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.
Tavle, nardi, or backgammon, has been a favourite of our Armenian ancestors dating back many centuries. In the spirit of keep thing long held leisure activity alive, on Saturday 8 April, 2017, AGBU Youth ran its first ever competition night. There was a big bounty on the line with the top prize of a 55” 4K TV and the runner-up prize a 45” 4K TV for these backgammon-board warriors as they headed into battle. With a room of keen entrants, ready to roll the dice, the round robin began. Plenty of games were enjoyed alongside the delicious cuisines for the night, lahmajoun. As the round robin came to a close 16 eager competitors headed to the sudden death rounds! Competitive tension filled the room as each of the matched up duo’s picked their board and set themselves up for a best of 5 series. There was a lot of excitement as 16 became 8, 8 became 4 and finally, 4 became just 2. The final two competitors Vrej Kurumlian, an AGBU alum who recently came to Sydney from Aleppo, and the home-grown Sydney sider Ivan Pavlović, battled it out to see who would return home with the bigger screen. After the games were done it wasn’t just the winners who went home with a smile. Thank you to those who joined in and came to support us on the night. We hope to see you all again next time around! We would also like to extend a special thank you to Aris Arzumanian and other members of the community who provided donations towards the prizes for the night. Your support is warmly welcomed and deeply appreciated. If you have any suggestions or would like to see an event like this happen again, please let us know by reaching out to...read more
AGBU Youth has decided that 2017 is our year of benevolence! Our first initiative towards this is to partner with The Alannah and Madeline Foundation (AMF) to provide children in need with basic necessities that we all take for granted. The AMF work to provide as many children who are forcibly removed from their homes due to violence or neglect with a little something to call their own. Most children supported will have nothing in their possession but the clothes on their backs when they are taken from their parents/caregivers. If you would like to read more about the foundation and all the great work they do, you can visit their website here: https://www.amf.org.au/ We will be supporting AMF by running a buddy bag drive between April and July, asking members of the community (individuals or groups) in a position to contribute to provide a bag! If you would like to donate a bag, please see the flyer below from the foundation which details the requirements of the bags and their contents. The option is also open to donate some of the items, which will also be sent to AMF, or of course, a monetary donation to help the foundation purchase and distribute bags....read more
By Johannes Michaelian At the beginning of 2016, coming out of my undergraduate studies I yearned to finally return to the land of my ancestors and discover for myself what it means to be Armenian. A desire to learn the language better, its incredible history, geography and also devour copious amounts of gata (Armenian pastry) were all high on my priority list. Birthright Armenia went beyond my expectations and provided me so much more than I could have imagined! when it came to meeting these expectations, and more! The excellent program that Birthright Armenia provides to Diaspora Armenians is one among many. Birthright Armenia provides us with a Golden Ticket to return to the homeland of our ancestors to experience anything and everything Armenian. Whether you are after an authentic stay in the precious villages, or seeking to be a part of the elegant Yerevan way of life – Birthright has you covered! Birthright, I found, was extremely flexible in ensuring that I really did find myself on a journey of self-discovery. The program offers to cover the costs of travel from Australia, provide you with a host family, personal Armenian-language classes and even subsidise in-country excursions, making it the true golden ticket! During the course of my nine months in Armenia I produced a daily VLOG series (which can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/4ecLRV) so that my family back home could vicariously discover Armenia through me. . During my time with the NGO, the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), my VLOG regularly featured many of the children living in the villages I had the priviledge to visit. With my own eyes, I saw the incredible work that has already been done to invest in our younger brothers and sisters’ lives. COAF facilitated a deeper connection with Armenia, for they showed me that if the children are to inherit our ancient land, we must enable them to do so effectively. We are invited to contribute to our Armenia through the children – investing in their community education and health. As I whole-heartedly sought to live as an Armenian, my connection with the people grew deeper. More and more I began to admire the strength that the citizens of our homeland possess. I often thought that in Australia we would ‘throw in the towel’ but in Armenia that was no option. With awe I witnessed an incomparable will to keep going and push through, such that the struggle, with the Grace of God, would be overcome. In these moments I saw the true strength of the Armenian people, a strength which testifies to their existence for over 5000 years – against war, oppression and genocide. To be able to call myself an Armenian of the diaspora is a privilege, especially when taken in light of all the history which surrounds our people. Now that I am back in Sydney, my friends and family often ask me whether I would recommend Birthright. My friends, please, take my advice! Applying to be a part of the Birthright Armenia program has the propensity to become one of the best decisions you will make in your lifetime. Besides experiencing Armenia in its entirety, you will connect with fellow diaspora Armenian’s from all around the world.. You will...read more
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 firstname.lastname@example.org...read more