In the last month Adem Genc, Executive Director ATA-A, Ekrem Ozyurek OAM, President of the Keysborough Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre/ATA-A member and Unal Altay, Board Member ATA-A presented a case of great concern on behalf of the community to the City of Monash Council and Executive body.

Geoff Lake, Mayor of the City of Monash invited our organisation to inform Councillors and the Executive committee about an impending motion being considered to recognise an alleged “Armenian, Greek, Assyrian genocide” at the upcoming Council Meeting on 27 May 2014. With the timely intervention of ATA-A, an attempt to rush this motion through without considering any implications on residents of the municipality, the wider community and specifically Turkish-Australians was put to rest..

Geoff Lake considered any attempt to bring the City of Monash into the spotlight on a contentious issue would cause harm to the community. During our presentation, we described the negative impact such a motion would bring, including the division and race related segregation this would cause. The challenge to uphold and maintain the principles of harmony, good relations and multiculturalism is a shared responsibility, as well as the fabric of the modern day Australian way of life.

The intent of our presentation and indeed the confirmed message received via feedback from many councillors is to highlight that as elected representatives, the job of the council is to govern for all. The proper place for historical fact finding and proclamations of historical events lies with academia. Political gesturing to specific interest groups, particularly on irrelevant issues to Australia, is not the job of council. Divisive and racially motivated issues thrown into the public sphere without due consideration will only serve to undermine the work our decision makers in Victoria achieved to date.

There were some attempts to draw the discussion into one of contending facts and debate the legitimacy or otherwise of certain points such as the number of deaths, the definition of genocide, a universal acceptance of events etc. No doubt, this type of dialogue ought to be happening and we welcome the opportunity to discuss the facts, having issued several invitations to the Armenian National Committee of Australia to engage with our community on a common impartial platform such as the Centre for Dialogue at Latrobe University. There is yet to be a formal acknowledgement or response to our invitation.

The sentiments of Turkish-Australians is to simply continue as valued contributors to our society, recognising the terrible loss of life on all sides and extending their condolences without preconditions or any impediment to reconciliation remains true today as it did 99 years ago. Though, the aim of the well known local interest groups claiming to represent Armenian-Australians isn’t to unlock the truth, it is to keep pandoras box hidden away and for all to accept their misconstrued version of the truth.

As an outcome of the ATA-A’s timely initiative in Victoria, we can confirm that no motion recognising a genocide was tabled on the agenda, nor was it proposed or passed at the 27 May 2014 Council Meeting. This is a significant shift away from propaganda driven rhetoric convoluting our political framework and unnecessarily occupying precious public time. Our decision makers are rightly expected to represent the community we are. A community of harmony and multiculturalism with common interests of building a better Australia for all.

Adem Genc

Executive Director

Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance