Opening of the Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia in Melbourne - Response

The Slovenian received an open letter from Anita and Andrew Fistric of Melbourne regarding the controversy at the opening of the Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia in Melbourne, Victoria. Their views are shared by many members of the Slovenian community in Melbourne and as such represent an important contribution to this issue.

It seems Mr Erjavec has his facts wrong. Just to correct or clarify statements made by Mr Erjavec in RTV Slo about the incident; "Erjavec je ob tem opozoril, da odprtje konzulata ni bil zaprt dogodek"; correction - attendance at the opening ceremony was by invitation only. It was clearly stated, a number of times, to both of us, by persons that were invited to the official opening of the Victorian Consulate that "it was by Invitation only".

Also it was publicly stated by the priest to the whole congregation at the Slovenian church  in Kew on the Sunday prior to the event (2/3/14), that "attendance was by invitation only." The priest could confirm this. Again a number of people/witnesses that were in the congregation could confirm this.

Nevertheless,  we wish to also comment that even if they (Ambassador and Slovenian Government) wish to deny and lie by saying he was not invited and it can't be proven beyond reasonable doubt that he was invited, you cannot deny that Nicholas Oman was in attendance (according to photos)And should have been questioned and politely asked to leave at the door/gate. It stands to reason that if it was announced publicly at Mass that it was  by "invitation only" and taking the statement by Balazic that Mr Oman wasn't invited, it clearly indicates the lack of professionalism and lack of protocol by Mr Balazic in attending to this matter. Not to mention the disrespect to the guests who attended. The protocol was not followed as he should not have been allowed to attend and should have been asked to leave (that is of course assuming they did not want him there). But instead, according to witnesses, he was also at the celebration afterwards held at the Slovenian club in Diggers Rest!!

THIS IS PATHETIC!!!! That our Slovenian community has stooped so low with this Ambassador!!!!
That the abovementioned statements are even being put to the community as reasonable excuses for his attendance at this official function is laughable and at the same time distressing as our Melbourne community leaders have done nothing other than say it was all done by Canberra and would not condemn the Ambassadors actions. The Melbourne community organisers would not have done even that much, had they not been asked to make a statement about their level of involvement.

What is so abhorrent is that this man has come out of nowhere, that this man has been given this official invitation when we could name hundreds of individuals in the community that certainly deserved to be invited before Oman. Whatever the politics in Slovenia,  the Slovenian community in Australia does not deserve the disrespect shown by the Ambassador and the so-called leaders of the Slovenian community in Victoria.
But more importantly, Australia does not need these sort of people to be given status opportunities in the Australian community either. With this country working hard at investigating the whole sexual predatory industry in Australia in the form of the Royal Commission etc., it is even more astounding that this sort of thing is still happening.  The  Slovenian and Australian community deserves and demands better representation.

Statements made on this blog are the personal opinions of the commentators and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog owner.

Opening of the new Consulate in Melbourne revisited

The controversy surrounding the opening of the new Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia in Melbourne has come to its conclusion even though the Ambassador continues to claim that Mr Nicholas Oman was not invited.

In the last week it has been established on the basis of evidence that Mr Oman was on the list of invited guests, at least at some point of the preparation process (on 11 February, to be precise), and it is also known that he appeared at the opening on 7 March.

A week ago, the Ambassador also claimed that the list of invited guests was put together in co-operation with Mr Alfred Brežnik, OAM, retired Honorary Consul General from Sydney, father Ciril Božic, Head of Religious and Cultural Centre Kew, Mr Peter Mandelj, Member of the Slovenian Parliament for Slovenians Abroad, and Mr Derry Maddison, the newly appointed Honorary Consul in Melbourne. The named leaders of the Slovenian community all denied their involvement and publicly stated that the list was entirely the responsibility of the Embassy in Canberra.

The Ambassador is too busy blaming everyone but himself for this unfortunate incident to provide a plausible explanation and/or to apologise.

Nevertheless, the community has come together and showed once again that we can unite when we want to.

Despite the controversy, the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne is and will remain one of the key events for the Slovenian community in Australia. All the best to Mr Derry Maddison as the first Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for the state of Victoria.

Metka Kosec of Canberra on her family's new life in Australia

You came to Australia with your husband and two children, aged 13 and 10, only eight months ago.  Why did you decide to leave Slovenia?

Yes, we started our adventure in Australia only nine months ago. We saw it as an opportunity to live our lives fully.

To start a life in a new country has been our dream for quite a long time, but several things prevented us from moving abroad earlier, children were one of them. Two years ago we said to each other 'now or never', and we went on with the visa procedure. Well, to be honest it was not just seeking new opportunities, it was also for our children’s benefit, giving them the opportunity to see the world from a wider perspective.

What did you expect to find in Australia? Have your expectations been fulfilled?

Well, we were hoping to find positive attitude towards life, a better lifestyle, more sun and of course better business opportunities.  Children were looking forward to the wildlife, especially kangaroos, dolphins and whales and all other amazing animals you can find here.

I must say that we fell in love with the Australian landscape and its wildlife almost immediately. Particularly here in Canberra, you can see kangaroos almost in the city center. The birds are amazing and so colorful. And there is this particular light that makes all photos look lit in a very special way. I guess this is an impression all migrants here in Australia share.

We find Australians very kind and easygoing which we love. It is much easier when you know you are welcome here. We have heard several times “Welcome to Australia!” from total strangers. I must say that people here have a better lifestyle than in Slovenia, they seem to be more relaxed and positive, and they stick together when needed.

Let’s say our expectations have been fulfilled so far. Getting a job is a bit more complicated but I am convinced that this issue will get resolved as well.

Why did you decide to settle in Canberra?

Let’s say it was faith. My husband and I both started our visa process at the same time and mine was approved first. It was a good choice since we love smaller cities and Canberra is just that. I must say that so far we've been quite happy here. The only thing we miss is the sea. Well, here in Canberra we have lots of lakes and rivers which help a lot in hot summer days. Since Canberra is the capital of Australia there are always events going on, such as festivals, cultural and sports events. Canberra is very culturally diverse, and we are all enjoying such diversity. Another good thing that we discovered are the superb cycling paths which were planned through the parks and nature reserves and around the lakes. And the fact that everything is so close in Canberra as it is fairly small.

In what ways do you find Australia different from Slovenia? In what ways is job-hunting here different?

I must say that moving to a new country is a difficult thing to do. You don’t have any people you know to help and your social network is non-existent. The language is also a big issue, no matter how good you thought your English was back home.

When you take all thise things in consideration you can see that job hunting is a really difficult mission. Up till now I haven’t been able to find a proper job so I  started a graphic design studio and at least I have some projects to do. It is still not enough for living but is slowly going ahead.

How do your children cope in school? Is English a problem? How is school in Australia different from school in Slovenia?

I must say that our children have settled in school quickly. I believe the schooling program EIC (English Introductory Center) here in ACT is very beneficial for children who move here from non-English speaking countries. The program is designed in such a way that it introduces  children into the school system in Australia as well as teaches them English to the level required in the mainstream schools. Children stay in that program for up to 4 terms, depending on the child’s level of English.

Our children left EIC program quickly, because they already had a certain level of English which they gained back in Slovenia. They say school here in Australia is more fun and way easier than schools in Slovenia. What they love the most are breaks because they are much longer than in Slovenia.

I must say that both of them were very well accepted into mainstream school classes, firstly because children here are encouraged to welcome newcomers and they see them as special. Secondly, all children have a two-day school visit before they start in the mainstream school which is very helpful as they get a chance to meet their new school friends and their new teachers.

The main differences between schools here and in Slovenia are that students in Australia have fewer subjects and do more research driven projects. Children don’t need to learn lots of facts by heart which is very common in Slovenian schools. Teachers encourage students to participate during the class as much as possible.

