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The 2016 Ethnic Business Awards

After 16 years, the Ethnic Business Awards decided to visit an old friend.  Melbourne had been a host city for the Awards many times in the past.

This year, the 28th Annual Ethnic Business Awards Gala Presentation Dinner was held in the Grand Ballroom of the stunning Pullman on the Park Hotel in Melbourne, Victoria.

Melbourne being the renowned vibrant hub for multiculturalism and diversity, what better place to host the longest running business awards program that celebrates and recognizes the contribution of migrant and Indigenous business owners to our great land.

Over 500 nominations came from every corner of the country this year, representing over 41 countries of origin including Australia for our Indigenous business people. The calibre of the nominations every year become greater, stronger, bolder and makes the job of our esteemed judges all the more difficult.

The awards founder and Chairman , Mr Joseph Assaf AM said “Tonight we’ve had the privilege of celebrating the cultural, social and economic contributions made to this country of ours by hundreds of inspiring people – people who have for so many different reasons chosen to make Australia their home.
“Whether they’ve come here as skilled workers, business migrants, or refugees – as two of our winners this year; whether they’re fleeing war or oppression or have come as sponsored migrants, or simply to be reunited with family; they all – each and every one of them in their unique ways – have made a difference.
“Likewise, those recognized in our Indigenous Business category have often had to struggle against enormous hardships and challenges to achieve their marvelous success,” Mr Assaf said.

The Hon. Julie Bishop MP , representing the Prime Minister validly stated that “Indeed Australia has been built on immigration. Since the Second World War over seven and a half million people have migrated to Australia. In fact about half of all Australians have one parent born overseas, about a quarter of all Australians were themselves born overseas… We have welcomed people, embraced people, integrated people into our communities from every corner of the earth. We are a land of freedom. We are committed to the rule of law and democratic institutions, and the rights of individuals. We are a land of opportunity. People with an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to work hard can find success in Australia and build a better life for their families.”

Guests included The Hon. Julie Bishop MP, representing The Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Burke MP, Manager of Opposition Business, along with several Parliamentary colleagues. Several members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps also attended along with many luminaries from all fields of business, media, and the community including Mr Sui Long Liu and Mr Michael Sun, heading the Guangzhou Government Aerotropolis Development Delegation, who flew in from China especially for the Awards.

Senator the Hon, Concetta Fierravanti Wells MP announced the Winner of the Indigenous in Business Category, Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja MP announced the Winner of the Small Business Category and Craig Swinburne from the NAB ( our major and founding Partner ) announced the Medium to Large Business Category.

You can read more about the winners here.

The 2015 Ethnic Business Awards

One small step for mankind; one giant leap for the Ethnic Business Awards… Hosting our 27th event in a new, never before ventured location, was an adventure and also a much sought after need.

The 27th Annual Ethnic Business Awards were held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in the city of Adelaide, South Australia. It was the first time that we had celebrated the diversity of our nation and the success that this diversity brings in Adelaide. This marked another milestone, as the Awards had now been hosted in every major capital city of our great nation. Furthermore, the Ethnic Business Awards remained the only initiative of their kind to recognise Migrant and Indigenous contributions to the Australian economy.

A record breaking 700 businessmen and women from more than 61 countries competed for the 2015 Ethnic Business Awards, reflecting the strong support and prestige that the Awards have achieved in their 27-year history. Finalists hailing from all corners of the globe: Greece, Lebanon, Italy, France, Japan, Russia and, of course, our Indigenous Finalists, hailing from our own beautiful country.

The Ethnic Business Awards celebrate the contribution of migrants to Australia’s business and cultural landscape, recognising innovation, purpose and excellence in both small and large business endeavours.

They highlight Australia as a key destination to create and sustain business across all sectors of industry despite race, colour, religion and cultural background. And it was The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Treasurer, representing the Prime Minister, who stated eloquently: “Australia is the most successful immigration country on earth. I don’t think that it is disputed; I don’t say it arguably, I say it emphatically. This is the most successful immigration nation on earth.”

He went on to mention:
“It is incredible to be in a room full of incredibly optimistic people and we are embracing the spirit of optimism which I’m finding as I move around the country. But that optimistic spirit, when it comes to our economy, when it comes to business and entrepreneurialism, is very much rooted in the Awards that we celebrate here tonight.”

Guests that attended the Awards again included representatives from Prime Ministers, Governor Generals, Leaders of the Opposition, Federal and Shadow Ministers, Local and International Dignitaries, Ambassadors and Diplomatic Representatives, Members of Diplomatic Missions, Sponsors, Community and Business Leaders and English and Non English Media
Some of these honoured guests were actively involved with Awards ceremony. The Honourable Scott Morrison addressed the audience on behalf of the Prime Minister. The Honourable Philip Ruddock MP introduced the Winner of the Indigenous in Business Category. And The Honourable Christopher Pyne MP presented and announced the winner Small Business Category.

The 2014 Ethnic Business Awards

In a year of unrest and general discord of our globe; with missing planes, local political turmoil, and terrorism, Australia stood strong and welcomed multinational harmony. Once more, it celebrated the diversity of its nation and the success that it brings just days before we opened our doors to the Leaders of the world arriving for the G20 Summit, with the Founder and Chairman of the Ethnic Business Awards, Mr Joseph Assaf AM, being part of the Civil Society C20 Committee for Australia.

The 2014 Ethnic Business Awards Gala Presentation Dinner was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Brisbane, and hosted by renowned media personality, Tracey Spicer. The Guest of Honour was the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, representing the Prime Minister of Australia
Joseph Assaf stated: “tonight is a chance to highlight this very model of global cooperation and to do so at the doorstep of G20 event. It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the significant role that both early and new settlers have played in our artistic, economic and social development. They have forged new pathways of success built on innovation, knowledge and expertise that has led to a flourishing of infrastructure, employment and economic sustainability.”

Founding and Major Sponsor NAB representative, Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager, NAB Business, said: “These businesses play a fundamental role in our economy, and it is a truly outstanding achievement.”

“At NAB, we are passionate about our role in helping migrant and indigenous businesses succeed, and the awards are a wonderful way to recognise the tremendous success and diversity they contribute to Australia’s business culture.”

Once again this year the Ethnic Business Awards hosted a stellar guest list, including representatives of Federal and State, Government and Opposition, International Government Representatives, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Sponsors, Community and Business Leaders and English and Non English Media.

The 2013 Ethnic Business Awards

With 25 years of business endeavour and success against the odds, the 2013 Ethnic Business Awards didn’t call for new nominations. Rather, three Champions of Champions were crowned, with all the winners and finalists of the three major categories over the past 24 years competing for this extraordinary accolade.
That choice has been made even more difficult than usual for the judging panel, who have had to take some additional criteria into consideration.

They include:
• Comparative growth, averaged out over years.
• Overall contributions to community.
• The changing economic climate.

Judges were put on a strict deadline to make their choice, so that the 2013 winners would be announced in June rather than November.

The inspirational stories of success against all odds that the EBA witnessed from each of the winners and finalists over the past 24 years has been testament to the power of the human spirit, especially during times of adversity and struggle. This year, the best of the best were showcased and celebrated in their continued achievement and contribution to the Australian community.

Coinciding with Canberra’s Centennial celebrations, the 25th Ethnic Business Awards was invited to the nation’s capital to host its prestigious annual Gala Presentation Dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on 25th June 2013.

