Assyrian Australians are Australian citizens of Assyrian descent. According to the 2011 census, 30,631 persons identified themselves as having Assyrian or Chaldean ancestry. The Assyrians have mainly immigrated from, and are indigenous to, northern Iraq, northwest Iran, northeast Syria and southeast Turkey, which are regions that largely correspond with the Assyrian homeland.
Of the 30,000 Assyrians in Australia, 21,000 are members of the Assyrian Church of the East and 9,000 are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church. The City of Fairfield, in Sydney, has the most Assyrians in Australia. 95% of Fairfield’s Iraqi-born population are of Assyrian ancestry. Fairfield LGA also has one of the most predominant Assyrian communities in the diaspora, where one in every ten person would be Assyrian.
During the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran, large numbers of Assyrians fled Iraq and applied for refugee status. In the early 2000s, 5% of Australia’s humanitarian immigrants identified as being adherents of Syriac churches. In May 2013, the Assyrian genocide was recognised by the New South Wales state parliament. Assyrian-Australians have established various clubs, social organisation, churches and language schools. Representing only 0.13% of Australia's overall population, Assyrians are considered to be a successful minority group.
The first Assyrians arrived in Australia in the 1950s, to flee from the 1958 revolution in Iraq. By 1965, there were around five Assyrian families and a few individuals living in Sydney. Although around 80% of the arrivals lived in the suburbs of Fairfield LGA in Greater Western Sydney, some Assyrians settled in the eastern suburbs, a region on Sydney's coast. During that period 4,500 Assyrians came from Iraq, 2,500 from Iran and 1,000 from Syria and Lebanon. According to Dinkha Warda, Fairfield was the most popular settlement among Assyrians for reason as follows:
Back in 1966, a small meeting was held between the early settlers to decide the future of Assyrians in this country...In 1966, Fairfield’s developed area went west up to the Cumberland Highway. The majority of those attending the meeting agreed to establish the Assyrian community in Fairfield. The reason was to centralise the development of all the Assyrian social, religious and sporting activities, allowing greater access and participation. If we remained in the Sydney city area, we would have scattered. And so, four or five families purchased fibro houses in Fairfield (including myself), and a few bought blocks of land.
In 1969, following the settlement of Assyrians in the Fairfield area, the Assyrian Australian Association (AAA) was formed. During the 1980s and from the late 1990s, there was an increased level of Assyrian migration to Australia under the family reunion, refugee and humanitarian programs. Reportedly, around 903 Assyrian arrivals were allowed under the Australian Government’s Special Humanitarian Program and the Family Reunion Program.
In 1980, Nineveh Club, a prominent Assyrian club in Edensor Park, Sydney, was established. Built with artificial mud brick, the Club was designed after Assyrian royal palace in Nineveh. The entryway features two winged bull statues containing the body of a lion, the head of an Assyrian king and wings of an eagle. In the mid-1980s, there was a major church split in the Church of the East in Fairfield, which shook and divided the community. The event resulted in legal proceedings over property rights which received national media coverage. The Church of the East in Australia now has two denominations; The ‘old’ (Ancient Church of the East) and the ‘new’ (Assyrian Church of the East).
The Assyrian Sports and Cultural Club opened in 1990, in Fairfield Heights, Sydney. The club acquired liquor and gaming licenses. The club hosted sports events such as The Assyrian Cup and Ethnic Cup soccer tournaments and held functions and activities for the community. It has also supported migrants, who arrived in the 1990's, settle in the country and it encouraged education by aiding achievers in the high school certificate.
In 1997, it was reported that, for the Assyrian youth, lack of English skills was the major impediment for gaining employment, school achievement and becoming socially maneuverable in the Australian society. Unfortunately, this is still an ongoing issue, as conveyed by young people through the surveys. For instance, some Fairfield High School Assyrians wanted to go to university but felt hopeless because of their poor English. As such, several Assyrian churches developed a number of youth programs.
The opening of St Hurmiz Primary School in 2002, in Sydney, was the first time an Assyrian school was established in the international diaspora. In 2006, also in Sydney, St. Narsai Assyrian Christian College was established. It was the first Assyrian high school to be built in the western world. Sydney's Assyrian community assembled in Fairfield to celebrate Iraq qualifying for the Asian Football Cup finals in 2007. More than 7000 people, including Iraqi Arabs, joined in street celebrations around Fairfield on Sunday 29 July 2007 after Iraq won the Asian Cup finals.
On August 2010, a memorial monument for the Assyrian genocide was erected in Bonnyrigg. The statue, being 4.5 meters tall, is designed as a hand of a martyr draped in an Assyrian flag. The memorial is placed in a reserve to be named the Garden of Nineveh. The statue and the name for the reserve were proposed in August 2009. After consultation with the community, Fairfield Council received more than 100 submissions, including some from overseas, and two petitions. The proposal was condemned by the Turkish community. Turkey's consul general to Sydney expressed resentment about the monument, while acknowledging that tragedies had occurred to Assyrians in the period as well as Turks.
On August 2014, more than 6000 Assyrians marched in Belmore Park in Sydney CBD to protest against the treatment of their Assyrian counterparts in Iraq and Syria by ISIS. Many wore T-shirts reading the hashtag #WeAreN, and chanted "we want peace, we want justice" and "save our Christians". They also waved posters, which read "stop genocide against our Christians" and "Stop crimes against humanity". They marched in Elizabeth Street, through the city to Martin Place. Assyrian Community leaders made passionate speeches soliciting the Australian and other international governments to help those being persecuted in the Middle East.
In Sydney, Assyrians are the leading ethnic group in the Fairfield LGA suburbs of Fairfield, Fairfield Heights and Greenfield Park. Ample amount of Assyrians exist in other suburbs in the Fairfield LGA, such as, Bossley Park, Prairiewood, Wakeley, Wetherill Park, Abbotsbury, Smithfield, Fairfield West, Bonnyrigg Heights, Horsley Park and Cecil Park.
In Liverpool City Council, a LGA that borders Fairfield City, they're found in Cecil Hills, Green Valley, Hoxton Park, Hinchinbrook and Middleton Grange. In the eastern suburbs, they're mainly found in Hillsdale in Bayside Council, albeit in small numbers.
Sydney's local government areas with the most Assyrians, population and percentage-wise:Fairfield City: 10,764 (5.73%)
Liverpool City: 2,451 (1.36%)
Botany Bay City: 415 (1.05%)
Bayside Council: 220 (0.17%)
Blacktown City: 459 (0.15%)
Canterbury-Bankstown Council: 202 (0.11%)
In Melbourne, Assyrians tend to be found in the northwest region, in the suburbs of Broadmeadows, Craigieburn, Meadow Heights, Roxburgh Park and Fawkner. According to the 2011 census, Melbourne had 8,057 citizens who claimed Assyrian ancestry.
In the 2001 census, 9,520 Fairfield LGA residents stated they were of Assyrian ancestry and 8,879 residents stated they spoke Assyrian at home. The Assyrian-speakers living in NSW were 13,241 at that time. In the 2011 Census, Sydney had 21,678 people of Assyrian descent, and Melbourne had 8,057. Assyrians are the third largest language-group residing in the Fairfield area behind the Arabic and Vietnamese-speakers, respectively.
According to the 2001 census, 29% of Assyrian migrants in Fairfield were usually made up of large families with five members or more. 13-24 year olds made up 18% of the migrating population and 25-54 years were at 57%. 25% of them did not speak English well. 43% of the Assyrians in the Fairfield LGA owned their home, and they generally worked in manufacturing (39%), trade, accommodation, hospitality and transport industries (31%).
Whilst the new arrivals are settling in Fairfield CBD and Fairfield Heights, the pre-mid-1990s arrivals have purchased and/or rented houses in the more affluent suburbs of Fairfield City, such as, Bossley Park, Wetherill Park and Greenfield Park, which are around 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) west from Fairfield CBD. Furthermore, some of the recently arrived Assyrian children have had psychological trauma for the experiences in their countries of origin, which encroached their settlement in Australia.
