Lara Černetič on how to do business in Australia

You arrived in Australia only recently. What did you do before you came here?

Prior to moving to Australia, I spent the last six years as the Head of the Economic Office of the Republic of Slovenia in Milan, Italy.

The main task of the Office was to provide assistance to Slovenian companies in doing business on the Italian market and to attract foreign investment. In this period the Office successfully assisted many companies to build business connections in Italy, organized various business and promotional events and attracted several foreign investments.

Why did you move to Australia?

My six-year posting to Italy ended in December 2012. For me, this was a period of great personal and professional growth. I've learned that work and life abroad is a source of extensive experience, openness and unforgettable memories.  

This is why I started to seriously think about moving to another country. At the same time an opportunity opened up for my partner and me to go and work in Australia. After some serious consideration we decided to take the challenge. Eight months into our new life in Sydney we see that the decision was definitely the right one.

How do you find Sydney?

I think this city doesn’t need much in the way of explanation. On the global level it is ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I share this view and feel overwhelmed by its attractions over and over again.  

I like Sydney’s multinational character. It hosts people from all over the world which makes me feel that I am not a foreigner but rather one among many. People are very friendly, approachable, tolerant and informal. This makes it easier to make new connections and friends and find business partners.

The natural beauty of Sydney is extraordinary. It has a rich social and cultural life. I have to admit that I've found it very easy to get used to this life and to fall in love with my new environment.

What is your experience with job hunting? What, if anything, frustrates you most?

From the outside Australia is seen as a promised land where there is no shortage of work. The real picture is not quite like that. Admittedly, there is a lot of jobs available but there is also a lot of competition. This is especially true in big cities where there are many applicants for each advertised job.

After many months of job hunting I realised it was necessary to aim somewhat lower and perhaps for a start accept a job below my aspirations. Here local experience is very important and this is something one initially can’t have. 

Just like in Europe, connections and references are very important. This is why I spend a lot of time building my Australian network by regularly attending business meetings and getting to know new business people. As a result I have recently been offered two new jobs. 
I have learned that getting a job doesn’t happen overnight. It is necessary to persevere, to be patient and to believe in oneself. 

In what ways do you find Australia different from Europe?

Australia is far away and this makes it in many respects very different from Europe. At the same time, there are also many similarities, especially in comparison with England.  

Personally I prefer to talk about positive differences. The main advantage of Australian people is that they are very friendly with each other; they always stick together and help each other. And that is probably a recipe for success. People are very positive and laid back, tolerant and often informal.

This laid-back attitude spills over into the business environment which contributes to a better and more stimulating work environment. 

In short, the quality of life here is very high and people live in harmony with each other and their natural environment.

As a business analyst you are familiar with the market in Slovenia. What Slovenian made products could in your opinion be potentially successfully marketed in Australia?

Europe is one of the main trade and investment partners of Australia. A free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia has been in the making for a while now. Its aim will be to make exchange of goods easier and to facilitate economic growth of both partners.   
Purchasing power in Australia is high, about three times higher than in Slovenia (in terms of GDP per capita). Australians are very open to European goods. The proportion of imports from Europe is higher than the proportion of imports from the United States. European suppliers are actually very welcome here.

There is an opportunity here for Slovenian companies. Some are already present on the Australian market but not sufficiently. It is my estimate that this market still offers many opportunities, especially in pharmaceuticals, information technology, renewable energy sources, chemical industry, biotechnology, machinery, etc. 

However, it is easier to make an inroad onto the Australian market by offering a niche product since competition is fierce.  

What would be your general advice to any Slovenian company that wants to market its products outside Slovenia?

The choice of export market can be quite tricky and to appear on a foreign market it is vital to be well prepared. Proper preparation reduces the risk and increases the odds of success!
I would advise to please research thoroughly the following issues:
  • Demand for your products (potential buyers and pricing);
  • Competition (who the competitors are, what their pricing is), and
  • Legal and other aspects of international trading (financing, protection of intellectual property, adaptation of products for the local market, etc.).

