Sandra Krnel of Melbourne on the Slovenian community

When did your family arrive from Slovenia? 

My parents were married in Turin in 1949 and actually went to live in South America first, where my great-uncle lived.
Life there was a struggle and, when my mum got pregnant with me, they decided they needed to move to Australia if they wanted to make a good life for their family.
My great-aunty had moved here in the 1920's and she was kind enough to pay the fare for their trip (by ship).  They arrived here on the 8th December, 1950.
I was born in January, so I "just made it".

As a child and a young girl, were you involved with the Slovenian community? In what ways?

Yes, I was always involved with the Slovenian community, and still am to this day.
I went to the first Slovenian Language School, which was taught by Gospodična Anica Srnec.  As a class, we were involved in concerts, sang in the Church, marched in the Moomba Parade and performed at the Alexandra Gardens in our National Costumes. My two children also went to Slovenian School at SDM and participated in many concerts in Victoria and interstate. They both speak and understand enough Slovenian to hold a reasonable conversation.

As I was growing, we went to many Slovenian dances, which I thoroughly enjoyed as I loved dancing.

What are your current ties with Slovenia?

My immediate family lives in Melbourne, but I still have aunts and cousins in Slovenia.  I also have lots of friends I have made during our Bocce tour to Slovenia and their subsequent tours to Australia.

Are you a member of any of the Slovenian organisations in Melbourne? Which? In what ways do you participate in the community life?

Yes, I am a proud and active member of the Slovenian Association Melbourne in Research (Eltham), also known as "hribček" or "the hill".
Our Club started in 1954 and will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary at the end of this year.  I became more actively involved in the 1970's when we started building on our "hill".   Although I helped out a lot in the kitchen in those days, my biggest love and interest was more with the administrative side.
I have been responsible for the invitations, flyers, bookings, etc. for many years, as well as producing the calendar and helping with the Club Newsletter "Vestnik" for a while.  Although I have stepped aside to give the "younger generation" the opportunity to take on these roles, I am still lurking in the sidelines if they need anything.
I played bocce for many years, which I really loved.  We competed with local & interstate Slovenian Clubs, and also went on a "reunion bocce tour" to Slovenia in 1995.
I served on the Management Committee for several years, including a year as Secretary. I am currently Secretary/Treasurer of the Bocce Sub-Committee.

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

The situation in the Slovenian community at the moment is a very complicated one.  On one hand we have a dwindling Slovenian population due to people who have, over the years, passed away, are now elderly and/or incapacitated and can't participate any more.
On the other hand, we still have a few active people who would like to keep things going the way they used to, but unfortunately it's just too difficult.
There are a number of 2nd generation Slovenians willing to help, but because there aren't that many, we face a major challenge.  When the first generation started the Clubs, their main objective was to have a place to meet, dance and get together.  The 2nd and 3rd generations don't have as much of a connection as their priorities are different.  I think it's called "progress". 
I get the feeling that this is a problem with all the Slovenian Clubs and I think it's time we sat down and worked out "where to from here".

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

As mentioned in my previous response, we all need to sit down as a community and work out how best to move on into the future.
There are still some reasonably active "older" people, but they can't be expected to carry the load - they should be enjoying the fruits of their labour now.
We have a number of so-called "leaders" and "representatives", but I don't remember anyone ever asking what they can do for their community.
It's blatantly obvious that something has to give, but either nobody wants to address this or they don't know how.  Keeping heads in the sand isn't going to help anybody.
We definitely need to involve all Club members … maybe a generic survey of all the members.  A sub-committee comprised of representatives from each organisation then collate the survey results, report to their clubs and work from there.
I'm not trying to offend anybody, but if we want to move forward together, we need to work together to achieve the same goal.
I believe there are quite a few Slovenians who have arrived in recent years and are not involved with any of the Clubs because they feel we are "old fashioned". Perhaps they could be invited to provide their feedback and opinions.

Do you have any suggestions as to what the Slovenian organisations in Australia could do to reach wider audiences?

First of all, we need to promote ourselves as Slovenians properly before we can reach anything.  For example, when people are completing their Census, they need to put their country of birth as Slovenia to ensure the actual Slovenian population is reflected in the results. This information is very important because we are already a small community so we must do everything we can to promote ourselves.
When we have functions or Festivals, we need to promote them on radio, newspapers and any media available to us.

Thank you.

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