The second wave of migrants from Lebanon, who started coming out in the late 1940s, were to have a major impact on the Lebanese community in Melbourne. They attended the few Lebanese community organisations that were already in existence such as St Nicholas Orthodox Church in east Melbourne and Jimmy Khyatt’s club in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne as well as visiting the homes of the first wave migrants. They joined with the earlier settlers and their children to establish the Australian Lebanese Association the early 1950s and the Maronites among them established Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite church in 1956. Above all, they were the first group of immigrants since Lebanon gained its independence in 1943 and, as a result, proudly asserted their Lebanese nationality and heritage.
One outcome of this increased community activity and pride was a desire to provide the community with information from overseas and new about the Lebanese-Australian communities throughout the country. This led a small group of community activists to publish a monthly magazine in Arabic and English. The group consisted of Rudolph Abou-Khater (Editor in Chief), Najib Kurban (Sub Editor), DeebEl-Hage (General Manager) together with Joseph Batrouney, John Kayrouz and Badwi Khoury. With the exception of Joseph Batrouney, who came from a well-known, pioneer Lebanese family, the members of the publishing group were young, well-educated second wave immigrants.
The first edition of An Noor (the Light) was published on Lebanon’s National Day, 22 November 1963. Its first editorial ‘A New Light is Born’ outlines the aims of this magazine:
The aim of the publishers is to present “AN NOOR” as a mirror of free and independent thought in journalism, conveying to the public a mature and well-balanced magazine which will interest all sections of the community.
The publishers take pride in presenting Australia’s first Lebanese monthly magazine and, unlike any present or past Lebanese publications, “AN NOOR” is not confined to any one state or section of the Lebanese community, or to membership of any association, but will be available and on sale to every Lebanese person in Australia.
The spirit of Freedom and Independence won in 1943 is still gaining strength in all Lebanese people. Here in Australia this spirit is manifest in many Lebanese who, by their endeavours are making a name for themselves and Lebanon.
It is this spirit of Freedom and Independence which has motivated the publishers to produce “AN NOOR” which, by translation into English is “THE LIGHT”.
Over the four and a half years of its existence AN NOOR included regular news and articles about Lebanon and the Middle East; news about the Australian-Lebanese communities throughout Australia, with a particular emphasis on Lebanese National Day celebrations; community functions attended by Lebanese consuls and Australian politicians; family events such as marriages, births and christenings; profiles of prominent Australian-Lebanese; and commentary on Australian national events. The aim of representing news and views of the Australian –Lebanese community as a whole was largely achieved and AN NOOR attracted broad support and readership.
The process of producing the magazine involved subscribing to Lebanese and Australian newspapers and magazines and cutting and pasting items as well as gathering and presenting local Australian-Lebanese community news. This work was done in the evenings at the homes of one or other of the publishing group, most often Rudoloph Abou-Khater. This time-consuming work represented largely voluntary community activity as the magazine was only able to recoup costs and never able to provide a profit for the publishers.
After four and a half years a turning point was reached: the magazine either had to expand or close down. The demands of producing a monthly magazine proved too great for the resources of this volunteer group and after four and a half years the AN NOOR experiment came to an end.
AN NOOR made a major contribution to the Australian-Lebanese community. Given the religious, community and political divisions to be found among Lebanese, it successfully adopted a policy of independence with respect to religious, community and political groups. Secondly, it provided a vehicle for community cohesion during the second wave migration from Lebanon among new arrivals and with the existing first wave Lebanese families. Finally, it asserted a pride in Lebanon and being Lebanese while, at the same time, encouraging loyalty and public-spiritedness to Australia. As a prominent Lebanese-Australian from Sydney said: ‘Beirut has taken the culture of the Arabic language from Egypt and now Melbourne has taken the Arabic culture from Sydney.’
© Trevor Batrouney
First published in Lebanese Diaspora: History, Racism and Belonging. Ed. Paul Tabar.
Lebanese American University Beirut, Lebanon 2005.