And some technical differences: children have to bring their own food; every two weeks they have a full school assembly where they show to other students what they have learned and receive special principal awards for their good work or for just being a good friend. Acknowledgment is something that is very common in Australian schools and it is a part of Australian culture. Students can sit on the floor, even during the class. Nobody wears slippers. School starts at 9am and ends at 3pm for all students.

There is a small Slovenian community in Canberra. Have you been to the Slovenian club, do you meet with other Slovenians? Are your new friends Slovenian?

We did go to the Slovenian Club once but we couldn't relate to it; the only thing we have in common is the fact that we are all Slovenians. We found it really strange and got a feeling that we are not welcome there.

But we have found here a couple of Slovenian friends and we meet from time to time. At the start it was nice to have someone to rely on, and that was Isidora who helped us find an apartment before we arrived and also offered some helpful advice on how to start our life here.

We feel lucky to have friends from different cultural backgrounds. Our new friends are Slovenians, Germans, Koreans, Swiss, Australians, British, Irish and New Zealanders. We love cultural diversity in which you can fit in no matter what colour or nationality you are. What we love with our friends is that we can share our culinary experiences. What is common to all of us is that, with a few exceptions, we share the same migrant experience.

We are looking forward to the time when the Slovenian Club will become a place for every Slovenian and when people there will  finally realize, after so many years, that regardless of our political and historical background we are all members of a small Slovenian nation on the other side of the world.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future we would like to live near the sea. But you never know what future might bring. And of course I would like to have an established design studio.
My husband is looking forward to getting a normal job that will match his professional skills and competence.
And our children are all around the place, doing sports, arts and science. We'll just wait and see where their paths will lead.

Irene Stariha of Sydney on her work in the Slovenian community

You were born in Australia but always maintained strong ties with Slovenia. Were you involved with the Slovenian community in your childhood and teenage years? In what way?

Well actually, I was born in Slovenia but came here with my mother just before my 3rd birthday.  Slovenian was therefore my first language and as it was only the two of us here, I had very little English in my life.  My mother found comfort in having a connection to the other Slovenians in Sydney and as she later married a Slovenian man (which she met at a community dance) our family continued its strong association with this community.  Not only were the dances a source of connection, but the Slovenian mass (which travelled between churches) was very much a focus for my parents. 

As many of your readers (who grew up in similar families) would be aware, our social lives were very much dominated by our parent’s commitment to the Slovenian community.  Every weekend we would be at the church and/or clubs and so my basis of friendships (outside of school) was very sloveniancentric. I fell in love early (very early from my parents’ perspective) with a Slovenian boy and that further consolidated my link to this community.  As a teenager I sang in the band “Mavrica” which offered me the opportunity to travel around the Slovenian clubs in NSW, Vic, QLD & SA. Meeting Australian/Slovenian youth all over Australia created a thread that still somehow survives today (albeit very finely).  I was involved in church bands, co-headed a very successful (and extremely fun!) choir “Zarja”, was involved in co-ordinating youth events and basically was part of a very strong social network – all emanating from the Slovenian community.

As an adult with a young family you decided to join forces with your peers of Slovenian background to start the Australian Slovenian Review where you worked as the newsletter editor. What motivated you to start ASR?

Having the close social connection with the Slovenian community, it seemed obvious that once I had a family of my own, I wanted that link to be extended to the next generation.  I was coerced into attending a meeting of a small group of die-hards who were wanting to start a publication to connect the English speaking members of our community – focusing more on the younger members.  Up until then any media offered was targeted at our parent’s generation and predominantly in Slovenian.  As often happens the people at this inaugural meeting for what became Australian Slovenian Review (ASR ) were the same faces I had been involved with through multiple other projects (many of these people were family).  They must have known my weakness as it somehow transpired that I was voted Editor even though I had absolutely NO previous experience of anything even closely related.  In hindsight, these people were very clever – give her the role that allows her to nag, be the face of the organisation, but leave the real work to the quiet achievers!  Anyway, we grew from a newsletter which we each photocopied at our work places (very clandestine!) to a quarterly magazine which we were all extremely proud of.  It was a fabulous time and again, the friendships consolidated there have served me well through sometimes tough times in life!
How did the community react to your efforts?

