Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Piecing together the truth about the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne

The Slovenian has asked and is further seeking answers and comments from those who were present at the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne on 7 March 2014 and the reception that followed in Jadran Club to tell their side of the story. With your participation we can piece together the full story.

In our search for the truth, the Slovenian would like to ask all invited guests to the event to please answer the following three questions:  

Did Mr Balazic sit at the reception in Jadran Club at the same table as Mr Oman and if so for how long did he sit there? 
Did Mr Balazic have a speech in Jadran Club? 
Did you see Mr Oman and Mr Balazic talking to each other either at the opening or the reception?

To date, the following answers have been received:

Did Mr Balazic sit at the reception in Jadran Club at the same table as Mr Oman and if so for how long did he sit there?

Darko and Ljubica Postruzin: Yes, Dr Milan Balazic sat at this table. They were both sitting there, talking, eating and drinking for the whole period.
Vinko Rizmal: Of course he did sit there as he was also served food there, by Ljubica Postruzin.
Irene Stariha: For the most part of the reception, Mark & I sat with a group of Slovenians from the Melbourne community – none of whose names I remember – just regular community people.  After all of the speeches and near the end I went to join Mr Beznik  and father Ciril.  The Ambassador may have been at their table at that time but not for very long as I believe he moved elsewhere.
Anonymous witness*: Mr. Balazic did sit at the same table as Mr. Oman, for unrecalled period.

Did Mr Balazic have a speech in Jadran Club? 

Darko and Ljubica Postruzin: As far as we remember, Ambassador Dr Balazic did not speak at all.
Vinko Rizmal: I didn't see him having a speech. Only Derry Maddison had a speech.
Irene Stariha: I do think that he said a few words at the reception – not necessarily a proper speech – to be honest it was ages ago.
Anonymous witness*: As far as I remember, Mr Balazic did not hold a speech in Jadran.

Did you see Mr Oman and Mr Balazic talking to each other either at the opening or the reception? 

Darko and Ljubica Postruzin: No, we didn't see that. We did see them talk when they sat together at the same table at the reception.
Vinko Rizmal: At the table in the Club they did talk; for how long, I don't know.
Anonymous witness*: I do not recall seeing them talking to each other either at the opening or the reception. Mr. Balazic and Mr. Oman did walk out together with other guests.

Mr Derry Maddison and Mr Peter Mandelj were approached and asked in addition to two of the above questions whether Mr Oman was on the final list of guests which they received the day before the opening of the Consulate. They both declined to respond by saying that the issue was still under investigation.

If you have more information to share please send it to info@slovenian.com. 

*Anonymous witness is a person who sent answers to the Slovenian under his/her full name but prefers to remain unnamed.


Monday, 28 April 2014

Open letter from Stan Prosenak of Melbourne

Australian Slovenian community is outraged – We are not the simple people they make us out to be


Firstly I congratulate Mr. Alfred Brežnik and all other Slovenians for their courage to put in writing what a lot of Slovenians know and believe to be the truth. Allow me to add my disgust and disappointment at what happened at the opening of the first Slovenian Consulate in Melbourne.

The shameful report/explanation received from Minister Karl Erjavec of the conclusions reached by the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia that there is nothing wrong if Mr Oman was present at the opening of the Consulate! The finding is an insult to the Slovenians in Australia. Anyone with half a brain can see that the findings, as reported, are a sham and a cover up of some kind. It is ridiculous to suggest that there are political forces driving the campaign to discredit ambassador Balažic. This is just not true. There is no political organization of any persuasion in Australia. We are individuals with high morals and a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.

The quote in the magazine ‘Reporter’ published in Slovenia says it all ‘'To je sramota in ponižanje slovenske skupnosti … pravijo Slovenci”.  

Ambassador Balažic maintains that he did not invite Nicholas Oman to the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne. All evidence, published to date, tells a different story. There is enough evidence in Mr. Brežnik letter to the minister to sink the Titanic.

My question to the ambassador Balažic and minister Erjavec is; how did a person of such ill repute like Nicholas Oman got onto the list of people considered as worthy and respected guest to be invited to such an important function in the first place? All discussions about protocol and who sat where don’t provide an answer to the question. Why was Nicholas Oman considered in the first place?

There are many distinguished and honorable Slovenians in Melbourne who should have been invited to such an important function as the opening of first consulate of Republic of Slovenia in Melbourne, Australia. 

All of the Ambassador's and the minister’s explanations to date don’t make sense.
I believe Mr. Balažic and his political supporters in Slovenia are covering up something which would, if it became public, embarrass Ambassador Balažic and probably Government in Slovenia.  The shameful decision to exonerate the ambassador from any wrongdoing is just not acceptable.  

I do agree with statements made in a number of articles on the subject that this thing is much greater than it looks on the surface. It appears that the Republic of Slovenia does not care if its highest representative in Australia makes up stories as he goes along and makes liars of good, honest and honorable people that speak up and ask questions and want to know the truth.

It is obvious from contemptuous statements made by Ambassador Balažic and his bosses in Slovenia that they underestimated the intelligence of members of the Slovenian Community in Australia. The matter Oman - Balažic will not go away, unless resolved honestly. We are not just poor illiterate emigrants. 

Nicholas Oman is not welcome in the Slovenian Community by majority of Slovenians in Australia. Ambassador Balažic no longer deserves respect and is no longer welcome in our community because of his contemptuous attitude and demeaning of Slovenian community in Australia.

Ambassador Balažic must go, support the petition for his recall.

Greetings to all, 

Stan Prosenak

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

Friday, 25 April 2014

Response to Mr Brežnik's letter from Mr Miha Vrhunec, Head Diplomatic Supervisor at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of RS

Mr Brežnik sent his Open letter to Minister Karl Erjavec yesterday, 24 April, at 9.23 pm and received a reply from Mr Miha Vrhunec, the Head Diplomatic Supervisor, at 11:29 pm (Australian Eastern Time). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia needed only two hours and 6 minutes to dismiss Mr Brežnik's depiction of the events surrounding the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne with a letter that is offensively similar in its wording to the letters that the Head Diplomatic Supervisor sent to Mrs Anica Markic and Mr Vinko Rizmal when they described their respective involvements in the events.

The letter shows that the Ministry is not interested in establishing the truth. The whole investigation is apparently a farce. By desperately clutching to the question whether Mr Oman was sent a formal invitation or not, and at the same time dismissing all conflicting statement uttered by Mr Balažic as not important enough to be addressed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia has shown that they hold the whole Slovenian community, here and overseas, in contempt. 

Dear Mr Brežnik, 

I would first like to thank you for your letter with attachments which you sent to the Minister Karl Erjavec as well as for your willingness to assist in establishing facts in relation to the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne.  


With this I would like to inform you that the supervision ordered by the Minister was concerned only with establishing whether Mr Nicholas Oman was sent an invitation to the Consulate opening in Melbourne. I assure you that we thoroughly investigated the issue and collected evidence objectively and from a few sources as we also do in other cases. On the basis of objective facts and documentation available to us we did not find any evidence that the Embassy or the Ambassador Balazic invited Mr Oman to the said opening. In other case the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would take appropriate measures. 


In this our point of departure was the assumption that a person can only be accused on the basis of facts and evidence which in this case did not exist.


To you as well as to our fellow Slovenians who assisted us in the clarification of this in our view unfortunate event I wish to express my thanks for your cooperation. Believe me, it upset us as much as it upset you. We seriously considered all their statements and took them into account.

 
Sincerely, 


Miha Vrhunec 
Head Diplomatic Supervisor 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Open letter from Mr Alfred Brežnik, AM, retired Honorary Consul General in Sydney, to Minister Karl Erjavec

Dear Minister Karl Erjavec,
RE: OPENING OF THE CONSULATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA IN MELBOURNE

You probably still remember me, I am the former Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Slovenia for Sydney. In two months time, at the end of June, it will be one year since my resignation/retirement. About one year earlier, in April 2012, I visited the Ministry to discuss my retirement. I still remember your friendly reception and deeply appreciate that you spent a considerable amount of your valuable time in conversation with me. 

