Australia day or being good Australian through our little acts of good and care.
This year, there were two outstanding individuals who needed to be noted for their excellent work, and that includes:
Associate Professor Charbel Sandroussi for his contribution to the field of Medicine and Health Care over the past 24 years, holding numerous posts and leadership roles at multiple hospitals and Universities. Dr Sandroussi is one of the highest volume cancer surgeons in NSW, undertaking many pancreatic, liver and esophagogastric resections each year.
Mrs Paula Nicolas founder and president of St Merkorious Charity which now supports approximately 500 families all over Sydney from Blacktown to Penrith, Mount Druitt, Macquarie Fields, Liverpool, Waterloo, Redfern, and Sydney city. The total number of meals on average per month, including hampers converted to meals, plus cooked meals, is 13,200. Today, Paula and her team feed over 3,500 people every week, while offering external services including social & creative activities, plus clothing, showers, haircuts, and supermarket vouchers.
Both recipients are the perfect example of how Lebanese leave their mark on society. And for 25 years, this event has not only raised awareness of Lebanon but also given people a golden opportunity to show who we really are, our rich culture and values.
To Conclude the ceremony, similarly to the last 25 years, the UALM chose to donate a symbolic amount of money as a gesture of gratitude to NSW-SES received by the Deputy Unit Commander Graham Tomkinson, from NSW-SES Bankstown Unit.
Australia provides us with stability, safe home and the right to dream. Since the UALM event started 25 years ago, more than 120 nominees have received these recognisable awards, proud to stand tall, represent their home country and where they live. They are a handful of the Lebanese immigrants who have revealed a strong desire to be identified with Australia.
Happy Australia Day!