All of these people and companies are, of course, winners in their own right and all have made, and continue to make, an outstanding contribution, not only to Australia’s economic life, but, also, to its social and cultural fabric.

They have enriched and uplifted us and, by their examples, they have broadcast a message to the world – that in Australia, anything is possible, and dreams can become a reality.

The 2012 Ethnic Business Awards

The 2012 Ethnic Business Awards ceremony dinner was held in the Sarah Grand Ballroom at ‘Le Montage’, Sydney, and the event was dubbed ‘both a landmark and signpost’ in Australia’s business and cultural landscape.

A welcome to Country from Gumaroy Newman opened the evening before Tracey Spicer, officiating yet again, offering a warm welcome to the Prime Minister, The Honourable Julia Gillard; and the Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable Tony Abbot.

Their Excellencies, Ambassadors of Croatia, Lebanon and the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan were also in attendance, along with Representatives of the Diplomatic Missions from China, Vietnam, Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and many other dignitaries from both Federal and State governments and luminaries from all fields of business, media, and the community at large.

Interest in the Awards was as vital and widespread as ever. The hundreds of nominees had comprised a veritable rainbow of cultures, ethnicities, religions, countries of origin, and personal circumstance. They were also a mixture – of refugees, business migrants, those who came to Australia to join their families, and also sponsored migrants.

Two new sponsors were added to the growing list of support: China South Airlines, and the Diversity Council of Australia – both perfect fits into the EBA family. The Diversity Council – Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia – had been established to encourage the very thing the Awards promotes: Diversity. Its support of the Ethnic Business Awards was a new and exciting addition as they headed into their twenty-fifth year. True diversity was at work, promoting diversity!

In his welcoming speech, Joseph Assaf greeted both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot with the observation that: “…tolerance and freedom … happen to be some of the fundamentals of Democracy. They are the things that a true democracy aims for. At its best, it coordinates its differences, harnesses them for the greatest good, and enjoys and celebrates the outcomes.  Without that well-conducted ‘symphony of differences’, we would have not harmony, but discord or – just as bad – monotony, and all the things that imply: stasis, lack of inspiration, lack of growth, lack of excitement.”

“It’s very encouraging, then, for me to see, tonight, two of our leading … sharing a table at this event. Sharing in not just the celebration but in food, conversation, the acknowledgement and acceptance of the common ground of offered hospitality, and the need to set aside political differences in support of a shared ideal.”

“Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Julia, Tony,” he said,” welcome to my table. Welcome to my house – my house of diversity.”

In reply, the Prime Minister drew applause as she said:

“It’s a pleasure to be at your table… I am going to look forward to welcoming you in Canberra next year, and,” she quipped, “in order to make that happen, I’ve needed, over the table, to negotiate the election date with Joseph. But, I just want to remind – it’s a secret, Joseph, so don’t tell Tony at any stage of the night!”

On a more serious note, she went on to observe:

“Immigration has worked. And it’s worked because we made it work. We accepted that our nation would never be defined by race or ethnicity, like so many other countries. Instead, we would define ourselves by our values and our way of life: our love of freedom and democracy; our egalitarian cast of mind and our relaxed outdoor lifestyle; our willingness to work hard and to play fair. And we said that anyone who embraced these things could be called ‘an Australian’.”

“Your admission ticket was your commitment. The commitment to choose this place from all the world. To serve it and fight for it, and always call it home.”

She went on to assert:

“This is a century when innovators will flourish. A century when Australia will be served well by its creative, entrepreneurial culture and its vibrant multicultural society. Our ethnic businesses are custodians of the many capabilities we need to succeed.”

“United in our diversity and unafraid of the future, let’s seize the opportunities of this Asian Century together.”

All of the finalists had, clearly, already taken that exhortation to heart and seized their own opportunities with both hands.

The 2011 Ethnic Business Awards

Since the 2010 ceremony in Perth, the Government had launched Australia’s new Multicultural Policy, reaffirming a commitment to pursuing the benefits of multiculturalism and diversity.

Across Australia, attitudes and ways of thinking were shifting – multiculturalism and diversity were being more universally accepted as a vital and generative way of life.

The 2011 Awards continued as a living example of that notion.

To start at the end, Tracey Spicer’s closing words on the evening pointed out:

“It’s been a truly multicultural night. From the traditional Welcome to Country, to entertainment from a Croatian, an Afro-Australian and a Greek-Australian, and marvellous and inspiring stories from so many countries, including Australia itself – stories that inspire others to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities that make Australia such a great place to do business.”

It was, indeed, a thoroughly multicultural evening.

Taking place in the Grand Ballroom of The Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, the 23rd annual Awards featured entertainment from veteran Croatian performer Oliver Dragojevic, acclaimed singer and daughter of Greek immigrant parents, Maria Mercedes, and eleven year-old Afro-Australian musical sensation, Yannick Koffi. A show-reel from past events also highlighted the incredible level of support and interest that the Awards had garnered over the years, while the finalists themselves were an eloquent tribute to the benefits of diversity.

As the founder of the Awards said:

The 700 nominees represent a diversity of religions, races and cultural backgrounds. They speak dozens of languages. For many of them English is a work-in-progress. When they say ‘G’day mate’ they’re making an effort. But it’s an effort they are proud and happy to make.”

“Refugees, skilled migrants, business migrants, those being reunited with family members – it doesn’t matter; they are all here to become a part of the great Australian story, to share the fruits of cultural diversity these Awards celebrate – and they are here to add their own individual colour to the rainbow; their own note to the harmony – in business, and in all aspects of life.”

A message from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, delivered by Senator The Hon Kate Lundy, said:

“Australia has benefitted from the rich cultural traditions and enterprising spirit of people, who have migrated from all over the world and sought haven here, and I welcome the contribution you have all made to our strong and vibrant nation and its economy.”

The Prime Minister also reflected upon the importance of the Indigenous Business Award, which was now in its second year. In words relayed by the Senator, she said:

“Indigenous business owners, across a range of sectors, are providing the dignity and benefits of work to many Australians and I thank them for their hard work and dedication to their local communities.”

Senator Lundy eloquently endorsed these views, saying:

“Our cultural diversity and our multi-lingual workforce give Australia a distinct competitive advantage in the global economy, and it’s one of the many ways that Australia’s immigration programme has shaped our direction as a nation. It has meant our distant shores no longer separate us from the rest of the world, our ties to all nations are cemented by the bond of family and the bond of culture.”

Tom Gericke and his team at World Wide Pictures were only too well-aware of the range and reach of the Awards. They had spent weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country to record the finalists’ stories.

The 2010 Ethnic Business Awards

By 2010, it had been over two years since Kevin Rudd’s historic apology to the Indigenous people of Australia. The apology had been an event that highlighted for the organisers of the Awards some missing ‘notes in the Symphony’.

As such, it was decided to add an Indigenous Business Award to the list of businesses to be recognised and, although it could be argued that this did not fit within the charter – specifically that it didn’t fulfil the condition of having being ‘born overseas’ – the counter-argument was unassailable: Indigenous Australians comprised an ethnic group that was currently excluded from our celebrations of excellence, and this was a contradiction of the very spirit of inclusiveness which had always been fundamental to the whole Awards concept.