Minister, I look back on 21 years of my honorary work with joy and satisfaction. I am especially pleased that all these years I maintained excellent relationship, that is, truly friendly relations with all Charges d'Affaires and other Embassy staff. Together we solved problems and shared our successes. All this was for the benefit of our common homeland, the state of Slovenia, and also of course to assist the Slovenian community in Australia. This applies also to the period since our diplomatic mission was taken over by the first Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia in Australia, Dr. Milan Balažic. Following my retirement from the position of the Honorary Consul General we remained on good and friendly terms. Dr. Balažic came to the Embassy with new ideas and a vision. Immediately he undertook to widen the consular network and to arrange for the appointment of honorary consuls in other capitals in Australian states. Our community was pleased with this. He became popular and was welcome in associations, clubs and organisations, always invited to various functions as a speaker and a guest.

Unfortunately, Minister, the opening of the first Consulate in Melbourne, which should have served as a model for the opening of other consulates still awaiting confirmation from the Australian government, created instead of the anticipated joy for the Slovenian community in Victoria one of the most shameful acts that can happen in diplomacy.  The Slovenian community in Australia and in particular in Melbourne was outraged by the presence of Nicholas Oman at the opening of the Consulate and later at the reception which followed in Jadran Club.  The community demanded through its representatives an answer from the organisers of this important event an/or the Ambassador as to who invited him and why.

Enough has been said about all this in the media and in both meetings of the Committee for Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. I followed live broadcasts of both meetings on RTV Slovenia and I also have their respective transcripts. To be honest, I am not surprised by the reaction of the Slovenian community over the final statement by Diplomatic Supervisor Mr Miha Vrhunec which you, Minister, accepted in good faith. It says in Point 9 "the supervisory inspection did not find any elements of responsibility of Mr. Balažic  for this event, this undesirable event, which took place at the opening of the Consulate. "

I have no intention to go into details and to analyse everything that has been said about this unfortunate event. I do, however, feel the need to speak up and provide my own view as I was present at the opening as well as at the reception that followed in Jadran Club. By the way, I was never contacted by anybody from the supervisory inspection and was never asked for my views which I find somewhat surprising.  I did give a public statement when I was publicly asked whether I was one of the four organisers of this important event along with the Ambassador, as Dr. Balažic  claimed in his interview for the SBS Radio. In my statement which was made public and is attached to this letter I said that this was not true. I did not know personally Honorary Consul Mr Derry Maddison except for one meeting at an Embassy reception in Canberra. Additionally, I live 1000km away in Sydney. At the conclusion of official speeches when Father Ciril Bozic was invited by the Ambassador to bless the new Consulate I was invited to join the reading of one of the prayers Father prepared for this occasion. 

Let me first tell you my view relating to the invitations. I myself did not receive an invitation even though I was on the list (I received a copy of this list four days after the event), probably because my address in this list was incorrect (the building number was 86 instead of 78). But this does not matter, the Ambassador also invited me by phone and I confirmed my attendance. A lot of time has been spent on the question whether Nicholas Oman was on the list of invited guests or not. This is not important either.

The fact is that he was on the first draft. The question is: why was he on this draft at all? Did the Embassy staff put him on the list by mistake? Someone who is not a member of the Slovenian community and who is not known to anyone and especially with his past?