It is also very important to have an export plan. A good export plan answers the following questions:
  • Is there demand for your products and services?
  • What specific products and/or services you intend to sell?
  • Which business models you follow on the foreign market?
  • How much money you invest in an individual foreign market?

These days it is possible to get most basic information about your selected market and your competitors over the internet.

Australia is a well organised country and just about any information on its legislation, taxation system, subsidies, how to start a business, etc., is publicly available on different government internet portals. 

Let me list a few specific resources:  

For further assistance, Slovenian companies are welcome to contact me. I am happy to provide consultations on how to enter the Australian market and I hold the position of a Honorary Representative of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia. I am available on my email address:  

Is there anything specific to the Australian market that companies from Slovenia should be aware of when trying to place their products here?

Australia is a young market and has high regard for tradition. It is very important to sell a story. Companies that are able to build one will very likely find it easier to enter the market faster.  

What are your plans for the future? 

Get to know Australia really well, gain new work experience, improve my English and make sure that my family lives a peaceful and happy life.

Daniel Maurice of Sydney on his Slovenian background

What do you do for living?

I am retired now.  During my work life I had a very varied career, much of it outside Australia.  I began with more than a decade as a diplomat in the Australian Foreign Service, then spending almost another 20 years in various business roles across the telecommunications and financial services industries, before finally another decade as an independent consultant focused on project recovery, product development and business improvement initiatives for global technology companies.

Where in Slovenia did your parents come from? 

Both my parents, Ivan Mavrič and Danila Jakin, came from Kozana, a village in the district of Brda in the far west of Slovenia.  Indeed almost all of my Slovenian ancestors for at least the last two hundred years were born, baptised, married and died in this village.  Situated on a picturesque hill between the villages of Šmartno and Vipolže, Kozana's population today is less than 400.  It is surrounded by numerous  vineyards and by cherry and peach orchards. These have long been the drivers of village life and the local economy. 

When did they migrate to Australia? What was the main reason for this change?

Ivan and Danila escaped from Yugoslavia in October 1949.  According to Ivan's later recounting he was desperate to find a new life free of his homeland's communist regime. Danila always said that a reason for her decision to leave was that she hated the thought of becoming a farmer's wife.   She also did not like living in a small rural village where, according to her, "everyone always knew your business".  Ivan offered her an escape from both.  They married on New Year's Eve, 1949 in Gorizia.

By March 1950 Ivan and Danila had already applied, and been accepted, for migration to Australia.  

The couple departed from Bremerhaven in Germany aboard the ship "Fairsea" on 16 July 1950.  The Fairsea arrived in Melbourne on 18 August 1950.  From there Ivan and Danila were taken direct from dockside in special trains to the Department of Immigration Reception and Training Centre at Bonegilla on the NSW/Victorian border.  Ivan and Danila were only in Bonegilla for a few weeks before being assigned to the recently opened Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney, having narrowly avoided being sent to work as rural labourers.  Ivan ended up working at the Hostel as a cook and Danila in a nearby factory.

By August 1953 he and Danila were free of the Government's two-year work commitment that was part of their assisted passage to Australia. Together with their first child (me, born October 1951) they moved out of Villawood to a house shared with other Slovenes.  Shortly thereafter Ivan bought a fish and chip shop nearby, remaining a shopkeeper for the next decade, before turning himself into a builder and property developer.

Once they settled in Australia, how did they feel about their new and the old country?

