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The vulnerable win a heroically inclined crusaderMay 31, 1989, Melbourne Times, Sonia Harford

May 31, 1989, Melbourne Times, Sonia Harford

Roland Jabbour, a Lebanese businessman and community leader defies the image of the choirboy who sang at the St Georges Antiochian Orthodox church 15 years ago.

He sits comfortably in a leather chair in a vast office. Dress jewellery adorns his wrists and fingers. A serious man, he allows himself a smile when explaining the origins of his very un-Lebanese christian name. “My father loves books. He was reading a story called The Lovers Of Venice and he named me after the hero of the story, Roland.” Since his early choirboy days in the Thornbury church, Jabbour has been seen as a bit of a latter day hero by the Lebanese community. Fluent in English and ARabic, with a touch of French thrown in, Jabbour spends much of his time explaining and translating legal forms for his compatriots. A friend once called Jabbour’s clothing factory the Lebanese Embassy and Jabbour says his modern office in, Normanby Avenue is always open to his “vulnerable” non English speaking friends. Jabbour has succeeded in the manufacturing and wholesale business after a thorough apprenticeship in the rag trade. Leaving school at the age of 12, he worked his way through making hosiery and learning sewing machine mechanics, before returning to school to study commercial law. These studies hold him in good stead as president of the Northcote Ethnic Communities Council and chairperson of the Northcote schools community development network. A position close to his heart is that of secretary of the Atiochian church in Thornbury. The role of a devout church goer sits easily beside Jabbour’s sophisticated image as a successful businessman. The mobile car telephone is never far from his side and a luxury car is parked outside, but it is Jabbour’s involvement with the church that has increased his standing in Northcote. As the choirboy metamorphosed in to church secretary, Jabbour became involved in the purchasee of the Church building from the Anglican church. Jabbour speaks often of the “richness” of ethnic cultures. In the Antiochian church services are conducted in English, Greek and Arabic - allowing worshippers of old and new generations to participate. “I think it is appropriate for people to maintain their culture. I won’t teach my son to be Lebanese but i will maintain our culture because its valuable. Eventually our children will be Australian.” Jabbour is the first to acknowledge that “ethnicity” despite its richness can hinder immigrants. He sees the Ethnic Communities Council as a very positive way of linking people with council, government and other services. As president of the group he oversees its efforts to secure government funding in the areas of education, health and services for the elderly. The Northcote school community developments network is another means of drawing non English speaking residents back into the system. Interpreters provide a link between parents and schools to give families a better understanding of the school system. Jabbour says Joan Kirner, Education Minister has approved money for the program which may become a model for others in the state. First and foremost a family man, Jabbour also clearly sees himself taking part in wider range of activities. Politics has crossed his mind. Despite helping the ethnic community in many ways he says “I’m not sure that I’m the type to put a meal on a trolley and wheel it to an old lady” “I’d like to do more administrative, organisational work and see the overall picture” he said. “I set goals that i think are realistic and i get satisfactions out of reaching them” Confident and successful, Jabbour nevertheless misses what he calls the “innocence” of his homeland. “the old country is always in your blood”

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