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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Can we rekindle the community spirit?

Slovenian clubs and organisations in Australia are ageing and losing their membership. They own buildings and grounds that are worth in most cases a small fortune but are also in need of renovation, expensive to run and with few sources of revenue. Not all but a few of their presidents are extremely sensitive: sometimes to the extent where they see criticism in any informal meeting of Slovenians outside their organisation and their control. Which seems to show that they are aware of problems but unable to deal with them and unwilling to face the possibility of letting others help them. Especially the perceived threat of being replaced is looming so large in their minds that they are willing to go to extremes to protect their positions even though there is rarely any challenge in the community.

In this atmosphere it seems impossible to start a constructive discussion on what could be done to attract more people in our midst, in particular younger Slovenians who have moved to Australia in recent years; younger Australians of Slovenian background, and  indeed Australians who have ties with Slovenia  and might be interested in learning more about the country and its people.

In Geelong and Melbourne things are slowly changing and some fresh approaches have already been implemented. At the annual Youth Festival I had a chance to catch up with a few community members who were happy to share their ideas that could perhaps work and bring some fresh blood and even revenue to the organised community life.

1. A quick look at Australian TV programs shows that cooking is hot. Australians are generally interested in and open to ethnic cuisines. Most Slovenian organisations in Australia have commercial kitchens.

Could Slovenian organisations perhaps start cooking classes?  There are many regions in Slovenia with their specific dishes like gibanica, potica, krofi, kislo zelje, golaz, ajdovi struklji, krompirjevi svaljki, and so on. Personally, I would love to learn to make a proper strudel from a seasoned cook.

Offering classes where participants would learn to cook and then share their results with appreciative audience  could successfully attract different generations of any  background. Cooking is a language we all understand.

Learning to cook Slovenian dishes could be a very enjoyable way to spend an evening for many Slovenians and Australians for which both students and eaters would be happy to pay.

2. Every year Urad za Slovence po svetu offers small grants for people who wish to attend workshops in Slovenia. Despite their generous offering, applicants are few as it requires a lot of time and additional funding to go to Slovenia either of which many people don't have.

Instead of providing such grants for Australian residents it might be a good idea to consider sending trained students/practitioners from Slovenia to Australia to hold workshops here and teach larger audiences different skills, such as playing instruments (for example, accordion, 'citre', harmonica, and so on); dancing folk dances and perhaps more modern dances as well; sowing national costumes; ; learning the Slovenian language; singing Slovenian songs; performing in Slovenian plays, and so on. The list of potentially interesting workshops is long.

One teacher could travel from one community to another and hold workshops in every centre. Such workshops in Slovenian organisations could provide lots of fun for their members and would encourage and prepare performers for the annual Youth Festival.

3. Family picnics organised in clubs with green surfaces and in a local park  if the club has no green areas are a beautiful way of meeting people informally, having a chat, sharing our food and spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in good company. Why don't we do this more often?

It is a cheap and convenient way to meet and build our community spirit. Everyone can bring their own chair, food and drinks and share if they like.


In fact, I will take this opportunity to invite everyone interested for a family picnic to Nelligen on the South Coast on Saturday, 1 February 2014. It will start at 11 am and end whenever we decide to leave. Everyone is welcome. Can you come and join us?

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