Ivan and Danila's first home in Australia, Bonegilla camp in 1950 was primitive and the food was very different from what they were used to, but to them Australia seemed like paradise after the deprivations of Europe.  By a stroke of luck I have a copy of a letter that Ivan wrote to his mother and sister from Bonegilla just a few weeks after their arrival in Australia.  It provides a clear insight into their initial impressions of their new home, as well as the problems still confronting their relatives back in Slovenia:

".......After 33 days of travelling [on the migrant ship, Fairsea] we safely arrived in this lucky and beautiful and rich country of peace and freedom..I honestly tell you that thanks God we have already had too much meat, ham, butter, honey, jam, eggs, milk, chocolate... With a heavy heart we eat all this while thinking of the hunger up there [in Europe].  Here we have heaven on Earth, it's a pity we are not all here together.  All goods are cheap.  Let me give you a few examples: for one-day wages I can buy 40kg meat, 10kg butter, 8kg white flour or 40kg wholemeal flour, one pair of shoes and so on. Nobody will believe this but that's how it is. When we start working which I hope will happen shortly I will send Mother a package as I know she needs it........."

The transition to becoming "New Australians" (as migrants were then called) was completed in November 1956 when Ivan and Danila were "naturalised" as Australian citizens.  By then they had already adopted the name Maurice in the place of the Slovene form, Mavrič (also sometimes spelt as Maurič).  Ivan later explained he made the name change because he and Danila grew tired of it being continually mispronounced.  In any case, Ivan said, Australia was now their adopted country and their new home.

I think this name change and Ivan's explanation for it says a lot about their attitude towards Australia and their commitment to it.

Have you been to Slovenia? Where do you usually stay when you visit?

I have been to Slovenia several times, starting with visits as a child accompanying my parents in 1957 and again in 1966.  I visited again as an adult with my wife in the mid-1970s.  Most recently I have visited Slovenia in 2006 and last year.  I am planning another visit in 2014.

In the early days I would stay with relatives in either Italy or Kozana, but for my most recent visit I stayed in a hotel in Kozana.

In what ways do you feel that you are Slovenian?

I thank my parents for instilling in me what I believe is a very healthy attitude towards my Slovenian heritage.  I am proud of my background and feel a strong emotional attachment to Slovenia, but I am and always have felt that I am an Australian first and Australia is "my" country.  I think this is a good approach as I do see in some other migrant children a sense of being "lost between two cultures", that is not really feeling Australian, but also unable to genuinely connect to the homeland of their parents.

I have tried to create the same attitude in my own daughters and I am pleased that they also are very proud of their Slovenian heritage which they see as "cool".  They especially like the fact that few people know much, if anything, about Slovenia so it seems to their friends to be a very exotic little country.

I, and both my daughters, became Slovenian citizens in 2011 which I was keen to do so that our connection to Slovenia was more tangible.

Are you a member of a Slovenian organisation in Australia? If not, why?

No, not a member of any organisation.  I guess I have never found any body that seems to offer me anything of specific value.  A further consideration is that unfortunately I do not speak Slovene so I see this as another reason not to join any Slovenian ethnic club or society.

What would you say about Slovenia from your professional perspective? 

On my last couple of visits to Slovenia I have been struck by how proud and important to Slovenes is their membership of the European Union.  At the same time I get a sense that the country is suffering genuine budget and financial problems which is a big cause of concern to them.  Young relatives in Slovenia seem especially concerned about their employment prospects.

If I had any advice to give Slovenia it would be to spend up big promoting and building its tourism industry.   It is a stunningly beautiful little country which is relatively cheap, safe, easy to move around and uncrowded compared to elsewhere in Europe.  But too few people seem to know about it!  Perhaps it could also focus more of its efforts on becoming or staying internationally competitive in a few specific industries or sectors, for example the way Finland was a world leader in mobile phones for many years with Nokia -- at least until Apple came along!

What are your plans for the future?

Relax.  Travel.  Watch my children and grandchildren grow.  Continue to research my family history and pass it on to the next generation so it is not lost.

Adrian (Jadran) Vatovec from Adelaide and his love of music

Every year, the City of Adelaide organises a Christmas Pageant which has grown over the 80 year period to be enjoyed by some 400,000 people.