As was noted at the beginning of this book: the establishment of an award to recognise excellence in Indigenous business endeavour would be not only appropriate, but would complete in the best of ways a huge, wonderful, multicultural jigsaw-puzzle that had been over twenty years in the making. The Awards would become an active partner in the process of Indigenous reconciliation and advancement.

The gala evening of the 2010 Awards was staged in the Astral Ballroom at the Burswood Entertainment Complex, in Perth, Western Australia.

Over 350 guests were present from both Government and Opposition, Federal and States; from the public and private sectors, the media, and corporate sectors. There were community leaders, industry officials and Heads of Diplomatic Missions from the finalists’ countries of origin, from all over Australia.

Fittingly, the ceremony was opened by the haunting sound of a didgeridoo.

Joseph Assaf, in thanking the judges – including two new panel members, John Borghetti and Joseph Elu – noted the addition of “some new players and instruments to the orchestra, as we both broaden and enrich the E.B.A composition.”

“With the addition of an Indigenous business category, we add sounds that resonate back through thousands of years, to the very heart of the land that has welcomed and nurtured us ‘New Australians’,” he said.

“I’m delighted that we’ve taken this step,” he continued, “and embraced an even greater opportunity to create harmony through business.”

Indigenous Australians had taken their place in the Awards – both as nominees and finalists, and on the judging panel. Joseph Elu, the then co-chair of the Indigenous Community Volunteers Foundation and mayor of the NPA Regional Council was, of course, a relentless advocate for indigenous enterprise, he was also a past chairman of Indigenous Business Australia and Reconciliation Australia.

During the first ever time the Awards tent had been pitched in Western Australia, other illustrious guests of the night included the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett; the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Kate Lundy; and, most appropriately, given the Awards’ recent developments, the first ever elected indigenous Federal Member of Parliament, Ken Wyatt. Representatives of the National Australia Bank also attended as it had been formally recognised as a ‘founding partner’ in the Awards, along with EBA Founder and Chairman, Joseph Assaf.

The inclusion of Indigenous Business in the Awards aside, much of the national debate was still centred upon immigration, and that debate was reflected in speeches throughout the evening.

While speaking of migrants’ contributions to Australia, Joseph Assaf further remarked:

“Every one of them is, in their own way, a mini economic stimulus package.”

“(They) bring the ability to work, to build, to generate jobs, and to create huge export opportunities with their countries of origin, through international business networks, and through their own drive and energy.”

“Personally, I have no doubt that refugee immigrants have the ability to be among our most significant contributors in this regard. Often, they come here with nothing – only a passion and a drive to succeed – to contribute, to earn their place.”

He continued:

“Yes, of course we need a gatekeeper – but we need a gatekeeper who clearly understands the potential, not just of those who are already skilled or successful, but also, of those who carry with them an empty suitcase.“

“In an empty suitcase, there is room for dreams, and creativity and resilience and drive: all of the things that have brought our finalists here tonight.”

In his own remarks, State Premier Colin Barnett pointed out that:

“Western Australia has twenty-seven percent of its population who were born outside Australia. That is the highest of any Australian state. It is something that all of Western Australia is proud of, and that diversity is the strength of our economy and our community.”

The 2009 Ethnic Business Awards

The 2009 Ethnic Business Awards marked another milestone as it celebrated its 21st birthday, which is considered in many cultures, the traditional ‘coming of age’.

By this time, the Awards had well-and-truly come of age. They were now one of the longest-running corporate awards in Australia, and one of the country’s most prized recognitions of commercial endeavour.

Their prestige had continued to attract guests and speakers from the entire spectrum of business, politics and society at large, with Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Guest of Honour at this special evening.

The Awards were, for the second time, hosted by Tracey Spicer and took place in the magnificent Grand Ballroom of Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel, with over 1,500 nominations in the various categories. Those nominations came from every State and Territory in Australia, with the nominees originating from 102 different countries – a total very nearly representative of the entire globe!

One would hardly have known that same globe was only just staggering out of the stranglehold of a financial crisis considered by many to be the worst fiscal disaster since the Great Depression – a crisis resulting in massive downturns in stock markets throughout the world.

In a keynote speech, Joseph Assaf, the Chairman and Founder of the Awards, spoke of the global situation, and of the role ethnic business had played in helping to insulate Australia from its impact.

“Diversity diminishes vulnerability,“ he said. “In this recent time of economic uncertainty, Australia has proved to be remarkably resilient. And I can assure you, this has a lot to do with its cultural diversity.

“These finalists tonight are just the shining tip of a massive iceberg – not exactly the right image in the Australian context, I know – but still – a massive economic iceberg, which, through billions of dollars in business activity, has played a major part in keeping Australia afloat, and even growing, through those difficult times.”

Certainly, if the Awards themselves were anything to go by, the climate in Australia remained buoyant, robust, and optimistic.

The evening’s Guest of Honour, Governor-General Ms Quentin Bryce AC, endorsed Mr Assaf’s comments when she pointed out that:

“Today, five million of us were born overseas – that’s a quarter of our population. Another quarter had at least one parent born overseas. That makes roughly half of us with stories that begin somewhere else.”

“I cherish the moments when I’ve seen an Australia that is deeply and essentially, and truly diverse,” she continued.

The 2008 Ethnic Business Awards

The 20th Ethnic Business Awards were staged in the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney, and attended by many illustrious guests, including representatives from Consulates and Embassies, members of both State and Federal Governments and, most significantly, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Kevin Rudd.

The event coincided with the imminent release of Joseph Assaf’s book ‘In Someone Else’s Shoes’ and the book became something of an unintended focus for the evening, with Tracey Spicer labelling it ‘a parable that may be used to access and understand the Australian immigrant experience as a whole,’ and remarking on its relevance to the finalists featured during the evening by saying:

Every three minutes and eleven seconds, a new migrant arrives in this country. When you travel in someone else’s shoes, the journey is hard, but it makes the arrival all that much more fulfilling.”

The Prime Minister, it seemed, had also somehow read a pre-released copy of the book and spoke about it at length.

“This book, ‘In Someone Else’s Shoes’” he said, “is a great story, writ large, about the lives of so many who have come to this country from afar and made this country great,” he said.

“Each one of you,” he continued, “from whichever community you come, brings to this great land, Australia, something new and something different. Something quite wonderful.”

His further suggestion that “were it not for the arrival of so many of the ethnicities represented in this room, this nation – in its second century and its third century – would have been condemned to a future based entirely on English cuisine” was met with enthusiastic laughter and applause.

He continued on a more serious note:

“In these days,” he said, “when we are confronted with a global financial crisis, becoming a global economic crisis, becoming in turn a global employment crisis; the passions and the talents and the abilities and the capacities of the women and men of commerce represented in this room become even more important for the nation and for its future.”

Quoting from Joseph’s book, Mr Rudd concluded with the observation that “’In Australia, diversity is a fact of life and multiculturalism is a way of life.’”

May it ever be so,” he said.

In his own speech, Mr Assaf also contemplated the Global Financial Crisis, in the grip of which most of the world was struggling, noting that Australia’s multicultural model could well serve as an example to world leaders.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that if you build a house of cards all of the same suit, all of the same form, all carefully interlocked in the same way, it only needs one card to fall for the whole thing to totter and possibly collapse. But in a multicultural model, where diversity is the watchword, where diverse solutions are sought through diverse means, the house of cards can be more robust.”

With entries from every single State and territory, representing twenty-four different ethnic backgrounds, the Awards themselves were living proof of that assertion. As Tracey Spicer pointed out:

“These Awards have come a long way from humble beginnings, just like the people whose endeavours they celebrate. That’s what this evening is all about: it’s about people who have come to a new land, seeking out new opportunities, overcoming obstacles, shouldering aside difficulties and eventually succeeding – sometimes even beyond their own hopes and expectations. We are here tonight to celebrate that contribution – not just for this twentieth year but for the years that have gone before and those that are yet to come.”

The 2007 Ethnic Business Awards

The 2007 Ethnic Business Awards was hosted by the lovely Lisa Wilkinson, who opened the ceremony with some very inspirational words.

“Every three minutes and eleven seconds a new migrant arrives to our shores. From 1996, the numbers of permanent migrants to Australia increased by a staggering seventy-two percent. Around dinner tables across Australia this evening, one out of every four families will speak a language other than English. With one quarter of our population born in a country other than Australia, we can proudly say Australia is the most culturally diverse nation on the globe,” she said.
The gala event took place at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel on November 14th, and was attended, for the second time running, by the Governor-General of Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery and his wife, Mrs Marlena Jeffery.

Lisa’s remarks were endorsed by Mr Joseph Healy, the Regional General Manager (Corporate and Private Banking) for the National Australia Bank, when he said:

Your success stories remind me of the famous words of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist, who said, ‘Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”

”Well, to be here tonight, included in this remarkable group of business people, you certainly have demonstrated tenacity – to never to give in, but to keep on pursuing your aspirations regardless of the challenge,” he continued.

In his keynote speech, the Governor General further noted that:

“The exceptionally harmonious and tolerant society we enjoy today is one of the great success stories in our nation’s development and increasing prosperity. Each ethnic group has made a distinctive and valuable contribution to our cultural vibrancy and to our business and commercial life.”

The speakers were addressing a group of remarkable finalists, who were competing for Awards in the Small Business and Medium to Large Business categories, as well as the 2007 Initiative Award, which had been sponsored by Emirates and was presented by their New South Wales Sales Manager, Mr Tim Harrowell.

The finalists came from New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. They also happened to come from Albania, China, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Poland, and Spain – one of the most diverse groups in the Awards’ history.

The 2006 Ethnic Business Awards

The 2006 Ethnic Business Awards took place in none other than the Sydney Opera House, which, is designed by someone from another land. Interestingly, Mr Fred Ferriera’s Wideform Group, the previous year’s winner in the Large Business category, actually built the Opera House car park – Migrant business in action!

The spectacular gala event was again hosted by Lisa Wilkinson and, this year, featured four Award Categories with the addition of the ‘Women in Business Award’, which recognised the contribution of migrant women in business.

His Excellency the Governor General, Sir Michael Jeffery AC, graced the Awards ceremony with his presence, stating:

“Bilingual Australians will play an increasingly important role, not just in business, but, in developing and enhancing political and cultural linkages between nations.”

For his part, Joseph Assaf, Founder and Chairman of the Ethnic Business Awards, said:

“In this country, diversity is a fact of life and, because of that, multiculturalism has become a way of life. These awards provide recognition not only to the participants but to a wider ideal – to the notion that our differences are one of our greatest strengths and that we must honour and embrace them in every aspect of our lives.”

The entire evening vividly illustrated both of those observations as the finalists once again proved how valuable a contribution is made by ‘New’ Australians to their adopted country.

This year’s judges were the indefatigable Carla Zampati, Eve Crestani, King Fong and Arthur Sanderson – and they were faced with some very difficult choices.

The 2005 Ethnic Business Awards

The 17th edition of the Ethnic Business Awards marked the first of four consecutive years in which acclaimed television presenter Lisa Wilkinson hosted the ceremony. By 2005, the EBA had been broadcasted to over forty different countries and seen thousands of nominations, over 100 finalists, and dozens of winners from just about every country in the world – all of whom live and work in Australia.

EBA Founder and Chairman, Joseph Assad, described Australia as ‘The World Bank of Languages’ – languages spoken by migrants looking to make the most of their opportunities. There was praise for the ongoing political regimes and for a system of government that had embraced those people on the ‘migrant journey’.

Representing John Howard, Prime Minister of the government, was the Honourable John Cobb, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, who officially opened proceedings by reading a statement from the Prime Minister, in which he said:

“Our lives are enriched by the mosaic of cultures that collectively form our modern society. Our cultural and ethnic diversity is a deliberate choice and one which delivers enormous advantages in this fast-changing world. The Awards are symbolic of the hard work and dedication of the millions of migrants who have chosen to call Australia home.”

He continued:

“Our cultural and linguistic diversity not only contributes to the vibrant social fabric of our communities it also delivers significant and tangible benefits to Australian workplaces.”

In a startling example of just how tangible those benefits really are, an interesting statistic was presented to the audience, who were told that the four finalists in the Large Business category had started out in Australia with a collective capital of only 2251 dollars. In 2005, the same four were collectively trading upwards of 350 million dollars per annum, with future projections on growth reaching one billion dollars per annum in the following decade.

An accomplishment on an epic scale.

The 2004 Ethnic Business Awards

Geraldine Doogue once more hosted the 16th Ethnic Business Awards, again staged at Sydney’s Le Montage.

In a glittering evening of entertainment, kicked off by a full Bob Fosse style jazz dance line-up, the Awards again showcased the amazing stories of Australian migrant achievers.

In addressing another illustrious gathering, Joseph Assaf said:

“My intention, when I founded these awards 16 years ago, was not to give a ’pat on the back’ to ethnic business people. They are much more resilient than that. They push on, and they drive on, regardless of who pats them on the back.”

“I did not instigate these awards so that we could recognise the achievements of hardworking migrants. They would work hard, regardless of who recognises their efforts. They have a dream and they pursue their passion. They don’t need recognition to keep going,” he continued.

“Please,” he said, “give us more of your creativity and passion.”

The 2004 Awards certainly featured plenty of creativity and passion. The finalists came from South Korea, India, Israel, Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Hong Kong.

In closing, Geraldine Doogue thanked Etcom, the judges, and the sponsors of the awards, saying:

“Without the creative and fresh input, and enthusiasm of Australia’s migrants –no matter why they came or where they came from – our companies and our culture would be much more dull indeed.”

An observation that was greeted with enthusiastic applause as another successful ceremony drew to a close with a whole world of new opportunities opening up.

The 2003 Ethnic Business Awards

Sarah Henderson, Walkley Award winner, and our gracious host in this fifteenth year of the Awards, said: “We live in a world where xenophobia and uninformed fear could so easily dominate our thinking. Yet, on the ground, most people still live, grow, and talk to their neighbours whatever their origins.”

“They share meals, ideas, and work together harmoniously – and the thought of excluding any group on the basis of race is never an issue. It’s all just part of this big neighbourhood we call Australia,” she added.

The Awards continued to support that notion.

The idea of a multi-racial, multicultural ‘neighbourhood’ had been enthusiastically spruiked to children worldwide through the seventies and eighties by Jim Henson’s loveable ‘Sesame Street’ characters but, in America and many other countries, even in the new millennium, the multicultural/multiracial community was still very much an ideal to be strived for. Here in Australia it had become, as Joseph Assaf was to frequently remind us, a fact of life.