Minister, it does not come easy to me to write about this issue. I never wished any harm to anyone and I still don't, but in this case the reputation of our country and our community is at stake. It is also of no importance why two women (Ms Metka Čuk and Mrs Draga Gelt) decided to make public this sad news. They are both distinguished members of the Slovenian community who were horrified by this inconsiderate and for the community offensive happening, and rightly so. Please consider the reaction of the whole community. The fact that these two women were not present is not important either. Ms Metka Čuk should be commended as she made a point during her employment at the Embassy  to alert the Ambassador to the unethical nature of Mr Nicholas Oman's visits to the Embassy when no passport was in question (her statement is attached). Additionally, Ms Čuk did not publish this to seek revenge for her alleged dismissal. She was not dismissed, she gave notice on her own initiative in the beginning of September and remained, in agreement with the Ambassador, in her job for another six weeks and thus assisted in the introduction of the new staff member Mrs Jana Grilc to her new posting. I therefore ask you: please do not underestimate the community! It is not only outraged, it feels insulted, especially now when individuals at the meeting of the Committee for Foreign Affairs, especially Member of the Assembly Mrs Ljubica Jelusic and Member of the Assembly Mr Samo Bevk  spoke in such dismissive and contemptuous terms about our community (statements by both are in the Meeting transcript).

Minister, with respect to you personally and for the sake of reputation of our country and our Slovenian community in Australia, please allow me to advise you that that this affair is not over, it has only just started. The Slovenian community will not forget this easily; it showed its determination and fighting spirit 25 years ago (please see "Od sanj do resnicnosti" which was published to commemorate 20th anniversary of Slovenia's independence - I  gave you the book as a gift at the time of my visit). Before the second Committee meeting, the community was getting ready for public demonstrations and was demanding Ambassador's recall. They turned to me for advice. I convinced them that it was not the time for demonstrations and that we should give the Committee and the Diplomatic Supervisor opportunity to investigate. I do not believe that I could convince them now, after all that has happened since.   

The Embassy received before and after the second Committee meeting letters that the Ambassador's presence  is no longer desired at their functions:  at this stage, from the Council of Slovenian Organisations in Victoria which includes six (6) Slovenian organisations; and two (2) from New South Wales, from Triglav Club and from HASA (Historical Archive of Slovenians in Australia)  NSW which will soon celebrate its tenth anniversary and the tenth anniversary of Slovenia joining the EU. Among the invited guests is former Minister of the Australian government and currently the deputy leader of the Opposition Ms Tanya Plibrsek who has already confirmed her attendance.  

You may ask why I am writing all this? Mainly because, Minister, I too want the truth to be known - we used to say that 'lie has short legs'. With this I wish to tell you that I too am convinced that Nicholas Oman was invited to the Melbourne ceremony. In what form he received this invitation is not important - it could be by phone or in personal contacts which were more than two. But why was he invited? Ambassador Dr.  Balažic, with whom I enjoyed good and proper relations that supported open discussions,  explained this himself in our phone conversation. It sounded confidential but I learned in Melbourne from at least two other persons that they knew the same thing. He said that Mr Oman was an important person for Slovenia  and that this was a big thing for Slovenia (of which I have no intention to speak). Mr Balažic spent a lot of time talking to Mr Oman and he had authorisation from Slovenia to negotiate with him. He also told me that should it happen that he were to be recalled he was going to "put his cards on the table". 

Next Monday - the interview broadcast on SBS Radio was on Friday where Mr Balažic twice denied inviting Mr Oman - I called Mr Balažic. It was during lunch time and I couldn't get him first but he soon returned my call. I first alerted him to his own statement and why he claimed that he did not invite Oman. "But I didn't..." was his reply. I reminded him of our conversation of a week ago when he talked to me about the Oman issue. I did not press further as I felt uncomfortable facing him with facts - I thought that he knew anyway. I did advise him, however, that if he admitted and apologised to fellow Slovenians, explained that an error occurred and that he was sorry and that he would make sure this would not happen again, the community would more or less forgive him. There might still be somebody here and there who would grumble as it is usually the case but this issue would be closed. I told him that there was nothing more beautiful than apology;  a 'big' person becomes even bigger if he admits his mistake and apologises. As an example I mentioned Cardinal George Pell who recently left for Vatican and who in front of the Royal Commission which investigates child abuse admitted and regretted that the Church did not do enough to redress the injustices. The Cardinal promised that this would not happen again. 

