The history of AGBU in Australia, and of Alex Manoogian Saturday School, trace their roots back to the historic day in 1906, when the visionary Boghos Nubar Pasha and others stablished what was to become a global Armenian philanthropic organisation.
The AGBU became a source of comfort and strength for the generation orphaned by the 1915 Genocide, equipping survivors with a sense of purpose and a motivation to rebuild their lives. Through its service to our nation, the AGBU bore witness to the old axion that ‘unity is strength’.
In over a century of fulfilling its mission, the AGBU has become the largest Armenian philanthropic organisation, supporting, serving standing with and dedicating itself to the needs of the Armenian nation through wide range of activities.
The AGBU has tried to keep in step with the needs of the times, and has been flexible in adjusting to changes in the political and economic landscape. And so, in 1924, the AGBU Headquarters moved from Cairo to Geneva and from there to Paris, eventually finding its resting place in New York City, USA.
Through its many chapters in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora, the AGBU continues to fulfil its educational, cultural, scientific and sports mission.
Often, the decline of one diasporan community heralds the birth of a new one. Over the past 100 years, the fate of the Armenian people has (interruptions notwithstanding, especially in the Middle East) followed the same pattern of community-formation inherited from the Ottoman Empire in 1915. As Armenians started emigrating from the Middle Eastern to faraway Sydney, they brought with them the familiar trilogy of community structures: church, school and community centre.
Armenian migration to Australia began in the 1850s, in particular with the arrival of businessman from India and the Far East. The next phase of settlement came with the survivors and orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, who gave birth to the Diaspora as we know it. Finally, following World War Two, and in particular beginning in the 1960s, large number of Armenians chose Australia as their new destination, forming the Australian-Armenian community as we know it.
In the midst of the struggles facing Armenians in different parts of the world, 1963 was a year of celebration for the AGBU family as its Sydney Chapter commenced its work. The Chapter had been inaugurated in 1962 under the auspices of His Eminence, Bishop Assoghig Ghazarian, and with the active support and efforts of Rev. Father Aramais Mirzaian.
The AGBU Sydney Chapter’s first committee was as follows:
Honorary President: His Eminence, Bishop Assoghig Ghazarian
Honorary Vice President: Rev. Father Aramais Mirzaian
Chairman: Mack Hagopian
Secretary : Vahan Hannesian
Treasurer: Armen Apcar
Advisor: Edgar A. Edgar and Nahabed M. Nahabed.
There is something very human about being benevolent. Everything from a simple act of kindness to large-scale philanthropic endeavors can inspire something common in all of us: the very human need to connect. This was a topic of discussion at our latest AGBU Youth meeting earlier this year. Sitting at the same table we sit around each month for our regular meetings, we found ourselves sharing stories about how happy it makes us that AGBU provides the space and structure for people to meet and to socialise. The key, we concluded, was having a kind and open approach that is welcoming to anyone who wants to learn about Armenian culture, hang out with Armenian people, or help support the Armenian community. After this discussion, as a committee, we decided that whenever AGBU Youth feels lost or without direction this year, we are going to let the ‘B’ in AGBU guide us through. Service to the community A history of war and destabilizing hardship is a staple of Armenian identity. This hardship, which is still deeply felt by many, has inspired the need to support one another in times of challenge or strife. This may explain why charitable hearts and philanthropic minds abound in the global Armenian diaspora. Acts of charity and kindness are also ingrained in the AGBU history and culture. Benevolence plays an important part in AGBU’s foundation and development over time, from the orphanages of its early history to the vast network of schools that it now operates across the world and the multiple humanitarian campaigns designed to assist victims of violent conflicts. The global AGBU community has supported many individuals and groups in their pursuit to freely practice education, dance, sport and religion over its 110 year history. There appears no end in sight to AGBU’s consistent goal to connect small communities to wider, global, supportive networks. The accumulation of this long history of helping (Armenian) people flourishes both inside and outside of the diaspora. Helping people to feel a sense of belonging has set in motion a domino effect that encourages each new generation to continue this legacy of benevolence. Our goals of benevolence When reaching for benevolent goals, the best place to start is at home. For us, that means ensuring that our day to day activities continue to provide a platform to give young Armenians and young people in general a place to come together, belong, develop and enjoy themselves. This also means providing an opportunity for our members to contribute to the direction of AGBU Youth and encouraging them to reciprocate through service to the community. We will also strive to support the broader Sydney-Armenian community. We will continue to work with other community organisations and expand our social links with them. It is however also important to think beyond ourselves if we are going to be true to the spirit of benevolence that is such an important part of our history. There are always people outside our own communities who rely on the kindness of others. In this spirit we will also spend the year supporting local organisations who make a difference in the lives of the marginalised and disadvantaged youth of Sydney. We are excited to start our year of benevolence, and we invite you to come along for the...read more
