Anica Markič on the Slovenian community in Melbourne and its future

Anica and Lojze Markič
When did you arrive in Australia? Why did you leave Slovenia?

I arrived to Australia in June 1959 as a thirteen year old to join my parents and my younger sister. They arrived almost two years earlier as refugees, due to difficult times Slovenia (Yugoslavia) was facing in those days. I remained with my grandparent in Slovenia until an opportunity arose to join them.

Are you a member of any of the Slovenian organisations in Melbourne? Which? Do you feel that organisations with buildings and grounds still have a place in the community life?

I am a very proud Slovenian.  Love my homeland Slovenia as much as I love my adopted country Australia.  Should one ask me to choose, this would be very difficult. My husband and I have been back to Slovenia approximately 15 times. Four years ago our two daughters and four grandchildren came as well. One of our granddaughters loved it so much that she came again last year.  Most of my immediate family members live in Australia except for my aunty and her family, six years senior, who I shared my childhood with.  Then there is my husband’s close knit family, all of them living in proximity of Ajdovščina. We also have some close friends that live in Slovenia who we like to catch up with on our visits.

Both my husband and I are members of Slovenian Association Melbourne.  We have both been actively involved with this club most of our married lives, over forty years. Both of us served as management committee members in the past. My involvement included position of club’s secretary for eleven years, president for one and two years catering. We also feel a close bond with the Slovenian religious centre at Kew where my husband was also very actively involved during the construction period of the Sts Cyril and Methodious church. Both, my husband and I were also very active and closely associated with the Slovenian National Council ( SNS ), a cause close to our hearts and still proud to this day for doing so.
I remember the good old days of construction period. The drive; the pride and enthusiasm of our members is unforgettable. We had up to 80 volunteers or more on some days doing wha ever was necessary. How can I now say that the clubs no longer have a need for the grounds and the buildings. Yet, if I am honest, the time is fast approaching to review our needs, move on with new options.  A great number of our members is elderly, unable to volunteer their services any longer.  Many are unable to even access the club. The premises look neglected; are in need of repair, updating and TLC. The younger generation has a busy life demanded by today’s society. They are unable to dedicate the time or energy required to maintain the running of the clubs in the same manner as the older generation did. Nor do they have the same needs. They have moved on, but this is not to say that they do not care.

In what ways do you participate in the community life?

I am still involved with  the club but in a very limited way.  I produce a quarterly newsletter, SDM vesti s hriba, with the main purpose of keeping our members informed.  I am also involved with archiving at the club, however, due to other family commitments I am unable to dedicate as much time to this task as I would like to. Now Draga Gelt has me involved with the conversational classes every second Sunday of a month. This is beneficial, as I am improving my own command  and comprehension of Slovenian language.

What is your view of the current situation in the community?

When you ask about the current situation in the community, I assume that you are referring to the official opening of Slovenian Consulate in Melbourne. I was horrified to hear that Nicholas Oman was present at this very significant and momentous event. I was further disturbed that he mingled with the so called esteemed company.  It is a different story in private life, we have every right to choose the company of who so ever, after all we live in a free society.  It was most inconsiderate and disappointing that a person of his character had an advantage over our many highly deserving community members. What about the past leaders of the Slovenian National Council that contributed so much to the early recognition of Slovenia by the Australian government.  In those days it was considered totally unacceptable for the clubs to be involved in politics by the very same people that today lead the clubs and represent our community in the Slovenian parliament. The Slovenian community of Australia, not only of Victoria, was treated with total disrespect and disdain by the so called highly respected Slovenian representative, the ambassador Dr. Milan Balažic. If Mr. Oman did not receive an invitation, he was certainly on the initial invitation list, therefore considered worthy of one. It is further disappointing that our own various community leaders have not taken a stronger stand on this serious matter. By not speaking up, they approve.

How would you like to see the Slovenian community in Australia develop in the future? Do you have any suggestions as to what the Slovenian organisations in Australia could do to reach wider audiences? 

Our future development is somewhat complicated. We need younger generation, new blood to invigorate and rejuvenate our community. Bring in new ideas, new ways of attracting Slovenians of all generations. We had a few very capable persons interested in the past, but they were pushed away by the more senior overseers.  The time is nigh for the clubs to sell up. Establish a new, more central easily accessible, Slovenian Centre that would cater for all, regardless which club anyone belonged to in the past. A centre that would cater as a meeting place for all Slovenians with various activities for elderly, middle aged and children alike.  A place to enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of Slovenian wine, a beer garden amongst other with soft music. A TV room that would show Slovenian documentaries, news, scenery and promotional material, introducing Slovenia as a possible tourist place. A restaurant with a professional chef producing Slovenian culinary delicacies. Of course all this would have to be treated as serious business, opened seven days per week.  No more free labour, those days are gone. Many will say that I am dreaming, perhaps I am, for there are numerous obstacles, namely present leaders wishing to hold on to their reigns and stubbornness of others. We must trust and give younger generations a go before it is too late.

Perhaps this would also attract newly arrived Slovenians, at present they think we are stale and uninviting with nothing to offer them.

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