After acknowledging everyone who was present, including Father Elie Rahme, Sr Elham, Sr Clara and Michael Sukkar MP for Deakin who was representing the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.

It is with great honour and joy that I have the privilege of welcoming you all here today. I feel very humbled that this honour has been given to me, when I am aware that there are so many others who are more deserving of this privilege. There are many people who have worked tirelessly and made great sacrifices from year to year for the greater benefit of our community.

I would like to thank the members of Sarasen and all the members of the various building committees who have worked so hard and volunteered the time and energy towards the renovations. Also a special “Thank You” to all those who worked so hard during the last few weeks to make today possible.

In a sense it seems inappropriate for me to welcome you to your own home. This Centre, “Bayt Bsharri”, belongs to all of you and is the product of the hard work and dedication of our community as a whole. We merely manage the centre on your behalf as best we can, to try and care for and preserve the centre as in the long term interests of the community as a whole.

Many of the founding members of the Association who deserve our thanks and praise are no longer with us, but I am sure that they are looking down upon us all gathered here today with great pride and joy. We should always pray for them and remember them whenever we use this centre because it was their foresight and drive that laid the foundations for what we have today.

The people of Bsharri take great pride in their hometown, their communities and their families. They have always supported and helped each other in times of need. It was this sense of togetherness that motivated the Bsharraniyyeh who first migrated to Australia to establish the Bsharri Association.

It is hard for us to imagine the difficulties that were encountered by those who migrated to Australia before the 1970’s, they did not have the assistance and resources available to migrants today. Back then the migrants were very dependent upon each other.During the 1960’s the people from Bsharri decided to form an Association to assist the increasing number of people who were arriving from their hometown.

Another reason for the Association was to perpetuate our Bsharri traditions here in Australia and to encourage our future generations to maintain links with their place of origin whilst respecting and assimilating into the Australian way of life.

Since its establishment the Association has attracted community members who are skilled and committed to work diligently in the service of our community. Thank you to all past members of the Association for your efforts.

The Association has always been open to change and progress. This is apparent in the Association’s ability to adapt to community needs. From a community house in a residential zone to a commercial property which combines a leased business and a community centre.

The Association has also shown leadership in the Australian Lebanese community for example by supporting the Christians in Lebanon during times of conflict by fundraising to provide essential provisions and medications to our hometown.

Our Association has always kept up with the times combining social media and internet with traditional methods to keep in touch with our members. Today we are also proud to be launching our new website, which is to be demonstrated by Luke and Mark.

Thank you to all the community members who had the vision and foresight to commence the renovation process and all those who have helped along the way. A special thank you to all the members of the various building committees who have volunteered their time and skills towards the refurbishment of the Centre. Thank you to all the behind the scenes supporters and workers and those who have made financial contributions towards the refurbishment. It has been a long hard journey but we have finally made it home and your community effort has delivered a Centre we can all be proud of.

We can only move forward into the 21st century with the support of our members and their children, for whom this centre will be a place to meet others descended from our hometown Bsharri. It will be a place to celebrate our joy and family celebrations; a place to console our bereaved brothers and sisters. This centre can also be used to provide a financial base for assisting in community and charitable works for our hometown Bsharri. God Bless you all.

Theresa Sukkar