Sydney has six prominent Assyrian church buildings; St Mary's Church in Smithfield, St Thomas Church in Bossley Park, St Mary's Assumption Church in Bossley Park and in Fairfield, St Hurmiz Cathedral in Greenfield Park, and St Zaia Cathedral in Middleton Grange. In Melbourne, there are two Assyrian churches available for religious and social activities.
Both Nineveh Club and Cultural Club support and showcase local Assyrian talents, such as singers, actors, musicians, painters and sculptors. The clubs contain reception halls and they usually host singer concerts (including lounge singers), festive parties, weddings, theatrical plays and other forms of social entertainment for the Assyrians in Sydney.
The Assyrians in Sydney lavishly celebrate the Assyrian New Year annually on April 1, in Fairfield Showground in Prairiewood. Thousands attend the New Year festival and it usually features music and theatrical performances, traditional dancers, food stalls and fireworks. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and other politicians such as Chris Bowen, Craig Kelly, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Hayes and former NSW premier Bob Carr have attended the festival and made a speech.
Assyrians in Sydney annually commemorate Saint Zaia at Blaxland Crossing Reserve in the suburb of Wallacia on September. Thousands attend the occasion, including Assyrian singers who perform for the event. Visitors would generally picnic, barbecue or relax in the Australian bush, and they would usually participate in Assyrian folk dance. This is the second largest Assyrian social gathering in Sydney after the New Year celebration in Fairfield Showground.
Fairfield's large Assyrian community has had the media describe the suburb as 'Little Iraq' or 'Little Assyria'. Assyrian businesses have opened in Fairfield, mostly in Ware Street and Smart Street, and in Fairfield Heights in The Boulevarde. These businesses include everything from jewelry shops to restaurants and convenient stores, making the area favourite entertainment and shopping hot spot for the Assyrian community.
Assyrian Australians, like many other Assyrians from around the world, are mainly fond of soccer, and have established various football clubs in Australia. Fairfield Bulls Soccer Club, based in Sydney, is the most prominent soccer club in the country. It was established in 1971 and it has involved hundreds of kids and teens in different age teams. Legislated by Football NSW, Fairfield Bulls became a standalone club in 2005. The Soccer Club was linked with Nineveh Sports and Community Club. Another conspicuous Assyrian soccer club in Sydney, established in the early 1970s, is the Nineveh Eagles.
Most Assyrian-Australian media is aired on the radio. Assyrian radio has a variety of themes and topics which consist mainly of Assyrian music and interviews with prominent Assyrian individuals, and politics, current events, weather, sport and history. These subjects are usually affiliated with Assyrian people, their culture and homeland.SBS Radio, which airs in Sydney and Melbourne, broadcasts in the Assyrian language every Saturday and Tuesday evenings from 8pm to 9pm.
2000FM, a Sydney radio station, airs in the Assyrian language every Monday mornings for three hours, on the frequency of 98.5 FM.
2GLF, a community radio station in Sydney's suburb of Liverpool, on the frequency of 89.3 FM, broadcasts a number of Assyrian shows. Nohadra Radio, established in 1998, is the most prominent Assyrian radio show on the station, which airs Sunday nights from 8pm to 10pm.
Jibrail Kassab - Former Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Sham Khamis - Plays for Sydney FC in the Australian W-League.
Ninos Khoshaba - Politician and is a former member of Parliament of New South Wales.
Cindy Sargon - TV chef and business woman.
Meelis Zaia - Assyrian Church of the East's metropolitan bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon.
Andrew Rohan - A politician, who was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Smithfield for the Liberal Party of Australia from 2011 to 2015.
Leena Khamis - Plays for Sydney FC in the Australian W-League and the Matildas.
Mario Shabow - Plays for Western Sydney Wanderers FC in the Hyundai A-League.
Sue Ismiel - Founder and owner of Nad's.