Of course there was controversy but in general the community rallied behind us beyond our expectations!  The main controversy was the fact that we barred any articles in Slovenian.  We strongly believed there was enough available to the Slovenian speakers/reader of our community and by filling precious space for them, we would be losing our main target group.  Keep in mind printing costs (even illegal photocopying “costs”) are high when you have no income!!.  We stuck to our guns regarding this and eventually it was just accepted.  I also headed the first page of our first issue with an article on whether to encourage children to be bilingual or learn each language at separate times.  My article suggested that language development was better if children have one clear language model at a time.  I used the research of the day (I’m an Early Childhood teacher by qualification).  It caused a huge controversy!!!  I don’t agree with the research and it has been disproven today, but wow – it worked in getting everyone talking about us!!!

We were determined never to have our readers pay for subscription as this would go against our wish to be inclusive of anyone that had the slightest interest in Slovenia, and the community kept us running (sometimes only just) through contributions.  Of course the founding members contributed the first financial foundation, but from then on, individuals, clubs, businesses etc. all trickled in the financial support to keep us going.  When we wrapped up we even had some money in the bank that has been used to support the “youth” concerts run by the church.  We gave our generation a voice and interestingly our parents’ generation was also a large proportion of our readership.

The Australian Slovenian Review developed into an excellent newsletter. How many issues did you publish and why did you decide to wrap it up?

We lasted 5 years x quarterly so there must have been 20ish issues. Each one grew longer, braver, more technical than the next and with every issue we were being stretched way beyond our existing knowledge base.  It was fabulous and exhausting!!  Each member of our team was volunteering copious amounts of time whilst balancing diverse professional careers, young families and still having a life.  It stretched us all and the team seemed never to grow and gradually even shrink at times.  We hoped to pass on the baton to the slightly younger group of readers (even though we were/are still considered the “mladina”!!) but it never seemed to eventuate.  We thought we were inspiring them but in all fairness to them we were a strong and quite insular group – so breaking in would have taken some real courage.  Anyway, my family (myself, my gorgeous husband Mark & our daughters Kara & Lana), moved to Slovenia for a year – a culture experience that would be one of the most rewarding risks we’ve ever taken. This seemed a catalyst for the ASR machine turned off its worn cogs for the last time...  our team had run out of steam.

You and your husband Mark took your family overseas and stayed in Slovenia for a year . How did you like living in Slovenia, how did you and your husband manage and how did your children cope with school and finding friends there? Were you considering staying there for good?   
Yes, as I stated our year away was the most rewarding risk!  It wasn’t really 1 year in Slovenia, but that was definitely the base for our adventures.  We started with 6 weeks in the USA, then a short stop in London before beginning our Slovenian leg. The plan was that the girls would enrol in a local school straight away and Mark & I would find work either teaching English (both of us were teachers by profession) or proof reading translated work. Happily things didn’t go to plan!  Mark & I couldn’t find work – seems Slovenians don’t need any help in proofing their English translating (I’m being a little sarcastic but Slovenians are very confident in their skills so really don’t appreciate native English speakers correcting them!).  Most teaching positions were already filled for the school year, so we rented an apartment, bought a car (long story in how to register it if you are a citizen but not a permanent resident – I will NEVER complain about Australian bureaucracy again!!!) and travelled Europe!  We let the wind take us and forgot about the fiscal responsibility parents have to their children.  Our home in Sydney had been emptied and rented to complete strangers – this income paid for our mortgage at home and some of our living expenses abroad.  The rest was extended to our already too large home loan – yet it was priceless and we don’t regret a moment!!  In September when everyone goes back to work/school (this was 9 months into our travels!!) Mark and I got work teaching English to trade union officials. We finally enrolled Kara and Lana in the local school (even though they didn’t/don’t speak Slovenian) and life was meant to become more like being in the real world. Our work was 4 hours per week but it really cramped our style!! We actually had to be in Ljubljana on a set day!  The work was “interesting” as our students were meant to be proficient English speakers who simply needed to improve their professional language.  My group had no English at all so the text books given to us were thrown out in the first 5 minutes!! Talk about spontaneous teaching!!! 