Certainly, in Australia (even now) that tendency of ethnic groups to gather in communities where mutual support and shared faith and values make life simpler is, also, a fact of life – but the free flow of ideas and cultural mores between those communities, and the ever-increasing osmosis of the various communities into one another makes Australia a uniquely cosmopolitan, highly-integrated nation.

The 2003 Awards, held at Sydney’s Le Montage and, as always, televised to an ever-growing audience, featured finalists hailing from Italy, South Korea, Cyprus, Croatia, Lebanon, Sicily, and Russia (by way of China) – a truly cosmopolitan mix!

The Honourable Eric Abetz, Special Minister of State and Liberal Senator for Tasmania, a migrant himself, commended the finalists, saying:

They have done a superb job in what must have been supremely difficult circumstances. To be able to achieve in difficult circumstances is something that we must salute.”

“Australia,” he said, “is that little pocket of freedom in the world. We have wonderful freedoms of speech, of religion, and also the freedom to succeed. That is what we are celebrating tonight.

And there was plenty to celebrate. Nominations had once more been nationwide, and Awards were again to be made in three categories: Small Business; Medium to Large Business; and the Special Initiative Award.

The 2002 Ethnic Business Awards

The Ethnic Business Awards were back on their feet – a living tribute to perseverance and the absolute determination to never give up, whatever the obstacles.

The Gala Presentation Banquet was hosted by Geraldine Doogue and staged beside the water at Le Montage, Sydney. The event was proudly sponsored by the National Australia Bank, Telstra, Western Union, Singapore Airlines, Kari and Ghossayn, and Le Montage – and, of course, by Joseph Assaf, who had somehow managed to keep his dream alive.

Underlying the event this year was a tinge of sadness as Australia was still coming to terms with the terrible events in Bali, in October.

In that one terrorist act, over 200 people from 23 different nations lost their lives. Somehow, it seemed to make a celebration of ethnic diversity and achievement even more important.

When evil seems not to discriminate, it is even more vital to show that open-heartedness and generosity of spirit exist in even greater measure, and that they are seen to be applied without any limits or constraints defined by race, religion, or culture. The Ethnic Business Awards was determined to fly the flag of multiculturalism and all the mutual acceptances it implies; and this fourteenth anniversary would steadfastly take that message to the world. As was later pronounced in the Multicultural Marketing news – ‘The awards brought to light wonderful tales of rags to riches, and the strength of human spirit in overcoming adversity.”

It seemed an appropriate and moving message.

This year, the Awards were covered by many media outlets, including: SBS, World Media, TVB, Chieu Duong, Sing Tao, Neos Kosmos, El Telegraph, Weekly Top Korean, 3XY Radio, Galaxias Radio and Middle East Radio.

Awards were made in three categories: The Small Business Category, The Large Business Category and the Special Incentive Award, which was available to all finalists in both categories.

The 2001 Ethnic Business Awards

Everyone’s allowed one miss, right?

For the Ethnic Business Awards, 2001 was it.

In 2001, Australia was re-gathering after the unprecedented success of the Sydney Olympic Games – where, by the way, Australia won 16 Gold, 25 Silver, and 17 Bronze medals, coming in fourth place on the medal tally behind powerhouses USA, Russia, and China.

Business interests had put a great deal into ensuring the success of the games and, in the process, making sure they maximised their own exposure in a heightened and highly competitive publicity and promotional marketplace.

While the Awards organisers were ready for business as usual, it seemed that many companies lacked the residual resources to generate the usual level of nominations and, more importantly, sponsors were re-evaluating their positions and looking for flow-on opportunities after the Games.

Even the National Australia Bank, the Awards’ staunchest supporter, was uncertain about its future direction with regard to sponsorships.

Joseph Assaf decided to press on regardless but, if he was to go it alone, he needed to reassess the structure and scope of the Awards programme. Whatever happened, as far as he was concerned, there was no way the Ethnic Business Awards would be abandoned.

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

As Joseph was busy re-grouping for 2002, the NAB returned enthusiastically to the fold and things were quickly back on track, with other sponsors following suit.

Still, it was a salutary lesson for all, not only about the importance of maintaining and honouring business relationships, but about how fragile the ongoing lobby for support of migrant business could be.

Even in this new millennium, it seemed, the message needed, as much as ever, to be driven home – the message that migrant business and our developing multicultural heritage go hand in hand, and that, in Australia, to quote Mr Assaf:

“Multiculturalism is not a passing fancy. It is not a hobby. It is not a government policy. It is not a ‘nice thing to do’ or a marketing opportunity.

“Equally, diversity is not a choice. It is not an option. It is not a public-relations exercise or an employee-relations programme.

“In Australia, diversity is a fact of life, and multiculturalism is a way of life.”  

The 2000 Ethnic Business Awards

If, as the Beatles somewhat unreliably inform us, ‘Love Is All You Need’ – then life in general, and business in particular, would be simple.

Unfortunately, love, even when locked together with tolerance, acceptance and open-heartedness, is never, on its own, enough.

That’s why hard work, creativity, clever thinking, determination, and pure energy are so much a part of the history of success in migrant business.

That’s also true of the Awards themselves.

In 2000, the job of getting the Awards to the stage, despite the task being very much a labour of love, was rendered incredibly difficult by the fact that this was Australia’s ‘Olympic Year’ – and much of the nation’s focus, and the focus on business interests in particular, was upon that major event.

Still, the Awards team put their shoulders to the wheel and, as always, managed to not only get the event over the line, but to do it in style.

In fact, it turned out to be another fantastic year of remarkable nominations and finalists.

Hosted by Bev O’Connor, the glittering awards ceremony was staged at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne and was again televised by SBS. Special guests included the then Minister for Employment Workplace Relations and Small Businesses, Tony Abbott (who was representing the Prime Minister), and the Shadow Minister for Immigration, Con Sciacca (representing the Leader of the Opposition).

Awards in the Small Business and medium to Large Business Categories were presented by the National Bank’s CEO (Australia), Mr Mike Pratt. Also General Manager of Business Financial Services, Mr Pratt paid enthusiastic tribute to both winners and finalists.

 

“Tonight we’re celebrating the extraordinary commitment migrants have made to this country and to our economic development,” he said. “Through their ingenuity and perseverance, New Australians have embraced the challenge of building successful businesses, which also contribute to our high standard of living,” he said.

 

“It is indeed an honour for the National to be able recognise and reward these businesses for their hard work, and creation of employment opportunities,” he continued.

 

Hard work, ingenuity, craftsmanship, and artistic genius were all features of the finalists. It was another massive year for the Italian migrant community.

The 1999 Ethnic Business Awards

It was a year of mixed fortunes. The ‘Republicans’ were disappointed; the so-called ‘Monarchists’ were delighted – despite the closeness of the vote. On the taxation front, the introduction of the hotly debated Goods and Services Tax was seen as both forward thinking and vital by some, and as a huge folly by others. That particular to-and-fro argument heated up when, on November 3rd the Reserve Bank announced a .25% increase in interest rates – the first such increase since 1994.

Only in the area of sport did there seem to be a universal tick of approval – and, of course, in the ongoing achievements of ethnic business enterprises in Australia.

