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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13459

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (16:19): I rise to speak of the Armenian genocide. The 1948 United Nations convention on genocide defined the term as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Clearly the Jewish Holocaust was in the mind of the framers of this convention. However, another extremely troubling incident of genocide in modern times was that of the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in what is now modern day Turkey. What occurred was the deaths of between one million and 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. Consistent with the definition of genocide, these deaths took place with the clear intent of destroying Armenians as an ethnic group. Deaths occurred through outright massacres. They also occurred as a result of deportations and forced marches which were designed to create conditions leading to death. Deaths comprised up to half of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire.

Recognition of these atrocities by governments of the world as genocide is of vital importance to all Armenians wherever they may be. This is an important issue for my electorate, which has a large and thriving Armenian community. It is estimated that 40,000 of the 50,000 Armenians in Australia live in the three federal electorates of Bradfield, Bennelong and North Sydney. For Australian Armenians, including those in my electorate of Bradfield, there is a legitimate call for the Australian government to recognise what happened during and after the First World War as genocide. Some 20 countries around the world have declared these events as genocide. These countries include Canada, France and Germany. It is time that the Australian government also recognised what happened in the early decades of the last century as genocide. The horror that occurred to these millions of Armenians, our fellow human beings, reverberates through time, impacting on the whole Armenian community, including the millions of descendants of those who were directly affected.

The call that this event be labelled genocide is not to apportion blame to any current government or country but to recognise what happened for what it was and in turn to provide a basis for healing and acceptance by both the Armenian community and the world as a whole, and to provide a basis for continued awareness with a view to ensuring that atrocities of this nature never occur in the future.