Kara and Lana loved school for the first week – they were overwhelmed at the freedoms in the classroom and the teachers’ lack of discipline.  At first this made school fun, but quickly it became a place where they felt they were unsure how to behave.  They never spoke a word of Slovenian as all of their peers were keen to extend their English skills.  We paid a huge financial cost in immersing our children in the Slovenian language but all that happened was that they realised they were pretty cool coming from Australia!  Regardless they learnt a valuable lesson: Kara commented a few weeks into the experience how it made her realise how difficult it was for the new children (who were usually Asian) back home.  She said “mummy, Lani and I are so popular here. Everyone wants to be our friends and yet I still feel like I don’t really belong. Imagine how the new children at home feel when nobody even wants to know them!”  The wisdom of babes – she was 9 years old and I was never prouder of her!

We had never considered this to be a permanent move (much to the relief of our parents!). It was always an opportunity to grow in our knowledge and connect.  There was a hidden agenda – I have a half brother and whole other family in Slovenia that I had never met.  At the ripe old age of 39, I was able to connect with people who are my blood, who share my outlooks and yet have no geographical/socio-economic similarities – it was mind blowing – but that’s a book of its own!

For the last 3 weeks of our 1 year adventure we took our children to the hill tribes of Thailand to complete their education on diversity!

Are you still involved with the Slovenian community in Sydney? 

I have to admit I have lost my passion, my drive and my patience.  I was asked to co-ordinate the last Australian Slovenian “youth” Concert in Sydney.  The old ASR team and a couple of newbies made it bigger than Ben Herr (or is Triglav a better metaphor) and throughout that process I was reminded of the difficulty of often opposing agendas between the established groups and the drifters of my generation.  We were highly thanked and acknowledged for our efforts and I know we were all proud and happy to be involved – our creative juices were however often stifled and we needed to be wary of sensitive toes... I’m not saying I won’t be involved in any future events - I enjoy too much the feeling of belonging and the genuine gratefulness of the hard working members of our community! Just not sure when I will have the energy it takes...

Do you feel Slovenian? What does being Slovenian mean to you?

I will always feel Slovenian, but to be honest, I’m an Aussie girl at heart.  I feel more comfortable with the easy going nature of Aussies and often feel Slovenians (and I’m generalising here), are just too serious about everything.  My closest friends are still a group of Slovenians and I always advertise my Slovenian background but I do feel disconnected from those roots at present.  I’m very proud that both of my children feel they are Slovenian and proudly proclaim their heritage, and whenever possible we all love to go back for a family visit.  You can’t really take Slovenia out of the girl!!

I guess being Slovenian to me means acknowledging my diversity of being – I’m a hybrid, so I’m not one or the other, yet I can’t exist without being both.  What I value about my Slovenian side is the long heritage.  I have European roots that make me that little bit more precise and particular about things (I think that’s the German influence) – I like that part of me even though I know it really annoys many other people!

3 weeks after we returned from our year in Slovenia, you may recall I had a brain haemorrhage and subsequent brain surgery... that experience reinforced the real priorities in life, so for the past 14 years I’ve been reminding myself of those daily.  That experience also (in a really random way) enabled a closer bond to Slovenia as during my rehabilitation, I worked to open a contemporary Australian Bar in Ljubljana.  It was important to me at that stage to marry my two cultures...  I really wanted my Slovenian friends and family to get even a small taste of my Aussie home.  That business venture ended badly, but I really did consolidate the fact that both cultures are important to me and they make me a little different to others.

What are you currently doing and what are your plans for the future?