At the end of our conversation, Mr Balažic said, and I understood this as a hint, "...that we will see who the friends are."

Let me move to the second meeting of the Committee for Foreign Affairs where Mr Balažic did not say much as you, Minister, and  Supervisor Mr Miha Vrhunec allegedly had said everything already. His misleading ways became obvious and were at their heights when at the meeting and later in the hall of the National Assembly Mr Balažic showed journalists a drawing of the table set-up in the hall of Jadran Club.

We arrived to the reception hosted by the Honorary Consul Derry Maddison and the Council of Slovenian Organisations (they covered one half of the cost) late due to road closures and unfamiliarity with the area. In the car were beside me Father Ciril Božič and Father David Šrumpf who offered me a lift.

When we arrived Mr Milan Balažic, Mr Peter Mandelj, Mr Derry Maddison and Mr Nicholas Oman were seated at the first table closest to the microphone.  We missed the speech - according to those present there Mr Balažic did not have a speech.  As I entered the hall, back at the entrance I noticed a small table for four. At the table sat Mr Vinko Rizmal, alone. I asked him if I could join him. Initially we sat there alone, were served a good 'kranjska' sausage and drinks. We were joined by both Fathers and later by Irena and Marko Stariha of Sydney. As the table was only for four people we widened the circle with our chairs. A little later we were joined by Mr Balažic. What am I trying to tell you with all this?  True, even though it may not have been determined in terms of protocol which table was the official and the main, this last one next to the entrance was certainly not the one. If we can say that one table was truly meant for guests, this was this first one at the front, next to the microphone where Mr Maddison greeted the guests. On the other hand, it was pure coincidence that both Fathers and I joined Mr Rizmal at his table.  

Minister, it is my opinion, and I leave the judgement to you, that the invitation to Mr Nicholas Oman, in any form, was part of a well planned rehabilitation of Mr Oman. It was necessary to turn him into a member of the Slovenian community. Mr Oman is not known in the Slovenian community. I have not met one Slovenian, including at 14th Festival in Melbourne on 5 April where there was a lot of talk and indignation about the Oman affair, who would know him. And about his daughter, "young promising lawyer", Patricia Oman, "the new generation of the Slovenian community"... No one has heard of her, no one knows her.  Where, when and what has she done for the Slovenian community? If she is truly such a promising intellectual, why hasn't she sent her RSVP, apologies and asked if it was fine that her father represented her. All this are excuses. Mr Balažic made in this case a mistake by underestimating the Slovenian community and its high moral standards and values. I am afraid he went too far. He will never be forgiven! It is too late now for apologies! He will find it hard to perform his duties as a Slovenian ambassador in Australia. 

Finally, a few days ago, on 18 April, the popular premier of NSW who won in elections three years ago with the most convincing victory in the history of NSW, was invited to the anti-corruption committee (ICAC)  as a witness and not as the accused. To the question whether he received a bottle of expensive wine as a gift when he won the election he answered no, as he couldn't remember and he was not partial to drink. The Committee showed him his personal thank you note - and in less than 24 hours he resigned from his position as the premier of the state.


Alfred Brežnik AM
Former Honorary Consul General of RS  in Sydney (1992 – 2013)
Recipient of the following awards:
Srebrni častni znak svobode RS
Member of the Order of Australia
Priznanje Urada Vlade RS za Slovence po svetu in v zamejstvu
Zlata plaketa z listino - Olimpijski komite Slovenije
Plaketa Zveze za šport invalidov Slovenije
Priznanje gospodarske zbornice Slovenije
Slovenian Community: Australian Slovenia Achievements Award 2006

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

Joze Ramuta of Geelong reponds to the interview with Sandra Krnel

I fully agree with Ms. Sandra Krnel, regarding the future of our clubs. It is sad that the Australian born Slovenian generation is either not interested, or just simply too "busy" to get more involved. It is inevitable that the day will arrive, when the hard decision will have to be made - sell the properties and cease to exist, or do some soul searching and continue, but in a different way - "not the old fashioned one". We will have to accept that the Slovenian language will hardly be spoken in the future, however it will be nice, if the tradition and culture continues. We may hear a future leader say, when addressing his members, something like this: "Da nas bodo oldies lažje understandali, moramo začeti špikati po Slovensko"

I would also like to see that the new migrants from Slovenia would visit clubs and get acquainted, rather than feeling unwelcome, as was an expression from a lady, who settled in Canberra and felt "unwelcome" at the Canberra club. I am sure the members of the club there are a friendly group of people.

