Steve Bracks; Andrew Jakubowicz and Mara Moustafine.
Former Premier Steve Bracks describes his family background, immigrants from Lebanon in the late 19th century, which was then part of the Turkish Ottoman empire
30 January 2009
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My family ancestry came here in the 1890s, so spanning two centuries ago now. Both on my motherís side and also my fatherís side Ė my fatherís side from Zahle in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, and my motherís side from north of Beirut in the high country in Bikfaya . And my motherís side of the family Ė the Davises Ė they used to be called "Dahvis" and they changed their name to Davis Ė came to Ballarat and settled there and as hawkers initially buying and selling things with a cart that they had and my fatherís side was up in Ė near Lismore and in Sydney later on in New South Wales.
And after the Second World War Ė after introductions, my mother and father married and settled in Ballarat so thatís my ancestry in Victoria and the ancestry in Ballarat so it goes back a long way. Not dissimilar to a lot of migrants of that period, you know, that came with nothing, came here because of poverty which was in Lebanon at the time, where the family structure could not sustain the number of people in the family and they were sent to what they thought was going to be the United States of America but ended up on a boat and ended up in Australia. And thatís not an untypical story.
And thatís certainly the case for me as well. So it goes back a long way but because itís on both sides of the family, some of those cultural originations are still there.
Well the stories were about the difficulty of making ends meet, of surviving really and buying and selling which was a great trait of the Lebanese people of course, some of the greatest traders in the world but getting what they could and buying and selling it, getting on a train from Ballarat and going to Ė as my great grandfather did Ė going to Mildura and trying to sell his wares there. And eventually doing quite well and being entrepreneurial and owning businesses and drapery shops and real estate and doing quite well but - over a period of time. But it was of a difficult period.
Some of course, as you would expect, some racism, but not enormous. In fact I suppose the greater characteristic that my ancestors have had, my father, my mother, from what I know about my grandparents who died when I was young, was there wasnít a great deal of animus and there wasnít a great deal of racism. There was the occasional slurs in the schoolyard calling my mother a dago, which was common at that time, because they couldnít distinguish between any nationality that wasnít of Anglo Saxon Celtic background but it wasnít regular, it wasnít constant and certainly when I went to school, there was an absence of it. And I think that had been expunged by then.
Australiaís littered with people of my origin- of Lebanese background, whether thatís Jack Nasser or as we discussed off air before, Marie Bashir a whole range of people who have come from very beginnings and not many of which are known to have a Lebanese background Ė