At the present time I’m just enjoying...  my children are beautiful independent women so I enjoy sharing their life adventures; my husband still likes me after all of these years, so I’m really enjoying that; I have a wonderful work /life balance and we've  just moved to apartment living on the water in a suburb with lots of cafes – what’s not to enjoy?  I crave to travel some more but am always torn by limited resources so do I see the world and grow or go back to the comfort of Slovenia?

My future plans are...........I couldn’t tell you......the trigger hasn’t yet been enabled..... I’m just enjoying!

How to get from Venice to Ljubljana

  1. Venice, Italy
    2 hours 24 mins
    Ljubljana, Slovenia

    242.0 km
    From: Venice, Italy To: Ljubljana, Slovenia
    8.9 km

    97.7 km

    48.7 km

    1.1 km

    1.9 km

    11.8 km

    65.6 km
    1.2 km

    550 m

    42 m

    2.6 km
    1.2 km
    400 m
    190 m
    130 m
    8 m

The travelling season is fast approaching. If you are considering a trip to Slovenia and wish you could make good use of suitable flights to Venice (or Munich or Vienna), you might find useful different options that are now available to get you from these airports to Ljubljana and Slovenia. The trip from Venice to Ljubljana was kindly researched by Greg and Ronalee Kodric, owners of   

Journeys by train are one of the highlights of commuter travel in Europe due to the extensive networks and the efficient service provided by most countries. So a trip from Venice to Ljubljana would seem to be as easy as drinking a nice mug of Illy, right? Think again. The ongoing political "issues" between Italy and Slovenia since Slovenia's independence has meant that the number of direct services between the two countries has dwindled to zero. That's right, not a "toot-toot" to be heard between Trieste and Sežana for quite a while now.

Talks of a high-speed link between Italy-Slovenia and Croatia seem to have stalled and the differing rail gauges between the countries certainly doesn't help the cause either.

So how does one get from Ljubljana to Venice or vice-versa?

Glad you asked. There are a few options available and it's not that difficult if you do a little research and forward planning.

Option 1
Take the GoOpti shuttle service from Ljubljana to Venice or vice versa. The journey is fairly quick and as direct as possible; however, you may have to stop en-route to pick up other passengers.
There are also different fares available that vary in price depending on whether you can wait for others or want to leave at an exact time.
This option is gaining in popularity as people want to save time versus waiting for public transport.

Option 2
Hire a car with pick up in Ljubljana and drop off in Venice or pick up in Venice and drop off in Ljubljana.

Option 3
Take a train from Ljubljana to Sežana. From Sežana there are several buses (or taxi) to Trieste. Then train onward to Venice.

Option 4
Take a bus from Ljubljana to Nova Gorica. Then bus or taxi across border to Gorizia Station and train onward to Venice.

Option 5
Transfer from Ljubljana to ferry pier in Piran for ferry journey to Venice.

Other options available include taking the daily bus service from Ljubljana to Trieste and then onward by train (hours not friendly).
Taking a train from Ljubljana to Beljak (Villach) in Austria, then bus to Venice (3 countries in one go, not bad!).
Another option when the tram is repaired is train to Sežana, taxi to Opčine (Villa Opicina) and funicular tram to Trieste. Train to Venice.
A few changes but you might enjoy the vintage tram ride when they finally repair it.

So there you have it, Ljubljana to Venice in a nutshell (or a few of them!)
Of course, reverse the process if travelling the opposite way.

Greg and Ronalee are happy to provide further details if you need more information.

Opening of Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia in Melbourne

Mr Derry Maddison, the new Honorary Consul, third on the left
In Melbourne, Victoria, a new Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia was opened yesterday, 7 March 2014, with Mr Derry Maddison as the first Honorary Consul.

THE SLOVENIAN contacted Mr Maddison to ask him the following questions:

How do you see your new role as a Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia? How do you plan to serve the Slovenian community in Australia and in Slovenia?

