Migration to Australia

Armenian settlement in Australia can be traced back to the mid 19th century in the era of the gold rush.  The second settlement began after the First World War when a number of Armenians looked to Australia as a safe have to colonise. However, real migration started after the Second World War and in the 1960’s when Armenians became displaced from Far and Near Easter countries.  The organised migration of Armenians to Australia saw settlement of communities in Sydney and Melbourne.

Faith in Practice

Where Armenians settle a place of worship to profess our Christian faith is soon to follow.  In the 1940’s a small group of Armenians would regularly congregate in a Methodist Church in Kings Cross to sing hymns led by Archdeacon Mackertich Hacobian.  It was in the early 1950’s that a movement started to establish the first Armenian Church in Sydney.

Mr Stepan (James) Panikian who migrated to Australia from Egypt in 1946 with his family conceived the idea of an Armenian Church in Sydney and in consultation with a few compatriots established the first Church Council in 1953 for the purpose of establishing an Armenian Church.  Archimandrite Assoghig Ghazarian from Los Angeles was invited to help establish the church project. However, until the project took alight, the Panikians converted three of their shop units on William Street, Kings Cross into a small chapel so the Armenian community would not be deprived a place of worship.

The First Armenian Church in Australia

And so the fundraising effort began to establish the first Armenian Church which took considerable time to fulfil.  Visiting Australia, His Grace Bishop Terenig Poladian assisted the Church Council and congregation in raising funds. A small Presbyterian church, located on the second floor of 108 Campbell Street, Surry Hills with seating for about 70 people was purchased by the Armenian Church Council in 1957.  Though modest in form, it would become the first Armenian Church in Australia, the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection, and was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Terenig Poladian on 11th November 1957.

In late 1957, Father Assoghig was appointed to the Province of India and Far East, and was consecrated Bishop.  Reverend Father Aramais Mirzaian, then in Calcutta, was appointed the minister of the newly acquired church in Sydney and took over his religious duties in August 1958.

When the wave of mass Armenian migration started to reach Australia in 1961-62 it soon became evident that the small church at Campbell Street would not be adequate to cope with growing community needs.  Mindful also of the need for a community hall and adequate facilities to cater for a Sunday school to instruct younger generations in their mother tongue, culture and religion, the Church Council avidly began its search for new premises.  It was not until September 1965 that a suitable site was found.

Formerly the East Chatswood Baptist Church, 10 Macquarie Street, Chatswood was purchased thanks to generous donations and sale proceeds of the church premises in Surrey Hills.  The new church was rededicated as the new Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection and consecrated by His Grace Bishop Komitas Der Stepanian on Sunday, 27 February, 1966.

It is important to highlight the contribution of the early Armenian settlers to the acquisition of this Armenian sanctuary which until today is the hub of the Armenian Community for worship and gathering.  Most noteworthy for his benefaction is Mr Arthur Aginian, a patriotic Armenian who not only gave moral support and liberal donations toward the purchase of the churches and rectory but also assisted many compatriots migrating to Australia.

The Church Today

The building we know as the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection today has changed vastly in structure from the humble edifice of 1966.  Over the decades, the Church has been renovated and refurbished to encapsulate the essence of more typical Armenian Church architecture.

In 1974, a marble baptismal font was constructed and in 1976 extensions to the front of the Church building saw the addition of the upper room, the erection of a traditional pyramidal dome that is unique to Armenian churches which houses the bell tower, and a major revamping of the building façade.

1991 saw extensions to the rear of the church and the transformation of the Altar (khoran) with the installation of the marble Holy Table (Soorp Seghan) and subsequently the ceramic friezes at the base of the Altar depicting our Lord Jesus Christ, Apostles and Armenian saints. All these refurbishments were undertaken with the benefaction of faithful parishioners. With the same devotion, other upgrades and embellishments have continued over the decades to ensure the traditions of typical Armenian Church structures and icons are upheld.