The Christmas Pageant song used for this occasion was written by Adrian Vatovec
as the lead song of the 1995 Adelaide Christmas Pageant. The song has been used ever since.

The Slovenian took this opportunity to ask Adrian who is also the author of the Slovenia Australia Channel on YouTube and one of the editors of the Slovenia South Australia newsletter a few questions.

When did your parents settle in Adelaide?

My parents settled in Adelaide in 1955. My parents were married in Trieste in 1954 after fleeing across the Slovenian border. My father arrived from the refugee camp in Trieste to Perth in 1954. He worked in the timber mill in Northam which is about 97 km north-east of Perth. My mother arrived later in 1954 and was sent to Bonegilla, Victoria. She gave birth to me in January 1955 at Bonegilla, alone in a Nissen hut. Coming from the extreme ends of the Australian continent my parents met in the middle and called Adelaide home.

What are your main achievements as a musician?

I don't really think that I have achieved that much and I am constantly searching. I am a life long student of music and it constantly surprises me. I like writing and producing music and I like most genres of music whether it is tonal or atonal, from pop/rock to heavy metal, industrial, jazz, classical and of course Slovenian folk music. I have a need to explore all genres of music and not to be confined to one style only.

Why do you work in marketing research rather than creating music full time?

To work full time creating music is a very difficult task in Australia. A lot of people migrate either to Europe or the United States where the market is much larger to be able to sustain a living out of making music. Additionally, with the internet and pirate downloading musicians are not making money through CD sales but by touring.

I worked at Mitsubishi Motors Australia in the marketing/research department for 20 years and I enjoy doing it because conducting research is a creative process and it compliments songwriting.

It was frustrating to have a regular day job because music melodies kept popping up in my head. At Mitsubishi we had a canteen and on the stage behind a curtain was a piano and I would run to this piano from my office and scribble down on a piece of paper the notes that were circling in my head. I now work from my home office and the piano is in the next room, so the songwriting process is a bit easier.

What does music mean to you?

To me music means that everything is possible. You can start with a blank sheet of paper and half an hour later it could be filled with a song. To me, that is just like magic. You know when the magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat and everyone is in awe of how this happened. I am in awe of music in the same way.

Music is such a powerful emotive force that it can cause a whole range of human responses either in one person or a stadium full of people.

Everyone travels the timeline and music plays a major part as the soundtrack to that timeline. Certain markers along the way are posted by a song and I think everyone can relate to this.

I am looking ahead and can't wait to get up in the morning to see what the day will bring.

You can watch the Christmas Pageant song video by Adrian Vatovec on YouTube

Picnic in Nelligen on Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Slovenian invites you to a picnic in Nelligen on Saturday, 1 February 2014, at 11 am. Please bring your own chair, food and drink. Everyone is welcome!

Please register your interest.

Mr Alfred Brežnik, retired Honorary Consul General on his former role, Slovenian community and trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia

Mr Alfred Brežnik  (Photo by Florjan Auser)
"If my work in helping members of my community will be judged as successful and that I have contributed to their well being, I’ll consider that as my greatest achievement."

You have been a member of the Slovenian community in Australia for more than fifty years and Honorary Consul for twenty-one years. How would you describe the Slovenian community in Australia?

A difficult question indeed and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. It is impossible to describe the whole Slovenian community in Australia with a single statement/label that would apply to all. The only thing that is common to all is the Slovenian heritage. What I mean by this is that not all came to this country at the same time and for the same reason. The fact is that most arrived to the shores of this country after the second WWII, the so called political migrants. These are those who escaped from the communist oppressors, to save their lives and who became refugees in the camps of Europe - waiting for resettlement in a number of western countries, including Australia.

The second, but a much smaller group, were the so called economic migrants, who started arriving in the late fifties. Their reason for migration was basically to find a secure job and better life. They didn’t want to be labelled as political migrants and were rather weary of the first arrivals and thus causing some resentment to each other.

