Migration to Australia
Armenian settlement in Australia can be traced back to the mid 19th century in the era of the gold rush. The second settlement began after the First World War when a number of Armenians looked to Australia as a safe have to colonise. However, real migration started after the Second World War and in the 1960’s when Armenians became displaced from Far and Near Easter countries. The organised migration of Armenians to Australia saw settlement of communities in Sydney and Melbourne.
Faith in Practice
Where Armenians settle a place of worship to profess our Christian faith is soon to follow. In the 1940’s a small group of Armenians would regularly congregate in a Methodist Church in Kings Cross to sing hymns led by Archdeacon Mackertich Hacobian. It was in the early 1950’s that a movement started to establish the first Armenian Church in Sydney.
Mr Stepan (James) Panikian who migrated to Australia from Egypt in 1946 with his family conceived the idea of an Armenian Church in Sydney and in consultation with a few compatriots established the first Church Council in 1953 for the purpose of establishing an Armenian Church. Archimandrite Assoghig Ghazarian from Los Angeles was invited to help establish the church project. However, until the project took alight, the Panikians converted three of their shop units on William Street, Kings Cross into a small chapel so the Armenian community would not be deprived a place of worship.
The First Armenian Church in Australia
And so the fundraising effort began to establish the first Armenian Church which took considerable time to fulfil. Visiting Australia, His Grace Bishop Terenig Poladian assisted the Church Council and congregation in raising funds. A small Presbyterian church, located on the second floor of 108 Campbell Street, Surry Hills with seating for about 70 people was purchased by the Armenian Church Council in 1957. Though modest in form, it would become the first Armenian Church in Australia, the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection, and was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Terenig Poladian on 11th November 1957.
In late 1957, Father Assoghig was appointed to the Province of India and Far East, and was consecrated Bishop. Reverend Father Aramais Mirzaian, then in Calcutta, was appointed the minister of the newly acquired church in Sydney and took over his religious duties in August 1958.
When the wave of mass Armenian migration started to reach Australia in 1961-62 it soon became evident that the small church at Campbell Street would not be adequate to cope with growing community needs. Mindful also of the need for a community hall and adequate facilities to cater for a Sunday school to instruct younger generations in their mother tongue, culture and religion, the Church Council avidly began its search for new premises. It was not until September 1965 that a suitable site was found.
Formerly the East Chatswood Baptist Church, 10 Macquarie Street, Chatswood was purchased thanks to generous donations and sale proceeds of the church premises in Surrey Hills. The new church was rededicated as the new Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection and consecrated by His Grace Bishop Komitas Der Stepanian on Sunday, 27 February, 1966.
It is important to highlight the contribution of the early Armenian settlers to the acquisition of this Armenian sanctuary which until today is the hub of the Armenian Community for worship and gathering. Most noteworthy for his benefaction is Mr Arthur Aginian, a patriotic Armenian who not only gave moral support and liberal donations toward the purchase of the churches and rectory but also assisted many compatriots migrating to Australia.
There are currently three operating Armenian Apostolic Churches in all of Australia
- Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection – 10 Macquarie Street, CHATSWOOD NSW
- Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Trinity – 26 Garfield Street, WENTWORTHVILLE NSW
- Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Mary – 2-4 Norfolk Road, SURREY HILLS VIC
Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Trinity – 26 Garfield Street, WENTWORTHVILLE
With growing numbers of Armenians settling in the western suburbs of Sydney in the 1980s, a new Church Council was formed in the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia in 1993 to establish a parish for the Armenian Community residing in the locale.
Over the pursuing years, clergy of the Church of Holy Resurrection began celebrating the Divine Liturgy regularly each month in local churches to care for the spiritual and religious needs of the regional Community.
Under the direction of the Late Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, and in consultation with the Diocesan and Properties Councils, the Church Council of Sydney West began exploring options in the new millennia to establish an Armenian Apostolic Church in a central location to where Armenians reside. After seeking all building availabilities and possibilities in the western Sydney region, the current Church building became available in 2007. Renovations were underway between up until 2013.
On 5 January 2014, His Grace Bishop Haigazoun Najarian consecrated the holy altar and celebrated the inaugural Divine Liturgy. Today, Holy Mass has since been celebrated every Sunday serving the religious needs of the growing Armenian population in western Sydney.