Mr Maddison replied: 

Yes, it has been long coming for Slovenians in Victoria to have their own Consulate. I was the privileged one to be nominated and then appointed. 

The ceremony  was well organized under the scrutiny of His Excellency Dr. Milan Balazic.

From here on, my main  duty is to serve to the best of my ability the Slovenian nationals in the state of Victoria.  Of course i will take on board any issue, but some  larger issues will be assisted by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra. In short, I will be available to people at any time. For more demanding work, there will be appointments for the office, which will be open to the public by appointment every Friday from  5 pm to 7 pm.
How I serve the Slovenian community in Australia, mainly in Victoria, largely depends on requirements of the inquiry.

In all matters I engage myself to follow the instructions of  honorary consular officers of the Republic of Slovenia and to consult with the supervisory diplomatic mission and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

The list of invited guests, complied by the Embassy in Canberra and approved by the Ambassador Dr Milan Balažic, included in addition to foreign diplomats and leaders of the Slovenian community Mr Nicholas Oman.

Photo by Fr David Srumf OFM

Draga Gelt, OAM, of Melbourne on her love of everything Slovenian

When did you arrive in Australia? Why did you leave Slovenia? Why did you migrate to Australia?

I arrived in Australia on 27 May 1968. I left Slovenia to find work. When I completed the Teachers College in Ljubljana, the priorities for teaching positions were given to teachers who joined the Communist Party. I first left for Germany; at the time, Australia was offering many job opportunities and of course a new life. I went, alone. A penfriend welcomed me in Australia and helped me find a job in a mental institution, Childrens’ Cottages Kew, where I worked as a ward assistant for nearly two years.

When did you become involved with the community? Why?

As I lived in a nurses hostel, a part of the Childrens Cottages Kew, I was within walking distance of the Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre at Kew and thus became involved very soon: I first helped with handwriting and decorating the stage and preparing other signs. This was followed by performing in short plays and soon afterwards I started teaching the Slovenian language at the Slomšek Slovenian school, Kew.
Being a teacher, I felt I had something to offer. I had a need to give my knowledge and skills by writing short stories, performing, and sharing my knowledge of the language, drama and folk dancing. I started a folk dancing group in 1969.
I was a young enthusiastic teacher and involvement with the community and cultural work fulfilled my yearning. It was a great pleasure to work with children and youth, especially the first Slovenian generation born in Australia.

What has been your motivation to stay involved with the community for so many years?

I enjoyed being involved with the Slovenian community: the Slovenian church and the Slovenian Association Melbourne since my arrival; than the Slovenian National Council; the Slovenian school of SAM which I established, and the Victorian Secondary School of Languages where I taught for 10 years.

I love the Slovenian language, history, arts and literature, folklore: crafts, songs and dance.

It was a joy to coordinate cultural programs. For each program, I introduced a special theme. Each time, it came as a lovely surprise when I saw children and adults following the instructions for symbolism with confidence and anticipation of the grand outcome. Together with teacher Magda Pišotek and Marija Penca who joined me we have prepared so many cultural programs over the years, for special occasions and anniversaries and for some Slovenian youth concerts as well.

I always liked symbolism and ideas for programs just came to me: the more we did, the more ideas came to me – the more I gave of myself, the more I received!

What do you see as your main achievement in your extensive community work?

Looking at the achievements:  each program, each Slovenian word learned, each language lesson, each project, each book, each exhibition, each performance was a triumph for all the participants and everyone involved.

The main goal is to preserve the cultural and historical heritage and all the riches of the Slovenian community in Australia; to highlight the successes, achievements, the hard work and national pride; to take pride in the community work and to work together as one for common good; to preserve the Slovenian heritage and to  be a good role model for the younger generation, with enthusiasm, pride, tolerance, drive and patience, and respect of each other and of the Australian culture.

Success brings happiness, deepens the love and respect of people, of the community and of the Slovenian nation. But, success is worth very little if not shared with others!
I have always found it very gratifying to share success and to acknowledge all participants in all and every project.

