Overview

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A number of continuities may be discerned in the Lebanese community in Australia over the 10 years since the end of the Civil War. First, there is continuing extreme diversity in the Lebanese community as illustrated by the proliferation of community organisations of many types and the problems experienced by the ALA to perform its umbrella role for the whole community. Second, the consolidation and growth of churches and mosques and their related organisations ensure that they remain the most significant bodies in the community, meeting social and cultural activities as well as religious ones.     Third, is the continuing high unemployment rate of Lebanese-born, which is higher still in suburbs with high concentrations of Lebanese. This has contributed to family problems including poverty, domestic violence and intergenerational conflict. Social workers in the community also report the negative impact of gambling on poor and low income families.

Over the last ten years there has been a change among the third wave immigrants. They have become more settled emotionally and materially, in contrast to their situation upon arrival when many were disturbed by the traumatic events of the Civil War and lost in their new setting.

Technology has exerted a major impact on many aspects of Lebanese community life. For example, cable television, videotapes, cheaper long distance calls, have all ensured the continuing contact with Lebanese culture and society denied to earlier waves of Lebanese migrants. When this is coupled with the large number of short-term visits to Lebanon, it is likely that third wave immigrants will maintain closer contact with their families and former homeland than earlier groups.

One of the major changes over the last ten years have been the educational and professional achievements of some of the newly arrived immigrants, and especially of second generation Lebanese.   These young people now have the self-confidence to assert their culture and religion as part of their Australian identity.  Their contribution to their community is a significant development with implications for a more self-assured community in the future. 

Another major change is the growth of welfare and socio-political organisations, such as the Australian Lebanese Welfare and the Australian-Arabic Council, which ensure that the interests of Lebanese Australians are brought to the attention of both the public and authorities. The establishment of these organisations reveals a growing degree of self-confidence and assertion on the part of the Lebanese-Australian community to ensure their rights in a multicultural society.

Throughout their settlement in Australia the great majority of Lebanese immigrants have revealed a strong desire to be identified with Australia.  This has taken many forms over time, from the early settlers seeking citizenship in the face of the official policy of exclusionism, in their seeking the vote, in their public spiritedness, and in their enlisting in the Australian Armed forces in both World Wars.  Yet another measure is the high proportion of eligible Lebanese-born who had taken up Australian citizenship (96 per cent) by 1996. In short, the story of Lebanese in Australia shows that Lebanese-Australians wish to retain elements of their Lebanese identity at the same time as acquiring an Australian identity.