This was perhaps reflected in the establishment of a new government initiative: Harmony Day began on March 21st 1999. Coinciding with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination each year, it would become an annual opportunity for Australians across the nation – from all cultures – to come together, share ideas and experiences, participate in local activities, and celebrate their differences.

A huge number and variety of groups, including sporting organisations, community groups, local government, churches, schools and businesses staged Harmony Day events in a national celebration of multiculturalism.

 

The Awards Ceremony remained as one of the country’s premier events on the business and multicultural calendar. It was staged at Le Montage, Sydney, a fabulous harbour-side function centre, and once again, hosted by Geraldine Doogue. As always, it was enthusiastically attended and supported by people from all walks of life: business, politics, the arts, media, and many ethnic communities.

Awards were made in the same two categories as the previous year and featured finalists with some remarkable stories of enterprise and success – with the winners coming from cosmetics and construction.

The 1998 Ethnic Business Awards

By 1998, the Awards were in their 11th year and already boasting an illustrious history.

They had attracted the attention and patronage of two Prime Ministers and dozens of political figures and business luminaries, and had awarded prizes and invaluable recognition to thirty-three winners in the various categories.

In a December ceremony, the Awards were this time focused on achievements at two distinct levels of migrant business endeavour: Small Business, with a turnover of less than five million dollars a year; and Medium to Large Business, with a turnover in excess of that amount.

Sir Nicholas Shehadie, who had been the Chairman of the judging panel since the inception of the awards, acknowledged their important role in recognising the massive contribution migrants had made to the Australian way of life.

“You go back 50 or 60 years and look at all the migrants that came to Australia in that time, and you will see that it is those people that have made Australia the great country it is today,” Sir Nicholas told an enthusiastic audience, which included members of the judging panel, dozens of media and business personalities, and Young Australian of the Year, Tan Le.

A migrant success story herself; Tan was the very embodiment of Sir Nicholas’s observations. She had come to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee in 1982 and quickly achieved success as a telecommunications entrepreneur. She would go on to co-found the highly successful ‘Emotiv’ Electronics Company in 2003. In 1998, as well as becoming Young Australian of the Year, she was voted one of Australia’s thirty Most Successful Women Under Thirty.

A winner in her own right.

The two award winners this year were Brett Rijk, a flower grower from Melbourne, in the small business category; and George Ghossayn, the managing director of an excavation and construction group in Sydney.

For their tremendous achievements and contributions to business in Australia, both Mr Ghossayn and Mr Rijk were awarded two international business class tickets from Singapore Airlines, $10,000 cash from the National Australia Bank, and the stunning crystal trophy.

Both were emotional when accepting their awards from Mr Don Argus, and each spoke eloquently and passionately about the importance of family and the generosity of Australia in providing them with their opportunities for success.

These are common themes in the stories of migrant business success, and they speak to the notion of a ‘two-way street’ when it comes to generating a healthy and ever-growing input by migrants to Australia’s increasingly diverse economic base.

More and more, we need to widen that two-way street, to harness the energy of our ‘New Australians’ and embrace their enthusiasm.

As has been said before: ‘A society that cannot manage its many cultures will never amount to much because it is, by definition, a society that cannot harness the energy of its constituents.’

This had been a busy and exciting year, with two ceremonies having been staged, and nominations and interest continuing to build into 1999.

The 1997 Ethnic Business Awards

Ten years is an important milestone in any life.

In 1997, the Awards were a robust, healthy, confident ten year-old, still making discoveries, reaching out to the world, absorbing information and experience like a sponge.

We had, indeed, planted trees and were now looking forward to many more years of educating new generations in the principles of multiculturalism and the joys of diversity.

The ’97 Awards were hosted by Mary Kostakidis at Melbourne’s Convention Centre, slightly later that usual in the year. Ten year-olds are often late!

Despite the delay, the Awards were again a tremendous success, with nominations still coming in from all over the country and featuring an enormous range of both nationalities and business activities. The national finalists were presented with certificates, as usual, and had been flown in to the awards by Ansett Australia who had become the Awards’ newest sponsors.

Managing Director of the National Australia Bank, Don Argus, presented Awards to the finalists, saying: “It has indeed been an honour for the bank to reward the continuing achievements of these professionals and gratifying for me personally to have met these fine and inspiring Australians.

The Honourable Philip Ruddock, Federal Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, who was representing Prime Minister, John Howard, spoke of the undeniable contribution that migrants have made to this country during its history.

“Australia is blessed with a wealth of resources from Australians who were not born here, but have now enhanced this country with their rich diversity of culture, innovation, knowledge, skills and experience, in addition to the irrefutable financial contribution and providing access to export markets for Australian businesses,” he said.

Awards were again made in three categories: Manufacturing, Non-Manufacturing, and Special Recognition. They each received a beautiful crystal trophy, $10,000 cash and free Raffles Class international air travel, courtesy of sponsor, Singapore Airlines.

The 1996 Ethnic Business Awards

On the 2nd of March, 1996, the Federal election saw a change of government in Australia. The Liberal/National coalition had defeated Paul Keating’s Labor government and, on March 11th, the Hon. John Howard was sworn in as Prime Minister.

This year of Census was also a year of turmoil, with floods in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales taking lives; the tragedy of the Port Arthur Massacre and much contention about subsequent gun control initiatives; Black Hawk Helicopters colliding and crashing near Townsville and, on the multicultural front, an increasingly volatile debate about border protection, migration, and the integrated society.

Even in sport, things were not going to plan. Sri Lanka beat Australia in the final of the Cricket World Cup, and the ARL and Super-League were embroiled in bitter conflict.

It was a tough time all round.

Still, ‘when the going gets tough’, as they say, ‘the tough get going’ and Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, stepped up to the plate, saying:

“By all means, let us debate migration. We need to restore public confidence in our immigration programme. But people in the public eye need to ensure it is an objective debate based on reality and fact, not on the perceptions gained from hearing half-truths or relying on racial prejudice.”

“If we do not have a debate based on tolerance and respect, we lose everything Australia stands for,” he continued.

A commitment to the multicultural ideal was now more important then ever, and the Ethnic Business Awards provided an ideal platform from which to voice support for ethnic communities and to make a very public statement about the value of their contribution to Australian life.

John Howard became the second Prime Minister to attend the Awards. He presented trophies to the national winners and delivered a stirring keynote speech to an enthusiastic audience at the Brisbane Convention Centre on October 30th.

The Prime Minister’s speech was broadcast, along with the rest of the Awards ceremony, nationally on SBS Television, and to an audience now comprising some 33 countries, right across Asia.

It’s hard to quantify the positive effects that such exposure generates, but, whatever the equation, the Awards continued to achieve an undeniable impact, bringing reason and passion alike to the ongoing multicultural debate and, in the process, continuing to announce to the world that Australia remained ‘open for business’ – to all and anyone who would care to show an interest.

Ethnic business, despite the volatile climate of the time, was as robust, innovative, and exciting as ever.

The 1996 event was hosted by Mary Kostakidis at a lavish evening quoted as being ‘full of pride, and tears of joy’.

With the media engulfed in the ongoing racial debate, the Awards provided an optimistic and timely counter to the political discussions surrounding migration and the contribution of migrants to Australia.

The presentation left no doubt that migrants brought culture, innovation, intellectual resources, financial gains, and export markets to Australia.