If we work together, we can achieve many things for the good of the community and the good of the human kind everywhere.

Success is only enjoyable, when shared; if celebrated alone, it is empty, gives no elation and no happiness.

I feel and know that my personal achievement is the love of my family, the love and respect of the people in the work situations and in the Slovenian and Australian community.

There is also the Medal of the Order of Australia, a great honour and acknowledgement of my cultural and educational work for the Slovenian community in Australia. I received it in 1996. It is quite interesting that in 18 years since I received it, I have not been invited as the award recipient to be a guest at any of the Slovenian special functions, as is usually the case for other recipients. No tears shed on that account. I know, only selected few and wealthy people are allowed to be invited. Was it  jealousy of some who think that only the rich are allowed to receive awards? Why did Preseren say in his poem Pevec (the Poet): . . . Stanu se svojega spomni -  remember your place . . .!

What is your view of the Slovenian community in Melbourne and in general in Australia?

The Slovenians are kind, happy people. Of course there are exceptions, there are power and glory hungry individuals who wish to belittle anyone who achieves anything. Jealous? Some yes, very much so.  It is a sad, negative character trait. Sometimes a person can only pray for people like that and their grace! Let it be! It is more interesting to be happy and joyful, and to work and create.

In general, Slovenians are proud of their achievements, especially the first generation migrants. Later generations are less committed to the Slovenian cause.

Nevertheless, it is lovely to see younger generations participating and taking responsibilities in the life of the Slovenian community! Their expectations and their requirements are so different to those of the first migrants; however, the younger do strive for the common good and at least in part work to realise the vision of continuation of the Slovenian community spirit.
I wish that the Slovenian pride, enthusiasm and respect would spill across all  generations here in Australia.

Slovenians still need each other. We are peoples’ people, we live for the community, we strive for unity, friendship, cultural bond and respect of heritage. Let’s hope we never lose that! We are like a note, a tone in an opus, like a link in a chain of unity and strength.

Of course, there could be more unity. Each person can contribute in his or her own capacity to the Slovenian existence here in this beautiful country of Australia.

What would you change if you could? 

If I were given power to change anything, I would like to see people become more loving towards each other, more tolerant and more proud of being Slovenian
It would be nice to see all Slovenians here united and working together to live in a happy and healthy community.

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

Yes, the future of Slovenians in Australia is worrying, especially for many of the Slovenian clubs and associations. By being positive, maintaining enthusiasm, with respect and will to keep up, great things, even miracles can happen.

It has been suggested that following the example of the USA a united central Slovenian home, a cultural building should be established that would welcome every Slovenian, if the existing clubs’ premises and leadership with members could no longer survive. 
Such an institution could connect people of all generations again with a common goal to retain the Slovenian identity, weather the changes of time, integration, and assimilation, yet remain uniquely Slovenian, encouraged and strengthen by love, respect and pride of every member of the Slovenian community.

Competition - Colourful PIRHI

Competition for the most beautifully decorated Easter egg is on. If you enjoy colouring and decorating pirhi, you are invited to submit a photo of your best effort. 
  • Please submit (at least) two photos, one of yourself with your decorated Easter egg in your hands and one close up shot of your decorated Easter egg, together with a statement that you personally decorated the submitted entry.
  • Any technique is acceptable.
  • Last day for submissions: 19 April 2014 (by 23:59 EST).
  • The winner will be selected by the Slovenian and announced on 21 April 2014. The decision will be final. 
  • Selection criteria: the winning entry will be deemed by the Slovenian as the most BEAUTIFUL. Unusual and innovative entries are welcome.
  • The Slovenian reserves the right to publish all submitted close up photos of decorated Easter eggs. For all other photos the Slovenian will seek permission from the competitor prior to their publication.
  • The winning prize: $50 gift card from or iTunes (winner's choice).
  • There will be no other prizes. 
All submissions should be sent to and should include:
  1. 2 photos (see above),
  2. Your email address and
  3. Your full name and postal address.