SYDNEY–Australian Prime Minister John Howard has approved $1.432 million ($1.25million USD) in funding to the Armenian Relief Society’s Gyumri Mother and Child Health Care Center project. The announcement was read Sunday by Federal Cabinet Minister Joe Hockey before 2000 Armenian-Australians attending Armenian Family Day a rally at Eastwood Park to call upon the Government of Australia to formally and unanimously recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian-Australian community was joined by long time supporters Senior Cabinet Minister Joe Hockey, Member of Parliament Gladys Berejiklian, City of Ryde Mayor Ivan Petch, Deputy Mayor Sarkis Yedelian and Dr Panayiotis Diamadis, who each reaffirmed their commitment to advocate awareness of genocide as a measure to prevent the repetition of such crimes against humanity.
"I am pleased to announce that, in response to a request from the Armenian National Committee of Australia, the Government will provide up to $1.4 million to the Armenian Relief Society for support to the Gyumri Mother and Child Health Care Center." Said Hokey in his statement to the crowd.
"The center was established in 1997 and provides maternal and child health services in the Shirak province of Armenia, serving approximately 50,000 people. Australian assistance will be used to update surgical equipment, renovate and expand the main Health Center building and finance the purchase of an ambulance and other specialist equipment for the newly established Diagnostic Center."
ARS Australia Chairperson, Suzy Sarafian welcomed the announcement, stating: "On behalf of 22,000 ARS members worldwide and the Armenian-Australian community, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude for this significant funding announcement."
"The aid will help further reduce the infant mortality rate in the Armenian region, as well as provide medical assistance to mothers away from the city center," she added
Varant Meguerditchian, President of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, joined the ARS in thanking Minister Hockey after the announcement.
"The Australian Government’s commitment to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Armenia pays tribute to the generosity of the Australian people and almost a century on, echoes Australian efforts to assist Armenian refugees in the years immediately following the Armenian Genocide," he said.
"If the United States Congress Foreign Relations Committee can recognize [the Genocide]; if the New South Wales State Parliament can recognize it; if Ryde Council can recognize it, then the Australian Federal Parliament should also recognize it," said Mayor Petch.
"The event demonstrated the Armenian-Australian community’s united will in having Australia join the growing list of nations that have officially come to recognize the 1915 massacres of the 1.5 million Armenia’s as genocide," said ANC Australia President Meguerditchian.
"Armenian-Australians would take into consideration the statemen’s made by politicians and candidates regarding recognition of the Armenian Genocide when voting at the upcoming federal election," said Meguerditchian, noting that there is an estimated 4000 Armenia’s residing in the Federal seat of Bennelong and more throughout the country.