Arab Australia: Shish on the barbie?

In the 70’s and 80’s a wave of migration took Arabs from their homeland in the Middle East and produced a diverse and wide-ranging settlement of Arabs in the diaspora.

While North America, Canada and Europe have perhaps received the larger share of Arab community and culture, Australia: yes, sun blessed, ‘shrimp on the barbie’, surf loving Australia, boasts a community of Arabs too.

Australian-Lebanese actor Firas Dirani

Australian-Lebanese actor Firas Dirani

How’s that for modernity?

My childhood memories still involve crowds of swarthy Egyptian relatives carrying their red bessemer pots, laden with kafta and vine leaves stuffed with rice, to the beach. Tanned Aussies plunged athletically into the surf and lunched on their humbler fare of store bought fish and chips. I was embarrassed, even mortified by our ‘differentness’ as a child, but now, I suppose I pity anyone who hasn’t enjoyed delicious warak einab by the bay.

Stereotypes aside, the Egyptian community represent only one part of the Arab community in Australia, which has been enriched by the Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs as well.

Here’s a useful graph of Egyptian immigration statistics by the Australian Government’s community relations commission,

 Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.42.39 PM

Most Egyptian-Australians have settled in New South Wales, which is shown in purple above, though there is also a substantial community in the state of Victory.

And another interesting fact from the same publication relates to the Religious persuasions of Australian-Egyptians, who are predominately Christian. At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Egypt-born were Oriental Orthodox (13 213), Catholic (7985) and Eastern Orthodox (5392).

-Community Relations Commission

Australia is also home to many Arab Muslims, some of whom feature in this video by Katrina Yu of Australia’s Multicultural Broadcasting Service, SBS

Arabs have brought much to Australia. They boast a wide array of newspapers and publications, like The Middle East Herald, and the Middle East Times. Media personalties like SBS Radio’s Majda Aboud, join Australian-Arab politicians like Marie Bashir and actors like Firass Dirani.

So the next time someone offers you a shish on the barbie, or perhaps some hummus with your beer, you’ll know to say Shukran, and to enjoy the increasingly eclectic and surprising Australia, in all its glory.

Two sources for further reading:

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