Over 300 excellent nominations came in from all over the country, and awards were made in the Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing categories, with nominees in each category judged, as usual, on business and financial success, development and improvement, potential growth, and contributions made to society.

A special award was also made in a ‘Small Business’ category.

Then Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NAB, Don Argus, presented the major awards to winners and also spoke of the bank’s recognition and appreciation of the achievements and contributions that migrant business was making to the country.

 “The Ethnic Business Awards were introduced to the NAB nearly a decade ago to recognise the achievements of migrant business people. With their skills and perseverance many newcomers to Australia have built businesses that have contributed significantly to the development of the Australian economy,” he said.

“The Ethnic Business Awards are designed to promote the fact that it is the collective effort of our long established businesses and our newer businesses, which ensure that Australia maintains a high standard of living,” he added.

The 1995 Ethnic Business Awards

In 1995, the Awards celebrations were again broadcast internationally with the glittering evening available to a potential television audience of millions. There were 250 guests at the ceremony, which was again hosted by Geraldine Doogue. In recognition of their ongoing importance and success, this year, the Awards were graced with the presence of their first Prime Minister as Guest of Honour and keynote speaker.

The honourable Paul Keating was gracious and eloquent as he expressed the appreciation of both the Government and the people of Australia to migrant business people, hailing their contribution and saying:

“We are taking the chance to highlight the tremendous achievements and efforts of some Australians who have come to this country, who have not started with the natural advantage of knowing it, and have done things which are special; which we can all identify with, and which we can all celebrate. And that’s really, I think, what the Ethnic Business Awards are all about.”

Mr Keating’s comments were certainly borne out by the quality of the finalists and of the eventual winners who, this year, were representative of two of the smallest but nonetheless most vibrant threads that were being woven into our living tapestry – Argentina and Portugal.

Awards were made in four categories: Manufacturing, Non-Manufacturing, a Product Diversity Award, and a Cultural Diversity in the Arts Award.

The latter awards were taken out by Vietnamese refugee Jimmy Lu and his company, Global Seafood Fisheries; and by Italian, Teresa Crea of Doppo Teatro – a theatrical group based in South Australia.

Mr Lu’s company took out the Product Diversity Award. Global Seafood Fisheries had been established in 1979, and had grown to be Queensland’s second-largest fish exporter, opening its own processing plant earlier in 1995.

The Cultural Diversity in the Arts Award went to Teresa Crea’s theatre troupe, which had presented performances in both Italian and English, touring Australia and performing before multicultural audiences in schools, theatres, workplaces, and at open-air festivals.

Eight businesses made up the finals field for this year’s awards, which were presented in Melbourne.

Record entries had been received, from all States, and the six state finalists were all in contention, alongside the two special award recipients.

In presenting the Awards, National Australia Bank’s then Managing Director, Mr Don Argus, said ethnic businesses were creating jobs and adding to Australia’s national wealth.

To warm applause, Mr Argus praised ethnic business people for their ambition, imagination, courage and hard work.

The 1994 Ethnic Business Awards

At the 1994 Awards, both of the major prizes were won by Italian family businesses, both operating in the area of food – one in New South Wales and one in Western Australia.

Tommasso D’Orsogna, founder of D’Orsogna Bros Limited, was Western Australia’s largest Italian smallgoods producer and the winner of the Manufacturing Award. Orazio Cantarella, owner of New South Wales-based Cantarella Bros, Australia’s major supplier of pure roasted coffee and other Italian smallgoods, won the award in the Non-Manufacturing sector.

Mr D’Orsogna had been confined to an internment camp from 1940 – 1944 and was there given the job as Camp Butcher. In internment, he continued to develop his skills as a provedore and, after the war, joined with his brothers – Giovanni and Cesar – to found and develop their smallgoods company.

By 1994, D’Orsogna Bros had become the largest supplier of Italian-style meats in Western Australia, and was also supplying other states and parts of South-East Asia. They had fully integrated their business, from piggery to meat processing and distribution, and employed almost 300 people.

Their motto was simple and it still applies today: Hard work and commonsense.

The 1993 Ethnic Business Awards

This was, in many ways, the Ethnic Business Awards’ ‘Year of the Family Business’.

The participation of families was a feature of many of the nominee businesses and many of the finalists, too. There were over 330 entries from all over the country, making it the most successful year so far.

This was also a year when the Awards expanded to include a Media Award – an appropriate development given the great strides forward that were being made with the broadcasting of the now hugely successful presentation event.

A headline at that time read:

‘ASIA WATCHES 1993 NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK ETHNIC BUSINESS AWARDS PRESENTATION’

This great achievement was accomplished when the ABC and SBS Television, along with ethnic community radio stations, combined to bring the Awards live to not only Australia’s own general audience and multicultural population but also to Asia, via the ABC’s ‘Asia TV’ network.

The ceremony, which was hosted by Mary Kostakidis at the Sheraton Wentworth in Sydney, could now be watched by millions across Australasia.

This huge viewership, along with an enthusiastic live audience on the night, witnessed the major awards going to a Croatian born bus company operator, and an Italian born brick-maker.

The other two awards – for Product Diversity and Ethnic Media – went to Malaysian born Fred (Siew Heng) Tan of Tixana Products, and David Nhat Giang, publisher of Vietnamese newspaper, Chieu Duong.

While presenting the awards during the night, the NAB’s then Chief General Manager, Mr Allan Diplock, said that many successful migrant-owned businesses have dared to be different.

“They have dared to believe Australia remains a land of opportunity for people prepared to work hard, have a go, and deal with people fairly and equitably,” he said.

That was certainly borne out in the stories of the finalists, again featured in film clips, as the evening unfolded.

The 1992 Ethnic Business Awards

In another Olympic year, Australia took out 27 gold medals in Barcelona. However, the old adage that triumph and tragedy go hand in hand was borne out with the loss of two of our greatest artists – enfant terrible Brett Whiteley and then, a few months later, in London, the wonderful Sidney Nolan. Meanwhile, in the High Court, Eddie Mabo, David Passi and James Rice won a landmark native title ruling for the Meriam people.

At the Ethnic Business Awards, Lebanon, Vietnam and Italy were the big winners.

An excerpt from the Marketing Monthly at that time mentioned that:

 ‘A Sydney producer of interior finishes, a Brisbane hairdresser and a Cabramatta electrical goods retailer and office developer have won the Ethnic Business Award. Not only are they successful in business, but they were also all born overseas – one was a boat person – and came to Australia without English skills, experience or contacts.

‘The NAB Ethnic Business Awards, now in their fifth year, recognise and reward the efforts and achievements of those who have succeeded in Australia despite the added barrier of language.’

Awards were made in just three categories in 1992 – Manufacturing, Non-Manufacturing, and the Encouragement Award. The ceremony was again broadcast by SBS throughout Australia – although plans were afoot to extend that reach.

It was a stellar year, with the appearance of our first finalists from Western and Southern Australia.

The 1991 Ethnic Business Awards

In our own small corner of the pale blue dot of earth, 1991 was to be a stellar sporting year – with the Oarsome Foursome getting into promising shape for the ‘92 Olympics; victories by the Wallabies in the ‘91 Rugby World Cup; a 3-Nil Ashes clean-sweep by Alan Border’s Eleven; and a victory at the British Open by Ian Baker-Finch.

The Ethnic Business Awards were kicking a few goals of their own, too.

