Lebanese Australian

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Lebanese Australians
Steve bracks.jpg
Bachar Houli 2 Richmond Family Day 16 February 2014.jpg
Marie-bashir-in-wahroonga-2008 Crop.jpg
Total population
76,451(by birth) 203,139' (by ancestry, 2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Sydney (72.8% of Lebanese-born Australian residents), Melbourne, Brisbane
Australian English, Lebanese Arabic, Standard Arabic, French
Christianity (53%), Islam (40%),[2] Others (7%)
Related ethnic groups
Arab diaspora, Lebanese diaspora, Arab Australians, Sierra Leonean-Lebanese, Lebanese Americans, Lebanese Canadians, Ecuadorian of Lebanese origin, Lebanese Brazilians, Arab Argentines, Lebanese British, Arab Mexicans

A Lebanese Australian is a citizen or permanent resident of Australia with Lebanese descent. This Australian community is extremely multicultural, having a large Christian religious base, being mostly Maronite Catholics, while also having a large Muslim group of both the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.

Lebanon, in both its modern-day form as the Lebanese state (declared in 1920, granted independence in 1943) and its historical form as the region of the Lebanon, has been a source of migrants to Australia for over two centuries. Some 203,139 Australians claim Lebanese ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry. The 2011 census recorded 76,451 Lebanese-born people in Australia, with 72.8% of all people with Lebanese ancestry living in Sydney, where they make up 2.3% of Sydney's population.[3]

In New South Wales, the Western Sydney suburbs of Bankstown, Lakemba, Auburn, Granville and Punchbowl are largely associated with the Lebanese population, as in Victoria are the Northern Melbourne suburbs of Broadmeadows and Coburg, Brunswick, Fawkner and Altona.

Community history[edit]

As part of a large scale emigration in the 1870s, numerous Lebanese (mostly Christians) migrated in great numbers out of Lebanon to various destinations. Most emigrated to Brazil and other Latin American nations, particularly Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Many also went to the United States, Canada, and others to Australia, primarily to the eastern states, and most to New South Wales in particular.[4][5]

Thus, Australia's Lebanese population is one of the older established non-English speaking minorities in the country (though many Lebanese people now speak English, to a greater or lesser extent). Although it is considerably smaller in numbers to Greek Australians, Italian Australians, or German Australians, they are nonetheless of a similar vintage.[citation needed]

In the 1890s, there were increasing numbers of Lebanese immigrants to Australia, part of the mass emigration from the area of the Lebanon that would become the modern Lebanese state, and also from the Anti-Lebanon mountains region of what would become Syria.[6]

Under the White Australia policy of the nineteenth century (and with Lebanon being located in the Middle East, geographically known as South West Asia) Lebanese migrants were classified as Asians and came within the scope of the White Australia policy which intentionally restricted non-white immigration to Australia. Lebanese migrants, like others deemed non-white by Australian law, were excluded from citizenship, the right to vote and employment, and were treated as enemy aliens during World War I and World War II.[4] In 1897 Lebanese store keepers and businesses were accused of fraud by state border Customs officers during Queensland customs prosecution cases.[6]

Prior to 1918, Lebanese migrants to Australia were not habitually distinguished from Turks because the area of modern Lebanon was a province of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Administration then passed to the French Mandate for several decades, which ruled it together with what would become Syria, its neighbour. Hence, for that period, the Lebanese were not distinguished from Syrians.[7]

People with Lebanese ancestry as a percentage of the population in Sydney divided geographically by postal area, as of the 2011 census
One dot denotes 100 Lebanese-born Melbourne residents

From 1920, people from Lebanon (and Syria) were granted access to Australian citizenship as the Nationality Act 1920 removed the racial disqualification from the naturalisation laws.[6]

By 1947, there were 1,886 Lebanese-born in Australia,[8] almost all Christian. The Lebanese born population numbered 24,218 in 1971 and had doubled to 49,617 in 1981.[8] Following the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, more than 20,000 civil war refugees arrived in Australia.[8] This wave of migrants were often poor and for the first time, over half of them were Muslim.[8] This influx of new migrants changed the character of the established Lebanese community in Australia significantly, especially in Sydney where 75% of the Lebanese-born population were concentrated.[8]

For the remainder of the 1970s and 1980s, unrest in Lebanon caused a large increase in the number of Lebanese migrating to Australia, continuing with a significant proportion being comprised by Muslims.

Number of permanent settlers arriving in Australia from Lebanon since 1991 (monthly).

