Tuesday, 25 February 2020
South Australia: Maronite Community
I rise tonight to speak regarding my attendance at St Maroun's parish and community hall on Saturday, 15 February, with my friend and state colleague, the member for Elder, Carolyne Power, MP. We were fortunate enough to be invited for a celebration of 41 years of service for Mr Elias Nemer, the Honorary Consul for Lebanon in my home state of South Australia. That visit not only afforded me a rare opportunity to reflect upon a marvellous career but also gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the contributions made to South Australia by the Maronite community.
The first Lebanese people arrived in Australia in approximately 1850, and the Maronite people first arrived in South Australia in around 1854. At first, only a small number of Maronite people made the long journey to Australia but, as religious persecution continued in Lebanon and as new shores beckoned, they emigrated in more numbers in search of a new life and new beginning for them and their children. These people came chiefly to live openly and without discrimination or persecution. For these people, family and church are one and the same, such being their way of life in the mould of a St Maroun. The Maronite people are a stoic people who held fast to their culture and heritage, working relentlessly for their families in a new land. Their story represents a lesson to all Australians on the value of faith and tradition—to not just the current generation but also future generations to come. The Maronite movement had a profound influence in Lebanon and its monks remained faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to celebrate the life and achievements of Mr Nemer. On that occasion, his daughter, Anne, spoke of his life, his achievements and his generous nature, attributable to his lifelong pursuit of the principles of St Maroun enshrined in the church. At age 17, Mr Nemer travelled solo from Lebanon to Australia where he met his wife, Violet. Together they formed a dynamic relationship that would span close to 60 years, being blessed with seven children, 18 grandchildren and, more recently, two great-grandchildren. Mr Nemer and his wife sponsored and settled numerous Lebanese immigrants, helping them to adapt to their new homeland and helping them to seek employment and to find housing and schooling for their growing families.
In 1971, Mr Nemer was first elected as the president and chairman of the Lebanese Maronite community in Adelaide and was instrumental in establishing the first Maronite church. In 1978, Mr Nemer was appointed Honorary Consul for Lebanon, which allowed him to facilitate numerous visits from members of parliament from both Lebanon and Australia.
In the recounting of Mr Nemer's life, the lessons of education, hard work and dedication showed the importance of building a positive, meaningful and enjoyable life. Recently, Mr Nemer was awarded the Medal of St Maroun and the Lebanese embassy trophy to commemorate his 41 years of service. Mr Nemer has instilled in his family the value of education, hard work and dedication. His life and achievements and the impact he's had on those around him should stand as an example to all Australians as to what can be achieved when one honours faith and tradition and bestows upon the next generation the same noble and robust systems of learning, hard work and dedication which enable them to flourish and provide success for themselves and their community.
I take this opportunity to thank the Maronite community of South Australia and St Maroun's parish for having me at the celebration of Mr Nemer's 41 years of service. I would like to acknowledge Mr Nemer, his family and the Maronite community's contribution to this country and to my home state of South Australia.