Slovenian migrants in general, but particularly the first group, started building, besides their own homes, also communal homes/halls/centres and churches. They proved to be hard working, diligent, skillful  and entrepreneurial, as well as family orientated. Education was always a very important part for a Slovenian Family, thus children also attended Slovenian language classes and participated in cultural performances. The fact is that the first generation was the driving force of all this that we have today. The second generation, who actually benefited a lot from the efforts of their parent’s, didn’t continue with such enthusiasm. This is understandable: mixed marriages, family, social and professional commitments, engagement within the local communities, occupied most of their free time.

Over the years the friction between the first two groups gradually disappeared, particularly after Slovenian independence, when the community was at its peak. They felt reunited and proud to be called Slovenian. Now they had an identity, which they lacked before – most didn’t want to be called Yugoslavs. However, despite all this enthusiasm, the number of Australians who call themselves Slovenian is falling drastically, according to the census. Many organisations with their huge club houses are experiencing a shortage of membership and are struggling to sustain their existence.

There is a small inflow of new young migrants from Slovenia, which is due to the economic crises in Europe, thus also in Slovenia. But these are different migrants from those arriving after the WW II, they are usually highly educated professionals and speak English. Their main interest is to find work, preferably in their profession, and a secure future. They have no time and/or interest to join the existing Slovenian organisations or clubs.  

Now, let’s get back to you question: How would I describe the Slovenian community in Australia?

A community of people who are generally happy and content, they love their folk music and having a good time. They are hard working, diligent and responsible; proud of their country of origin and its culture. They are very protective of their own family – ‘home is my castle’. They are generous and always prepared to help, particularly in times of crises. They are exemplary citizens of their new adopted country – Australia. 

What are its main strengths and its main weaknesses?

Strengths: Their work ethics, traditional family values – based on Christian upbringing, and tolerance for others.
Weaknesses: Due to diminishing number of the first generation through ageing, the descendants – second and third generation, lack the sense or need for Community’s survival, causing a gradual loss in membership of Slovenian organisations and clubs, thus questioning their future sustainability.  

How would you like to see the Slovenian community develop in the future?

First of all, the younger generation would have to gradually take over the running of the organisations and clubs. Also, they would have to try to attract the newcomers – the new arrivals to this country. I know this is easier said than done. But, to achieve this, the first generation which in most cases still runs these establishments and holds to them – sometimes jealously, would have to let go and change their attitude, before it is too late.  They’ll have to accept the fact that now are different times, that the young people have different requirements and needs - a consensus is required.  They may speak English among themselves, but their Slovenian roots and the love for the country of origin is still dear to their hearts. Therefore, they shouldn’t wait much longer.  The Slovenian Association Melbourne is an example of such a positive change and it appears to be a working.
Do you feel that the organisations that are in place now are fulfilling the role of community leaders and focal points?

They most certainly are - for the time being of course and for the existing membership. But survival is at stake, and not too far in the future!  Now is the time to act! By the way, this s not a uniquely Slovenian phenomenon, it is universal, particularly among the smaller ethnic communities.   

How did you see your role as the Honorary Consul General? What was your main concern? What were your main achievements?

It was indeed a great honour to represent my country of birth, one year after it gained the independence - a dream of the Slovenian people for centuries, as the Honorary Consul for ten years and for the last eleven years as the Honorary Consul General, in my new adopted country - Australia.  But the appointment carried also obligations and duties.
It is necessary to point out that my work and duties at the time of my appointment were considerably different from those 21 years later, at the time of my retirement. As a representative of a new country, with no previous accredited representative, it was my first duty to bring to the attention of the Australian Government, non-government organisations and the Australian people the existence of a new state, a new member in the family of nations – The Republic of Slovenia. To establish and run a consular office was indeed a pioneering task.  Slovenia had no experience in foreign affairs and protocol, and I had no special instructions. Even the Vienna Convention (Rules and Regulations for Diplomatic Missions) was given to me in the ‘Serbo-Croat’ language. The original letter of my appointment actually listed the following duties:

“The duties of Mr Alfred Brežnik are to promote broad-based cooperation between the Republic of Slovenia and Australia, especially in the field of economic relations, transport and communication, culture and justice, and ex officio to advise and help Slovenian and local citizens and legal entities in accordance with national regulations and international law”.
Of course, with the opening of the first Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra, in April 1993, things became easier for me. My work load was reduced and I could seek advice from the Embassy when required. I could also concentrate more on my community, which was always my main concern.  
You are asking about my main achievements? I have never thought of grading my work.  I will leave this to others to do so, if they thought it desirable.  However, if my work in helping members of my community will be judged as successful and that I have contributed to their well being, I’ll consider that as my greatest achievement.   
Outside the community work there were a number of highlights that I was proud to be part of, for instance: The first WTO conference and exhibition in Sydney, 1994, where Slovenia had one of the largest pavilions, showing a variety of quality products (high tech, machinery, white goods, furniture, etc.) and was attended by a large business delegation.
The 2000 Sydney Olympics, where  I was the attaché of the Slovenian Olympic and Paralympic teams (a great honour indeed), coinciding  with two business conferences, one  in Sydney and one in Melbourne. And also the great success of the Slovenian Olympic House in the Sydney CBD.
2004 - Slovenia became the member of EU and NATO.
2008 – Slovenia was presiding EU and our Consulate was presiding the NSW EU Consular Corps.
These are some of the historical events, to mention but a few.

The new Honorary Consul appointment  for New South Wales is expected in the near future.  What would be your advice to the new Consul?

The Republic of Slovenia in her 22 years of existence as an independent state came a long way and has established many diplomatic and consular missions all over the world. There are now official Guidelines for diplomats and Consular officers, including Honorary Consular Officers. It wouldn’t be correct for me to pre-empt the official instructions. If I should say anything at all as an advice, it would only be the following:
To be appointed an Honorary Consular officer of a country/state is great honour indeed. It is a prestigious position. Not a paid one – there are no financial gains or remunerations for expenses or work done. So, one may ask, why would I do it? There could be many reasons. One may love his country and is proud of her and may wish to help. / One may be particularly interested to help his or her Community. / One may do it simply for the honour and prestige or opportunity for meeting business people through networking – nothing wrong with that, it’s legitimate.  Whatever the reason, the most important thing is sincerity and courtesy when dealing with people and to be a good listener. People who come to see you expect to be helped, and they can be very appreciative when granted assistance. At the end of the day, the feeling is good - it is a labour of love. 

You are also a distinguished businessman. Does your company Emona Instruments trade with companies in Slovenia?

Yes we do. We trade with two specialist electronics companies in Slovenia.

What are your views on the trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia? Do you think it is adequate? Is there room for improvement?

Unfortunately, it is not adequate.  There are great opportunities for improvement in the bilateral trade between our two countries. But to do this we need a dedicated person at the Embassy level – a Trade Commissioner or a Commercial Attache, who would be proactively involved with trade alone. Slovenia has a lot to offer and so does Australia, particularly through investments. Australia is one of the largest trade partners with EU and has investment in many of her member states. Slovenia seems to be missing out on that business.

What would be your advice to a company in Slovenia that wishes to sell its products in Australia?

Firstly, they must research the Australian market themselves, i.e. to look for similar products or services they are offering - this is very easy with the help of the internet. Then, they should approach them, preferably directly, or through an agent. It certainly would be easier with a help of a commercial representative from Slovenia, if we had one. If the product is good and the price is right it shouldn’t be too difficult. One must be persistent.

What are your personal plans for the future?
No particular plans. I hope and I pray for good health, happy and content remaining years of my life.

Thank you for the interview.

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?