In 1991, there were 68,787 people who were first generation immigrants born in Lebanon and 67,453 second generation people associated with Lebanon as a birthplace.[9]

The Lebanese in Melbourne have opened restaurants and groceries and Middle Eastern shops and Lebanese bars on Sydney Road which is sometimes called "Little Lebanon".[10]

Following the trials for a series of gang rape attacks in Sydney in 2000 by a group of Lebanese, the Lebanese Muslim Australian community came under significant scrutiny by the media in addition to a more general anti-Muslim backlash after the September 11 attacks in 2001.[11] Community concern and divisiveness continued in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla riots in Sydney.[12] In 2014, a series of documentaries on Lebanese Australians was presented by SBS under the title Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl.[13]

Key events and organisations

There are now many Lebanese-Australian business groups, businesses and events aimed primarily at engaging the large Lebanese community in Australia and strengthening ties between Australia and Lebanon.

The peak business body is the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, with associations in both Sydney and Melbourne.

A Lebanese Film Festival has been launched in Sydney for 2012. This will showcase Lebanese arts and culture through film and becomes the premier showcase of Lebanese cinema outside of Lebanon.[14]

Religious diversity[edit]

Most Lebanese people today live outside of Lebanon. Because of a higher birth rate among Muslims,[15] and the prolonged emigration of Lebanese Christians for the last two centuries (leading to their depletion in Lebanon itself), today, an estimated 55% of Lebanese in Lebanon are Muslim (having become the majority in the last two to three decades). Of the Lebanese outside of Lebanon, known also as the Lebanese diaspora, the majority is Christian.

In Australia, 53% of Lebanese born in Lebanon are Christian, while a large minority (40%) are Muslim.[2]

All main Lebanese religious groups — Christians, including Maronites, Melkites, Greek Orthodox, Protestants, Orthodox and Catholic Lebanese Armenians, Muslims, including Shi'a and Sunnis denominations; Druze, amongst others — are now represented.[16]

Return migration[edit]

Lebanese Australians have a moderate rate of return migration to Lebanon. In December 2001, the Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that there were 25,000 Australian citizens resident in Lebanon.[17]

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, the Australian Government organised mass evacuations of Australians resident in Lebanon.[18]

Notable Lebanese Australians[edit]

Name Born – Died Notable for Connection with Australia Connection with Lebanon
Anthony Alexander Alam 1896–1983 member of the New South Wales Legislative Council born Australia parents born Lebanon
Joseph Assaf 1945 Multicultural Businessman has Australian Citizenship born in Lebanon
Mireille Astore[19] 1961 Artist and writer emigrated to Australia born in Lebanon
Ron Bakir 1977 Mobile phone retailer emigrated to Australia born in Lebanon
David Basheer 1966 Sports Presenter and Commentator born Australia Mother born in Lebanon
Max Basheer 1927 Former administrator with the South Australian National Football League born Australia parents born Lebanon
Marie Bashir 1930 Governor of New South Wales born Australia parents born in Lebanon
Steve Bracks 1954 Former Premier of Victoria born Australia paternal grandfather born in Lebanon
Michael Cheika 1967 Head coach of the Wallabies and the New South Wales Waratahs Born in Australia Parents born in Lebanon
Firass Dirani[20] 1984 Actor born Australia of Lebanese origin
Sam Doumany[21] Former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice in Queensland
Hazem El Masri 1976 Canterbury Bulldogs Rugby league player migrated to Australia as child born Lebanon
Nazih Elasmar 1954 member of the Victorian Legislative Council migrated to Australia born Lebanon
Benny Elias 1963 Former National Rugby League player migrated to Australia as a child born Lebanon
Ahmad Elrich 1981 International soccer player born Australia Lebanese descent
Tarek Elrich 1987 Newcastle United Jets soccer player born Australia Lebanese descent
Robbie Farah 1984 Wests Tigers Rugby league player born Australia father emigrated from Lebanon c. 1960
Buddy Farah 1978 FIFA agent - Ex soccer player born in Australia of Lebanese descent
Joe Hachem 1966 2005 World Series of Poker champion migrated to Australia as child born Lebanon
Milham Hanna former Australian rules footballer with Carlton grew up in Australia born Lebanon
Joe Hasham 1948 actor emigrated to Australia as infant born in Lebanon
Bachar Houli 1988 Australian Rules Football player born Australia parents born Lebanon
Sabrina Houssami 1986 2006 Australian representative at Miss World born Australia Lebanese father
John Ibrahim 1970 Underworld figure born Australia
Tamara Jaber[22] 1982 Singer born Australia Lebanese father
Jessica Kahawaty 1988 Beauty pageant contestant who came third in Miss World 2012 when representing Australia born in Australia Lebanese descent
Bob Katter, Sr. 1918–1990 member for Federal Division of Kennedy 1966-1990 born Australia Lebanese descent
Bob Katter 1945 member for Federal Division of Kennedy 1993 born Australia Lebanese descent, son of Katter, Sr.
Bilal Khazal Jailed Al-Qaeda associate, jihadist, Qantas baggage handler working Australia born Lebanon
Tim Mannah 1988 Parramatta Eels Rugby League player born Australia Lebanese descent
David Malouf 1934 writer born Australia father Lebanese
Daryl Melham 1954 member of the Australian House of Representatives born in Australia father migrated from Lebanon
Cesar Melhem 1965 Victorian state secretary of Australian Workers' Union migrated to Australia born in Lebanon
Feiz Mohammad Fundamentalist cleric born in Australia
Tony Mokbel 1965 convicted drug trafficker and prison fugitive emigrated to Australia Born in Kuwait father originally from Lebanon
Andrew Nabbout 1998 footballer for Melbourne Victory Born in Australia Grandparents from Lebanon & offered a spot in the Lebanon national football team
Fehmi Naji 1928 Grand Mufti of Australia born in Lebanon
Paul Nakad 1975 actor and hip hop artist born Australia Lebanese descent
Jacques Nasser 1947 Former CEO of Ford Motors raised in Australia born Lebanon
Eddie Obeid 1943 Former Member of the NSW Legislative Council and former Minister for Fisheries and Mineral Resources, under investigation for corruption working in Australia born Matrit (also spelt Metrit) Bsharri District
Barbara Perry NSW parliamentarian born Australia parents born Lebanon
Roger Rasheed 1969 international tennis coach and former player born Australia father migrated from Lebanon
Michael Reda 1972 International football player born Australia Lebanese descent
Joseph Saba 1940 Fashion designer born in Australia Lebanese descent
Nicholas Shehadie 1926 Lord Mayor of Sydney (1973–1975) and member of Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame born Australia of Lebanese descent
John Symond Founder and Managing Director of Aussie Group born Australia parents born Lebanon
Keysar Trad 1967 Muslim community spokesman migrated to Australia born in Lebanon
Salim Wardeh 1968 Minister of Culture in Lebanon has Australian citizenship
Petra Yared 1979 Australian television actor born in Australia Lebanese descent
Doris Younane 1963 Actress born in Australia Parents born Lebanon

