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:

of multiculturalism in Australia

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.