Timeline of Clergy who have served the Church of Holy Resurrection

  • 1954
    Bishop Asoghig Ghazarian was the first Armenian clergy to visit Australia in 1954.  He was invited to organise the Armenian Community and set the foundations so a church could be acquired.   In 1962 he revisited Australia to consecrate St Mary’s Armenian Church in Melbourne.
  • 1957
    Bishop Terenig Poladian came to Sydney in 1957 to advance the cause of the Mother Church in Sydney.  He consecrated the first Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection located at 108 Campbell Street, Surrey Hills on 11 November, 1957.
  • 1958-1990
    Father Aramais Mirzaian arrived in Australia in 1958 from Calcutta, India.  He was the first parish priest to serve the Armenian Community in Australia and was Acting Prelate of Far Eastern Diocese including Australia until 1966.  He was a pioneer in the early development of the Armenian Community in NSW.
  • 1964
    Archbishop Haigazoun Abrahamian was the appointed Delegate of the Holy See to the Far Eastern Diocese with its headquarters in the Armenian Church of Nazareth in Calcutta.  In this capacity, he visited the Armenian congregations of Australia and New Zealand
  • 1966
    Bishop Komitas Ter Stepanyan consecrated the relocated Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection at 10 Macquarie Street, Chatswood.   The consecration of the church building and hall took place on 27 February, 1966.
  • 2005-2008
    Father Vardan Navasardyan arrived in Australia in 2005 to serve the Parish of Sydney after completing his seminary studies at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary in Etchmiadzin and being ordained a celibate priest. He served diligently in the parish for three years before returning back to the Holy See.
  • 1966-1981
    Bishop Karekin Kazanjian arrived in Australia in December 1966.  He became the first Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and served in this position until 1981 when he was elected to the position of Grand Sacristan of the Brotherhood of St. James in Jerusalem. Archbishop Karekin Kazanjian was elevated to the position of Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople in September 1990.
  • 1975-2012
    Archbishop Aghan Baliozian arrived in Australia as an Archimandrite in 1975 to serve as Vicar General of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand. In 1981 he was appointed Primate of the Diocese and in 1991 Pontifical Legate of India and the Far East. As Primate he was instrumental in his role, guiding and leading the development of the Armenian communities in Sydney and Melbourne during the formative  years as well as tending to the pastoral needs of small mission parishes in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Far East.

    An envoy for ecumenism, Archbishop Baliozian was well-respected and held in high esteem for his commitment to Christian unity, inter-religious dialogue and peace building both at the local and international level. He became the first President of the National Council of Churches in Australia in 1994 and represented the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin at the World Council of Churches.

    Archbishop Baliozian entered his eternal rest in Sydney on 22 September 2012.

  • 1985
    Archpriest Father Norayr Patanian in 1985 after migrating to Australia with his family the same year.

    He was appointed Parish Priest and served in this position until June 2007 when he retired from full time church office duties.  He continues to serve in church and parish life.

  • 1990
    Archpriest Father Bartev Karakashian served as a deacon of the Church of Holy Resurrection for five years before being ordained a priest in 1990.

    In 2009 he retired from full-time church office duties. He continues to serve in church and parish life.

  • 2010
    Reverend Father Avetis Hambardzumyan arrived in Sydney in December 2010 with his wife and 10 month old son. He is currently the Parish Priest of the Church of Holy Resurrection and was bestowed the Pectoral Cross on 20 November 2011
  • 2013
    Bishop Haigazoun Najarian arrived in Australia on 4 January 2013, appointed the new Primate of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand by His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Timeline of Major Milestones in the History of the Armenian Church of Australia

  • 1953
    The first Armenian Church Council was established in Sydney for the purpose of building an Armenian Church or acquiring an existing building and adapting it.
  • 1954
    The first Armenian clergy, His Grace Bishop Asoghig Ghazarian visited Australia.
  • 1955
    The second Armenian Church Council was established in Victoria
  • 1957
    The first Armenian Church in Australia was purchased and consecrated the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection at 108 Campbell Street, Surry Hills with seating for about 70 people.
  • 1954 - 1961
    Establishment of the first church sub-groups:

    • 1954  Church Choir
    • 1955  Church Bulletin “Looyce”
    • 1956  Church Ladies Auxiliary
    • 1961  Youth Group
  • 1962
    The second Armenian Church in Australia was purchased and consecrated St Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in North Fitzroy, Melbourne. The Church relocated to its current location in Surrey Hills in 1977.
  • 1963
    The first Armenian School was established by the Church as a Saturday language school in the hall of the Methodist Church at Crows Nest.
  • 1967
    In Sydney, a new larger church was purchased at 10 Macquarie Street, Chatswood and rededicated the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection.  This is the current site of the Church and the Diocesan Centre
  • 1968
    The Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand was established.
  • 1968
    The first Primate of the Diocese was His Grace Bishop Karekin Kazanjian who arrived in Sydney in 1966 and took on the Primateship in 1968
  • 1968
    The Aginian Armenian School was established by the Church Council of Victoria.
  • 1976
    Extensions to the front of the Sydney Church saw the addition of the upper room, the erection of a traditional pyramidal dome that is unique to Armenian churches that houses the Church bell tower and a major revamping of the building façade
  • 1981
    The second Primate of the Diocese, His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian was appointed to the position.
  • 1991
    Extensions to the rear of the Sydney Church and the transformation of the Holy Altar.
  • 1993
    Establishment of the third Church Council in Sydney’s Western Suburbs
  • 1997
    First Pontifical Visit to Australia – His Holiness Karekin I Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, of blessed memory
  • 2001
    Celebrations for the 1700th Anniversary of the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of Armenia
  • 2002
    First Pontifical Visit to Australia of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
  • 2007
    Purchase of property for the establishment of a new parish in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.
  • 2013
    His Grace Bishop Haigazoun Najarian is appointed the new Primate of the Diocese
  • 2019
    Second official Pontifical Visit to Australia of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians on the occasion of the opening of the new Diocesan Centre at 11 Chatswood Avenue, Chatswood from 3-11 February.