Recently there has been a movement amongst the Armenian youth in the Australian diaspora to form Armenian societies across several University campuses in Sydney. It all started when a group of young adults came together at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and realized that there is a need to unify the young Armenians present on campus. Their action was followed by students at Macquarie University and The University of Sydney. Although there has previously been Armenian societies on some of these campuses they were unfortunately lost after the graduation of their founding members. This new generation however is willing to put all the effort required to establish and preserve the new societies for future students to be a part of. These societies aim to encourage networking between Armenian students, promote awareness of the rich Armenian culture and its history, understanding of past and current Armenian issues, provide those interested in Armenian culture and history the opportunity to connect with other like-minded students and last but not least offer career-oriented community-based networking opportunities for current and prospective university students. Australia is a multi-cultural country and Armenians are an important part of this. There is a need for Armenian representation across the various university campuses. This revelation has led to the formation of the Armenian Student Association (ASA) of NSW, which urges the formation of Armenian societies in different universities and upholds the aims mentioned above on a larger scale. The ASA is a place where Armenian students of all ages can seek advice and mentorship from more experienced university students and graduates. It also provides networking opportunities and has a fun social aspect where the members get a chance to spend time together and create life-long friendships. AGBU Youth congratulates the success of of these societies and the ASA have had so far, encourages them to continue their outstanding efforts in creating a stronger Armenian community in Sydney and would like to wish all students involved the best of luck in their future endeavors. By Meghrie Panjarjian AGBU Youth Committee Member ...read more
A sense of community is central to members of the Armenian diaspora around the world. It is what soothes the pain of a lingering and unacknowledged history of genocide. As a result of the machinations of war, and a still palpable series of war crimes in 1915, Armenians today find themselves on a very short list of ethnic groups in the strangest of predicaments: most of the people in the world who identify as Armenian do not live in Armenia. It is this background that propels so many Armenian people from around the world to get involved with Armenian organisations, to send their children to Armenian Schools, to play for Armenian sporting teams, to continue to dance traditional dances, to play and sing classical music. In recent years, however, there seems to have been a slow but noticeable decline in our commitment to community in Sydney. Given how important community has been to the diaspora, it seems worth reflecting on what community is, how it works and what our experience of it is. Some observations about community Being part of a diaspora is associated with a kind of foundational trauma, one that laments that your home may not be where your heart is. This fractured identity is felt most harshly by first and second generation migrants, whose stories of ‘back home’ seem so much closer in time and memory. For the oldest generation of migrants, the willingness and ability to be involved in their local Armenian community provides a sense of purpose that protects against feeling lost and alone in a strange place. For the newest generation of Armenian diaspora, which now represent third and fourth generation migrant families, the purpose of and reason for involvement in community seems more varied and complex.Third and fourth generation diaspora are more settled in their ‘parent home’, partly because it is the only home they have ever known and partly because they are a product of the privileged environment that it has provided. Today young Armenians ‘get involved’ for a range of reasons, including a sense of obligation to their parents, the desire to meet a partner, a commitment to culture and the preservation of history, a drive to improve and achieve in competitive sport, to develop interpersonal skills, for professional development or to simply make connections they haven’t been able to make elsewhere. This scattered map of motivations is perhaps why older generations are so worried about why it is so difficult to motivate young people to join the cause. Without a single story or a clearly defined set of ideas to appeal to, the message behind and purpose of community can get lost. But this fragmentation doesn’t only present obstacles, it also presents opportunities. The more reasons there are that motivate young people to be part of a community, the more ways there are to recruit them. Some questions about community One thing that might help provide some clarity is to ask a few questions about what community is. We have traditionally thought of the ‘Sydney Armenian community’ as a single thing. In our contemporary world it may, however, be more accurate to say that, like the reasons that motivate young people to be involved, there are many and various...read more
AGBU is excited to get its latest magical adventure under way, Dhol lessons! Come down to the AGBU Agoump and learn all about the wonderful double-headed drum and how to play enchanting Armenian music! Classes are open to the whole community, Armenians and non-Armenians alike! For more details please contact us on:...read more