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The People of Australia – Statistics from the 2011 Census". Australian Government. 
  2. ^ a b "3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, 2007: Birthplace and Religion". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-02-25. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  3. ^ "The People of Australia – Statistics from the 2011 Census". Australian Government. 
  4. ^ a b "El Australie - a history of Lebanese migration to Australia". Hindsight - ABC Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  5. ^ "History of immigration from Lebanon". Origins:Immigrant Communities in Victoria. Museum of Victoria. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  6. ^ a b c Monsour, Anne (2005). "Chapter 10. Religion Matters: The experience of Syrian/Lebanese Christians in Australia from the 1880s to 1947". Humanities Research Journal (online version) (Australian National University E Press) XII (1, 2005: Bigotry and Religion in Australia, 1865–1950). ISSN 1834-8491. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  7. ^ This was a common enough practice in Australian immigration information — for example, the UK and Ireland were not statistically separated until as late as 1996).[citation needed]
  8. ^ a b c d e Humphrey, Michael (2004). "Lebanese identities: between cities, nations and trans-nations". Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) (Association of Arab-American University Graduates) (Winter): page 8. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  9. ^ Jupp, James (1995-01-01). "Ethnic and cultural diversity in Australia". 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 1995. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  10. ^ "Little Lebanon in Melbourne". reviewstream.com. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  11. ^ "... For Being Lebanese". Four Corners (TV program). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2002-09-16. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  12. ^ jackson, Liz (2006-03-13). "Riot and Revenge (Program transcript)". Four Corners (TV program). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  13. ^ Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl at SBS On Demand, 3 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014
  14. ^ Lebanese Film Festival: www.lebanesefilmfestival.com.au
  15. ^ Chamie, Joseph (1981), Religion & Fertility: Arab Christian- Muslim Differentials, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  16. ^ "Australian Communities: Lebanese Australians". racismnoway.com.au. 19 January 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  17. ^ "Estimates of Australian Citizens Living Overseas as at December 2001". Southern Cross Group (DFAT data). 14 February 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  18. ^ "Govt to foot Lebanon evacuation bill". ABC News. 22 July 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  19. ^ Kazzi, Antoine. Brilliant Faces. Sydney: El-Telegraph, 2009. (ISBN 9780646519135) page 83. This project that describes the achievements of 300 notable Arab Australians was funded by the Australian Government.
  20. ^ McWhirter, Erin (6 February 2010). "Underbelly's Firass Dirani - the day I met John Ibrahim, the King of the Cross". heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 11 April 2010. 
  21. ^ "Anthony Alexander Alam - Political Leader". Australian Lebanese Historical Society. 2002. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  22. ^ "Tamara Jaber Biography". Take 40. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 

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