Separate launches were held in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne with the NAB hoping that the branch networks, through different ethnic communities and individuals, would see a record number of nominations in this fourth year of success.

Speaking at the Melbourne launch, the Bank’s General Manager, (Central Zone Victoria), Mr John Dawson, said that, despite the difficult economic climate, he expected a record number of entries.

“The Awards have been growing in prestige, and there has been a steady increase in the quality of the people and businesses nominated,” he said.

In addition to the award for ventures established under the Business Migration Programme, the other two major awards were expanded to three, covering manufacturing, non-manufacturing and businesses with six or fewer employees.

There were also to be selections made at State levels, with finalists in the various categories from each State going through to the national finals, to be televised live from Sydney’s Sheraton Wentworth Hotel by SBS Television on October 2nd.

The broadcast was now to be in prime time and would feature, for the first time, film clips of the finalists at work, telling their own, personal stories of success in Australia.

Over 290 ethnic businessmen and women from more than 40 countries competed for the fourth Ethnic Business Awards, reflecting the growing support and prestige that the event was achieving.

Popular SBS newsreader, Mary Kostakidis, hosted the Awards, which were attended by NSW Premier, Nick Greiner, who presented the Small Business Award. Also attending were Opposition Leader, Bob Carr, and the Managing Director of NAB, Don Argus, who presented the remaining awards.

They were joined by representatives of ethnic businesses as well as community and media organisations, and senior management of the National Australia Bank.

The 1990 Ethnic Business Awards

The 1990 Ethnic Business Awards’ winners were announced at a gala dinner at Melbourne’s Hyatt-On-Collins, with the ceremony again broadcast live by SBS television.

The winners included a cake pastry wholesaler from Austria, a furniture maker from Italy, and a building materials manufacturer from Iraq.

In this year, awards were offered in four categories: the two categories for less/more than five years of established business, the Encouragement Award, and a new award for businesses established under the Business Migration Programme.

The Encouragement Award was presented by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and was won by Modern European Security Roller Shutters of Sunshine, Victoria. Alex Peppas, the company founder, had migrated from Greece in 1986 to make a new life in Australia.

The new Business Migration Programme award was established as a response to increasing and very welcome government initiatives to promote migrant business. The award was taken home by Dr Karim Obaidi – a building and furnishing material manufacturer, hailing from Iraq and working out of Hoxton Park, New South Wales.

Winners of the Category One and Category Two Awards were as follows:

Ernst Stuhler, a pastry chef of Mount Waverley, Victoria, who had established Stuhler’s Patisserie in 1986 and had quickly developed a turnover in excess of $2.5 million, coming to employ more than 50 full-time and casual staff.

Antonio Schiavello, an office furniture manufacturer and retailer working out of Tullamarine, Victoria, won the Award for a business established for more than five years.

The Schiavello Group of Companies had been founded back in 1966 and, by 1990, had grown to employ 550 people, with a turnover of approximately $70 million. At that time, it operated factories and showrooms in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

In presenting the Awards, National Australia Bank’s Managing Director, Mr N.R. (Nobby) Clark, said:

“Migrants add vigour, diversity and creativity to our economy. Perhaps these qualities are difficult to quantify, but they are real and they are needed, more so now than at any previous time in our history.”

The 1989 Ethnic Business Awards

With the trophies distributed and the 1988 ceremony deemed an undoubted success, it was time to organise for the future, fulfil the stated goals, and make the Awards a truly national event.

Getting any new event off the ground is hard, and keeping it on its feet can be even harder. After the first flush of success, the second year is often touch and go – it makes or breaks an idea – however good or worthwhile it may be.

In the case of the Ethnic Business Awards, the toddler barely stumbled, as excerpts from an article from the time illustrate:

‘The National Australia Bank’s New South Wales and Australian capital Territory General Manager Arthur Sanderson can look back on the growth of the NAB Ethnic Business Awards, which has been so rapid that the term “small” has been dropped from the title after only one year.”

‘“We started with the idea of supporting ethnic small businesses which had struggled against the language barriers and a new environment to succeed and prosper,” Mr Sanderson said. “Now we want to also recognise those who’ve grown out of the small business class and are succeeding in a larger environment.”

‘“Next year we will seek to recognise and reward business migrants as a new force in Australian business and we will seek to support the large and vigorous ethnic media in some way.”’

‘The NAB Award has grown out of the bank’s Business Migration Department, which now has an National Coordinator, David Johns, based in Sydney, with Managers in each state and an active offshore participation.”

The fledgling Awards may have been keeping its feet firmly on the ground and its eyes on future horizons, but there were still some stumbling blocks to be negotiated and they would, indeed, carry over until the third birthday!

‘Mr Sanderson indicated one of the ways the Awards will expand in 1990: “Hopefully, entries from South and Western Australia will be able to be accepted. Unfortunately, the Anti-Discrimination Laws in those states did not permit the Awards to be offered there this year, but we hope that the Awards will be seen and approved for what they are – an honest attempt to reward those who may well have suffered discrimination, and who certainly started with disadvantages such as lack of English, and yet who have succeeded in improving themselves and helping Australia’s economic development as well.”’

The 1988 Ethnic Business Awards

This was the year of Australia’s Bicentenary and ‘Crocodile Dundee’ – Queen Elizabeth opened the new Parliament House in Canberra, Seoul launched the Olympics, America launched the first ‘Discovery’ shuttle, and Joseph Assaf and the N.A.B. launched the Ethnic Business Awards with an aim to:

  • Recognise and reward the contributions made by migrants to the Australian economy
  • Create understanding and harmony by highlighting the positive aspects and impacts

of multiculturalism in Australia

  • Highlight Australia as a key business destination
  • Create and sustain business across all sectors of industry, regardless of race, colour, religion, or cultural background
  • Highlight the collective migrant spirit in Australia, and celebrate the diversity of our nation

They were lofty aims – not so much in terms of their scope and direction, but, in terms of their intended reach – which, right from the beginning, aspired to be nationwide.

Arthur Sanderson, the NAB’s General Manager in New South Wales, was involved right from the beginning and continued to take an active part in the Awards, eventually becoming one of the judges in 2002.

Initially, the Awards took nominations only from New South Wales, because, despite the obvious successes of migrant business all over the country, the awards’ infrastructure was not yet in place – certainly not enough to support a national award. And, of course, as a brand new event, the Ethnic Business Awards had yet to develop a significant profile – both in the business world at large, and within the migrant business community itself. At this time, too, advertisements in newspapers and so on had to be paid for and a national broadcaster was needed.

Another major challenge came in the form of the State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Regulations at the time. Unfortunately for migrants in South Australia, authorities there refused to grant exemption. In Western Australia, exemption was sought, but the procedure for granting it was so lengthy it could not be granted in time for the inauguration.

It was shaping up to be a modest beginning but, eventually, the first small steps on the journey turned out to be giant strides.

Acceptances for roles on the judging panel were stellar, which gave the enterprise immediate cachet. The ‘NAB’, excited by the vision, came to the party with their sponsorship. It was, right from the inception, agreed that nominees did not have to be clients of the bank. The Awards were to be open to all, regardless.

The enthusiasm flowed into the media as well, and SBS, in an act of faith, agreed to broadcast the Awards – live to air, so the event went national, anyway.

The Ethnic Business Awards were on the map.

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