On the night of Saturday, April 30th, AGBU’s Tamzara Armenian Folk Dance Group had the pleasure of joining Hamazkaine Nairi and the Azad Gharibian Dance group in an evening of wonderful performances. The concert was a first of its kind, with three different Armenian dance groups sharing the stage to celebrate one of the most important aspects of Armenian culture, dance. Before the night got under way Tamzara dancers were welcomed with open hearts and arms by their gracious hosts. Nairi director Asadour closed a long day of rehearsals with a rousing speech about the significance of unity in the Armenian community that set the tone for a wonderful night to come. As the opening number drew closer, backstage was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. All of the dancers across the groups shared their nerves, adrenaline, and joy with one another. When the curtain finally opened the crowd roared with praise as they watched an assortment of enchanting Armenian folk and classical pieces. Collectively the three dance groups have over 40 years experience among them and our relatively new group Tamzara certainly held its own on this impressive stage. First up for our dancers was a beautiful and elegant Naz Bar performed by a selection of ladies, followed by the whole group taking the stage for their signature dance, Tamzara. The costumes were impeccably designed and looked stunning on the big stage. Once the program had come to a close the stage was filled with the performers, designers, volunteers and directors of all three groups in special thanks for their contribution to the preservation of Armenian culture. The events of the night demonstrated genuine unity within the Armenian community and that spirit continued on to a ‘kef’ after party in Crows Nest. The festivities were even going strong the next day at Santa Rosa Park with a day filled with kebab and dancing. All of the Tamzara dancers and the AGBU community had a wonderful experience dancing and working alongside their fellow Armenian brothers and sisters. Moments like those shared at the concert will help ensure a strong and unified Armenian community in Sydney for years to...read more
Adventures at Tamzara Penned by Lisa Jebian After having my second child I wanted to do something for myself, get fit, and lose weight. A close friend suggested that a new dance group was forming in Sydney and to try it out and see how we go. I went, nervous, unprepared and anxious about dancing in front of strangers (my youngest was only 5 months old!!). Nazarena, our great Argentinian Armenian choreographer greeted me so warmly it was infectious and while in my head I kept saying ‘this is just a trial’ my body was in need for some exercise and said ‘for crying out woman, move it! Shake it! Wiggle it faster!’ Tamzara dance group has been such a warm and inviting little community for me, it has helped in more ways than one. I’ve been able to exercise, gain confidence, meet some incredible people and make lifelong friends. Our Choreographer Nazarena, is so brilliant at what she does, she makes the impossible possible. She is new to Australia and because of her South American accent, she sounds a lot like Sofia Vegara and its mesmerising! You just hang off every word she says. She makes us giggle often with her literal translations and there is never a dull moment at Tamzara. We love you Naz! There is no judgement at Tamzara. Everyone is welcome to join, regardless of if you have absolutely no dancing background or you’re a dancing superstar. You’re welcome to join if you’re ‘big boned’ or petite, young or old. You’re welcome to join if your Australian Armenian, Lebanese Armenian, Halebtsi Armenian, BarsgaHay, Hayastantsi, Bolsa Hay, or not Hay at all! My eldest daughter would hear about my dancing adventures and was very envious. Luckily for her Tamzara dance practice has expanded and we now have a kids group in action too! She took to it like a duck to water and looks forward to dance practice every Tuesday night after school. Tamzara Dance Group meet every Friday night at 7.30pm Tamzara Kids Group meet every Tuesday night at 6.30pm Where: 2 Yeo Street, Neutral Bay If you are interested in joining the group or want to know more you can visit the Facebook page or contact us via email@example.com...read more
AGBU youth has recently undertaken a new project – Tamzara Kids. Under the guidance of Tamzara’s dance teacher and choreographer Nazarena, this project was established with the intention of igniting a passion within our youth for Armenian dance, as well as to provide the opportunity to pass on the rich culture and history that is weaved throughout these ancient pieces. During a typical Tamzara Kids practice, the children learn about the various types of traditional Armenian dances as well as modern Armenian dances. Armenian dancing requires skill and precision. Therefore each session begins with a warm up including ballet poses which help the dancers improve their posture and stability. This also helps them to learn the steps with speed and accuracy. Armenians have a long history of dance, and at Tamzara Kids, the children get the chance to learn about some of these folk dances while dancing them! Dance has been used to pass on traditions, tell stories, celebrate and lift spirits. For example, Yarkhushta is a dance soldiers perform to raise their spirits before going to war; with its strong and upbeat rhythm, it helps boost morale, camaraderie and patriotism. On the other hand, dances such as Naz-bar, traditionally performed by women, are a graceful display of femininity to slower and softer music. There are also a variety of celebratory dances that are performer at weddings and other joyous occasions. Armenians love to celebrate, and it’s important to pass on this aspect of our culture to the next generation. Tamzara kids is a great place for children to start learning and loving dance, music and culture! Dance practice is held every Tuesday night, 6:30 pm at the AGBU Cultural Centre (2 Yeo St, Neutral Bay). All children between the ages of 4-13 are welcome! If you know anyone, of any age, who would like to start dancing, please come along to the practice or email us at...read more
