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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 495

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (09:30): I rise to commend the extraordinary life of Mr Jacques Baran, who was recently awarded City of Ryde Citizen of the Year in recognition of his generous contribution to the Bennelong community. I was delighted to join Jacques and Helen Crouch from North Ryde Community Aid for this presentation, and I am a proud local representative to stand here and tell you Jacques's story.

In the aftermath of World War II Jacques Baran was born in Syria from Armenian heritage. Following the death of his father Jacques became the family breadwinner, when he was just 17. He also undertook a political science and business administration degree, followed by a PhD. Jacques volunteered at Homenetmen, Aleppo, a distinguished Armenian cultural and sports organisation. However, civil unrest caused him to migrate to the United Arab Emirates with his wife and young daughter. Here he established an Armenian school, bringing together volunteers to teach Armenian children to speak, read and write their ancient language.

It is important to outline the historical context of this work, to emphasise its importance. The acts of genocide committed against the Armenian people in the early 20th century caused them to scatter across the globe, creating many obstacles in the perpetuation of their unique culture. It is true that with the schooling of the next generation in their distinctive language, by people like Jacques Baran, these obstacles are overcome and the connection to their heritage is retained. In 1985, Jacques migrated to Australia with his family, forging a successful career in management, embracing his new home, while also celebrating his Armenian background.

In 2011 Jacques joined the North Ryde Community Aid and Information Centre as a volunteer, assisting disabled and aged clients with their transport emergency needs, and providing his specialist language skills for Armenian seniors to interact with the wider community. Legend has it that Adolf Hitler justified his final solution policy against the Jewish community by remarking, 'No one remembers the Armenians.' It is fitting that nearly 100 years after the Armenian genocide we can stand up on the other side of the world and applaud the efforts of people like Jacques Baran and proclaim that we remember the Armenians and we celebrate their enduring language, culture and heritage. As we turn our attention to the Armenian Christian minority currently being targeted in Aleppo, in Syria, we pray that common sense and global leadership will help these proud people prevail once more.