This year the Australian Turkish community celebrates 50 years since migrating to Australia. The Australian Cypriot-Turkish community is celebrating 70 years since migration. Both these communities are predominantly Muslim arriving by sea and air in search of better life opportunities for their young families.
On Saturday 27 October Australian Turkish migrants that had made the journey to Australian shores fifty years ago were recognised in an award ceremony hosted by the Presidency For Turks Abroad And Related Communities (YTB) at Melbourne’s iconic Sofitel building.
The ceremony was attended by Victorian MP Nazlı Süleyman, Canberra’s Ambassador for Turkey Ahmet Vakur Gökdenizler, the Deputy Consul General of Melbourne, Osman İlhan Şener, YTB Vice President Sayit Yusuf, Ankara University of Fine Arts Professor Erol Parlak, and many representatives from community groups, organisations and community members.
Emotional stories were shared by attending elderly who had arrived here as children or in their early 20s and faced many challenges as they settled into these new lands that’s been home now for half a century.
One interesting story that was shared in the lead up to the 50 Year Celebrations was captured in an article written over 45 years ago involving Kemal Atmaca, a respected member of the Australian Turkish community and one of the founding board members of Thomastown mosque in Victoria.
After slaughtering an adaq sheep at his home Kemal Atmaca was taken to court, received a fine and was in the news.
This month, Kemal Atmaca was interviewed to reflect on this incident:
“I remember it like it was yesterday… As is our Islamic tradition we wanted to slaughter our meat in the halal way. There were no local halal butchers at the time. Sheep cost $2 each and with a weekly wage of $50 we could buy 25 sheep if we wanted.
We didn’t think anything of slaughtering our sheep in our backyard as we would back in the village. It didn’t ever occur to me that it would be illegal. Just as we packed all the meat into the freezers two men knocked on our door. We invited them in for tea. One of them was from the health department and he went straight to the freezer.
I would dare say it was after incidents like these that the halal meat industry started in Victoria, out of necessity. It’s now a multi million dollar industry. Of course, we never did any more sheep slaughtering at home after that.
I had to hire a lawyer and my good friend Dr Abdul Khalik Kazi helped to explain my side of the story in court.
Dr Kazi and Sheikh Fehmi were very helpful to the first migrant Muslims. They were our leaders, may Allah be pleased with them.”
This story has been the vessel by which Mr Atmaca is reuniting with his old friend Dr Kazi.
Today the Australian Turkish community are well represented across all professions and in the business community and are proud of their 50-year history of outstanding contributions to the Australian community.