Music is an integral part of Armenian culture. Over the centuries music has defined Armenian people, history and tradition. Armenian people rejoice, remember and mourn with music. Regardless of their situation: whether free or oppressed, the Armenian people have always been expressive and extremely talented in the arts. They especially have always expressed themselves with music: from the century old shepherd playing his flute, to the drumming of the dhol accompanying war-time dances or the jovial music and dances from each village to accompany celebrations. Music has been used to preserve traditions, stories, customs, celebrations and commemorations, as a sign of respect and reverence and as a way to deal with grief and trying times. Armenian musicians and musical compositions have become household names worldwide. From as early as the 1700s, Armenian musicians were often employed by surrounding kingdoms in the king’s courts due to their fine ear and talent. An example of this is Sayat Nova, whose songs are known and sung until this day. Sayat Nova, meaning “king of songs” was bestowed this title as a testament to his talent and contribution to the arts. In more contemporary contexts, Aram Khachaturyan’s compositions, ballets and operas are known internationally and used throughout popular culture as are the melancholy melodies of the duduk. here have also been famous names such as Djivan Kasparian who have accompanied soundtracks to many famous Hollywood titles. A name that cannot go without mention is Komitas. Soghomon Soghomonian, ordained and commonly known as Komitas was a priest, musicologist, composer, arranger, singer and choirmaster. His work has preserved hundreds of years of culture and has played a significant role in preserving and reintroducing lost musical treasures. Alongside his own compositions, Komitas wrote and recorded the songs of Armenian villagers and also wrote music to accompany the incredible poetic works of famous Armenian poets. A lot is owed to the genius and contributions of his work. Music is something that has been ingrained into the soul of every Armenian, which, growing into each generation has also spanned the classical music scene, such as the well known Armen Khachaturyan, Armen Tigranian, Arno Babajanian and Tigran Mansurian. Whether joyful or sorrowful, Armenian music has a soul-shaking and emotive quality that reaches out to your core and is incomparable to any other. Whether you are Armenian or not, you will be moved. Last weekend AGBU celebrated this long tradition with a fantastic night of enchanting European and Armenian classical favourites, performed by the Ryde Hunters Hills Symphony Orchestra. The professional musicians played to an adoring crowd that filled the Agoump to capacity. It was a fantastic night of beautiful performances, one that is sure to become a lasting tradition for AGBU...read more
From its inception, a major goal for AGBU Youth was to successfully form young adult teams to get the club’s wheels into motion. Four years on, not only do we have 4 senior teams, but , we are also in the fortunate position of having many more hands on deck, working very hard behind the scenes to succeed in more ventures and accomplish more as a club. So in 2016, the time is right to turn our attention to our future, our next generation: our kids! As a club our intentions and objectives are aligned across the board. Our immediate goals are to: Start Kids Basketball Teams Start Kids Dance group Our first goal is already well and truly underway! Our brand new u10’s team started playing competition games just a couple weeks ago. They have had an amazing start already with 3 convincing wins. More importantly, we are incredibly happy to report that all the kids are having a great time whilst learning a lot about a great team sport. It’s a privilege and a joy to witness the kids learning and growing within their team; making new friends and most importantly becoming a family through sport. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing our next generation starting out exactly where we did umpteen years ago. The best news is, u10’s is only the beginning! Throughout 2016, 2017 and in future years, we will endeavour to bring together as many youth teams as possible. U8’s, u12’s, u14’s, u16’s & u18’s we’re looking for you! If you, your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews are interested in basketball or futsal, please contact us and we will make every effort to ensure the team becomes a reality! The first steps of our second goal kicks off on Friday the 4th of March; the launch of Tamzara kids for children aged 4 and up. This class will be an opportunity for young children to understand and immerse themselves in Armenian culture. The energy that young children bring to a stage, performing the dances that have been performed by Armenians for hundreds of years is always a pleasure to watch. Not only will they have a place to learn dancing, they will also be learning about Armenian culture in the process. Each dance has a significance, a place where it was originated and it’s own beautiful music to accompany it. The little ones will be able to show off their dance moves, and make some friends in their barakhoump family where they can dance, laugh and learn together – and eventually perform in traditional costumes together on the big stage! Rehearsals will be held at 2 Yeo St, Neutral Bay, at 5:30pm every Friday! For more information on dance please email Tamzara Artistic Director Nazarena at firstname.lastname@example.org See you there!! If you’d like any more information about the abovementioned activities, or anything else pertaining to the AGBU Youth community please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com at any time! ...read more