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.
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
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org at any time! ...read more
Life is unpredictable and full of surprises, both good and bad. That surprise, in my case, was an ugly war that started in Syria, my birthplace. This war spread through the entire nation until it reached my hometown, Aleppo, which forced my family to make difficult decisions that would mark the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Like many other Armenian families, we travelled to Yerevan, Armenia to get away from the chaotic situation, until it was safe for us to return, as we thought it wouldn’t be too long. However, the conditions got worse in Syria, and we couldn’t go back. I attended Khachik Dashtents High School in Yerevan, where everyone was very welcoming and supportive. However, I found myself searching for the warmth of my first school, which I had attended since I was three. AGBU’s Lazar Najarian Calouste Gulbenkian School had been a second home to me and to every student who had attended there. I had too many good memories in my school and as a member in AGBU-AYA’s different branches, and could not easily let go. I tried to fill the void, and found in AGBU Yerevan’s Scout movement a friendly environment, where I met new people who shared my passion for AGBU. I spent almost a year in Armenia, visiting different places in our motherland, and enjoying my time with my fellow scouts. All that came to an end when we had to go to Lebanon, with the hope of moving to Australia. Beirut was not a strange environment, as we had been there before, and due to the situation in Syria, there were many familiar faces, which made my stay there even more loving and familiar. There, I attended AGBU’s Tarouhy – Hovagimian Secondary School as a year twelve student. There I joined the AGBU’s AYA Scout movement, and became a brownies’ leader, which gave me the opportunity to spend time with an amazing group of devoted members. This, too, had to come to an end, and we had to move again to start our new life. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions of sadness for leaving my friends, and of happiness for the new life that was awaiting in Sydney with my family. Finally, I arrived in Sydney, Australia. Relatives and family friends welcomed us and did their best for the next few months to make us feel at home and help us get settled. Once again AGBU welcomed me with open arms through their Tamzara dance group, and later on as a member of AGBU Youth and now the AGBU Youth Committee. The last four years feel like a lifetime away, and putting it into words seem too easy compared to what I experienced. I’ve learnt to cherish what I have and make the most of my time, no matter where I am. I feel lucky, somehow, for going through what I have, because it helped me become a mature person, and gain a different perspective of life. I still smile whenever I remember those days, and the people I have met will stay in my heart with the hope of meeting them again. Written by Anie Kurumlian. If you share a similar story, or would like to meet and help those who do, please join us at...read more
Sunday night’s results are in! We had a few tough game with the boys both taking a lose, and the girls with a great victory! Women’s Division C Final score 20-14 Men’s Division E 19-29 Men’s Division C Final score 25-35 Here’s a happy snap of the victorious ladies with their manager and new coach! Good work...read more
On Friday 24 April, AGBU Alexander Primary School held a wreath laying ceremony at the Armenian Genocide and ANZAC memorials in ‘Memorial Park’ at Meadowbank. In attendance were City of Ryde Councillors Sarkis Yedelian and Artin Etmekdjian joined by parents, graduates and members of the community. Photos by Albert...read more