Migrants' proud past revealed in pictures

AN exhibition that celebrates 125 years of migration to Australia from Kfarsghab — a tiny rural village in northern Lebanon — will open in Parramatta on Saturday.

"My great grandmother Rosie O'Brien - whose Arabic maiden name Braheen was anglicised by a customs official - was the first from our village to buy in Parramatta, and possibly one of the first Lebanese people," Australian Kfarsghab Association spokesman Len Norman said.

"We believe she arrived here in 1898.."

Her hawker's licence and alien card will be among the 500-plus Kfarsghabi photographs and artefacts to be displayed at AKA By The Park, 2a Amos Street, Parramatta, from November 24 to December 2.

"When Rosie came she had to carry an alien card because Lebanon was under Turkish rule," Mr Norman, 68, said. "Hers has her thumbprint on the back of it, because she couldn't sign her signature in English.

"The tract of land she bought in Parramatta covered from Anderson Street down to Park Street.

"Today, more than 15,000 Australians — including rugby league great Ben Elias, the Bishop of Wagga Wagga Gerard Hanna and Barbara Perry, the Member for Auburn — trace their ancestry to Kfarsghab, a town of just 700, who renamed their main street Parramatta Road in the early 1990s to show their long association with Parramatta."

Mr Norman said the opening of the exhibition was timed to coincide with the 69th anniversary of the Lebanese Day of Independence (November 22, 1943).

"We are absolutely Australia-integrated but also have a love of our heritage," he said.

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