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Parliamentary Speech by The Hon. David Clarke MLC

The Toula Museum of Australia has been fortunate enough to attract the attention of various prominent Australians who have recognised the Museum's significance as a source of valuable information about Australia’s Lebanese Diaspora, and the institution's importance as a fixture in Sydney’s rich cultural milieu.

In the morning of the 2nd of June, 2010, the Honourable David Clarke delivered a speech to the News South Wales' Upper House about the Museum. The speech is reproduced below:

It is a great pleasure for me to bring to the attention of this House the recent launching of the Toula Museum of Australia, a project that has been created by a dedicated group of Australians of Lebanese ancestry whose origins are from the Lebanese village of Toula. In a nutshell, the museum's purpose is to showcase to Australian society not only the remarkable achievements of the people of the village of Toula but also to proudly highlight their heritage, which has its foundations firstly in Lebanon's unique Phoenician origins and, secondly, in the Maronite Christian faith, which has contributed so massively to the cultural and religious richness of Lebanese society. However, the Phoenician origins and the Maronite contribution to Lebanon have had an influence far beyond that nation's borders. This is because the Phoenicians are acknowledged as the founders of what has developed into the world's present-day trading and commercial system and free enterprise economy.

Likewise the Maronite Church is universally acknowledged for its unique contribution to Christian civilisation worldwide. The village of Toula, situated 1,500 metres above sea level in the Maronite heartland of North Lebanon, is not large. In fact, it comprises only about 1,000 people. However, its achievements have been spectacular. Today, a great multitude of lawyers, doctors, educators, business entrepreneurs and artistic achievers whose heritage emanates from Toula can be found throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and elsewhere.

It is from a dedicated group of such people in Sydney that the idea of the Toula Museum of Australia was born and has become a reality. It was conceived by prominent Sydney lawyer Peter Zada, the president of the museum's organising committee, and he and the other committee members have made the museum a reality. Together with the other committee members, vice president Joseph Farah, treasurer Paul Zada, vice treasurer Monzer Farah, secretary Latifi Farah, vice secretary Angel Dagher and the curatorial director of the museum, Dr Nicholas Hardwick, an internationally renowned classical scholar, linguist, museum curator and archaeologist, much work has been done to assemble exhibits, artefacts and other materials for the museum.

The recent launch of the museum at the Maronite Heritage Centre in Sydney was indeed a grand and illustrious occasion and I was greatly honoured to be asked to be one of the speakers. In officiating at the launch, the Maronite Bishop of Australia, His Lordship Bishop Ad Abi Karam, noted that the Toula Museum is the very first Lebanese village museum to be opened in Australia. My own inquiries indicate that it may well be among the very first of its kind in the worldwide Lebanese diaspora. Since the museum's launch, its organising committee has certainly wasted no time in pursuing a policy of building it into an institution of excellence. Already a sizeable collection of artefacts and objects has been assembled and is periodically displayed in the museum's premises in the Sydney suburb of Gordon. A website is currently being constructed and several temporary exhibitions have been held or are to be held in coming weeks in various locations. These include a forthcoming exhibition in St Charbel's Church at Punchbowl, centred on the fourth century patron saint of Toula, Saint Assia.

The establishment of the Toula Museum is indeed a landmark achievement for the Lebanese-Australian community and especially those whose ancestral ties are with Toula. I congratulate my good friend Peter Zada and my other friends who comprise the Toula Museum organising committee. It is a landmark. It provides Australian society with a portrayal of Lebanon's heritage through the eyes of the people of Toula. It highlights the continuing benefits flowing to mankind from Phoenician civilisation and it also highlights the Maronite contribution to Christianity worldwide. It is a wonderful achievement; may it prosper and grow.

The original record of the speech can be found in Hansard, the official record of the Proceedings of the NSW Upper House, on page 23533 (9:20am).