Media release – Independent Member for Bass, Lara Alexander MP, 20 November 2023
The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) executive director Michael Kolokossian announced the award to Mrs Alexander at the ANC-AU Gala dinner in Sydney on Saturday evening.
The Friend of the Year award honours individuals who have stood with the Armenian community and worked to give greater public recognition to issues of great importance to that community.
Past recipients include former NSW Premiers Bob Carr and Gladys Berejiklian, Federal MPs Julian Leeser, Paul Fletcher, Joel Fitzgibbon, Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, John Alexander and Joe Hockey, writer and broadcaster Phillip Adams, former South Australian attorney-general Michael Atkinson and Professor Colin Tatz, among others.
Mr Kolokossian said Mrs Alexander had been chosen in honour of her efforts to secure Tasmanian parliamentary recognition of the 1915 Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides.
He said Mrs Alexander had made an “extraordinary contribution” in securing the Tasmanian recognition, an achievement he said would not have been possible without her “friendship, guidance, commitment and dedication”.
In May of this year Mrs Alexander introduced a motion to State Parliament calling on the Tasmanian parliament to formally acknowledge and recognise the 1915 Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides at the hands of the then Ottoman Empire.
(An estimated 1.2 million Armenian, and Assyrian and Greek Christian, lives were lost either through mass killings or on forced marches after the Ottoman Empire – now modern-day Turkey – embarked on a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing in the early years of WW1.)
The motion, with the support of Premier Jeremy Rockliff, Opposition leader Rebecca White and then Greens leader Cassy O’Connor unanimously passed the Lower House, allowing Tasmania to join New South Wales and South Australia as Australian states to formally recognise the genocides.
Mrs Alexander said she was deeply honoured to receive the award and was humbled to be able to play a small role in a battle for recognition that the Armenian community had been fighting for more than 100 years.
“It has been a long, hard road for the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek communities, who have toiled for more than 100 years to gain acknowledgement of the terrible losses their communities suffered in 1915,” she said.
“Compared to countless others, my role has been a very minor one and for the community to give me this honour is a very humbling experience.”
Mrs Alexander said while she was the recipient of the award, she felt strongly that she was accepting it on behalf of the Tasmanian Parliament and people. She said she was grateful to the Premier, Ms White and particularly Ms O’Connor for their support.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Premier and the Opposition leader, but it would be remiss of me to not thank Cassie in particular, for her support, advice and encouragement,” she said.
“I also know that it was very comforting for the Armenian and Greek delegations present in the House that day to hear all MPs – Government, Opposition and crossbench – make genuinely heartfelt contributions to the debate and come together as one voice to support the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek communities.”
Ms Lindsey Snell received the Ben Bagdikian Media Award. An American journalist with a long background of covering active war zones and crises, particularly in the Middle East.
Dr Hugh McDermott MP: State Member for Prospect, NSW received the Freedom Award for his tireless work in support of Artsakh and the Armenian community. In 2023, Dr McDermott co-led the third ANC-AU Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Armenia, visiting the city of Goris and delivering on-the-ground humanitarian assistance to Artsakh refugees during one of the most critical junctures in the Armenian people’s history.