Last year I had a pleasure to attend a gathering of the members of Slovenian club "Slovenska Miza", which is situated in Seattle - Washington State. I arrived there with a friend and of course I felt most welcome. The president is a young lady, who arrived from Slovenia and settled there not so long ago. I think their club has a future.

After all, it was the first generation of migrants, who established and built the clubs. All we expect from the future generations is to maintain, continue and preserve.

In conclusion, it is up to the members of our community - first, second and third generation to make our clubs succeed.

Together we can do it!

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

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.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Petition of no-confidence vote in Dr Milan Balazic

by Anita and Andrew Fistric

The petition wording is a no-confidence vote (from the wider community) in Dr Milan Balazic and his actions in relation to the official opening of the Slovenian consulate in Melbourne on 7th March 2014. His deception on this day and further to that, his continuing deceit at the follow up meeting of the Committee on Foreign Policy on 16/4/2014, has made his return untenable.

The main purpose for this petition was to demonstrate to the MZZ, Diplomatic Inspector and every member of the Slovenian Committee on Foreign Policy (of all sides of politics in Slovenia) that this issue disgusted and outraged a larger section of the community than the Slovenian government and committee thought.  Some people are prepared to voice their outrage and disapproval by writing letters but others who feel the same prefer to express their anger via a prepared petition.

We have collected more than 170 signatures so far but with more coming every day. 

Open letter from Vinko Rizmal regarding events at the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne

I am sending this post in relation to the latest comments made at the 51st Meeting of the Committee for Foreign Affairs regarding events at the opening of the Consulate in Melbourne. 

Committee member Mr Bevk in his short comment agrees with the supervision inspection report and offensively suggests closing and  archiving this issue so that future historians would be able to see how far one political party went in Australia in 2014 in order to realise its goals. Since Mr Bevk is so opinionated in his statement it would be right that he named the party about which he was talking  and  to which Australian Slovenians were supposedly linked.

Such thinking is baseless. Among fellow Slovenians here there is such a low level of interest for parties in Slovenia that it plays no role in this. This can be gathered from comments so far as not one of our fellow Slovenians in their statements on this affair has mentioned any political party. The Slovenian political parties should stay in the background as this affair has nothing to do with them.

If you wish to conclude this affair  as quickly as possible, this is your decision. However, I am convinced that this affair will be put aside in Australia only when it is truly finished for both sides.

As far as accuracy of the information regarding invitations goes we are now dealing with a lot of vagueness which could be clarified immediately if there were enough will and honesty.

Opening of the Consulate and the reception for the guests

When the formal part of the Consulate opening was concluded I followed Mr Maddison on a 16km trip to the Jadran Club where the reception was held. When I entered the hall I observed what was going on. At the first table next to the microphone were seated Mr Mandelj, Mr Oman, Mr Maddison and Ambassador Dr Balazic.  They later had their snacks together at this table.

The newly appointed Honorary Consul Mr Maddison soon started his short speech. His speech was not followed by any speech by the Ambassador. As far as I can remember, the Ambassador did not give a speech.

The tables were not labeled and as many other guests were not yet there, I sat down at an empty table diagonally the furthest away from the table where the above mentioned were seated.  I was soon afterward joined by former Honorary Consul Mr Breznik, and then by Father Ciril and Father David. Later on the Starihas from Sydney joined us as well.

Mr Balazic later visited other tables and for a while joined our table. For a few moments our party was also joined by Mr Maddison who did not sit down.

I noticed that there were no representatives of the diplomatic corps at the reception even though a few did attend the Opening. This surprised me as such opportunities are of key importance for building up diplomatic and economic networks. 

When I think about Mr Balazic's explanations and his claim that he did not spend much time at the table near the microphone where Mr Oman was also seated and was served food, I must say that his explanation about the events at the main table is not true.

Mr Balazic is offensive in his presentation of the events when he talks about Slovenians down under, about our inexperience and ignorance and unawareness of the diplomatic protocol.  Australian Slovenians are quite skilled in diplomatic matters as we organised many much bigger formal events in the past  (Nasa bitka za Slovenijo, p 80-89, http://slovenianbusiness.com/nasa.pdf).

The defense by Mr Balazic in front of the Committee for Foreign Affairs further incensed fellow Slovenians in Australia, as it is full of misleading and incorrect statements and offensive remarks regarding our comprehension of diplomatic protocol.

The publication 'Nasa bitka za Slovenijo' shows that some of us have a lot of experience with diplomatic protocol. We learned these skills with assistance from our friends, Australian members of the parliament and senators, with whom we were in close contact when we organised the greatest function so far in Melbourne, that is, the Ceremonial Evening prepared by members of the National Council of Victoria, in cooperation with a few clubs and individuals to celebrate the recognition of independent Slovenia in February 1992.

Minister Erjavec talks about the need that Australian Slovenians are believed as they are honest people and their views should be respected. It is therefore not right to doubt their sincere statements... For this same reason I find it completely incomprehensible that he closed this whole issue. In this way he fully supports Mr Balazic's interpretation. 

Let me emphasize again that this affair occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. In my opinion it is completely inappropriate to connect it with political history of the first or whichever generation. Fellow Slovenians who are working toward finding a fair solution to the problem deserve to be treated with respect; our statements should be heard and taken into account.  

The reception in Jadran Club was photographed and filmed by Mr Darko Hribernik, who did this for Mr Maddison, and Mr Adrian Vatovec, a proposed Honorary Consul for South Australia from Adelaide. I am convinced that if need be they will make the results of their work public in an unbiased way.   

Vinko Rizmal
Melbourne, 22 April 2013

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

Monday, 21 April 2014

What's the weather like in Melbourne?

On 16 April 2014, the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia held its 51st Meeting  where one of the items on the agenda was again the opening of the new Consulate in Melbourne. Strangely, on 8 April 2014 the same Committee held its 52nd Meeting, making it somewhat unclear which set of conclusions comes first.

At this Meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Karl Erjavec notified the Committee that the supervisory inspection at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra in regards to the controversial invitation to Nicholas Oman was concluded and he presented to the Committee the following findings:

- Mr Oman was not issued an invitation. Admittedly, he was on the draft list of invited guests, but was at (an unspecified) later time removed from the list on Ambassador's intervention;
- Mr Oman was present at the opening of the Consulate. However, according to Mr Erjavec, the event was open to general public and thus anyone could attend;
- At the end of the opening ceremony, the new Honorary Consul Mr Maddison invited all guests to attend the reception at the Jadran Club and this resulted in Mr Oman also appearing there;
- The photo showing Mr Oman and the Ambassador sitting at the same main table is, according to the Minister, deceiving as the Ambassador did not really sit at that table. The Ambassador was actually sitting somewhere else but when the time for speeches came Mr Maddison took the microphone and the Ambassador followed him to the front table where he was waiting for his turn to make his speech. Accidentally, this was the table where Mr Oman and Mr Peter Mandelj, President of the Council of Slovenian Organisations in Victoria and Member of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad, were also seated;
- On the basis of such findings the Ambassador was cleared of any wrongdoing in regards to the Consulate guest list. 

Ambassador Balažic who was present at the Meeting had the following to say:

"... you should know that I am the first Ambassador of Slovenia in Australia" and "Slovenians in Australia have no experience what diplomatic protocol means"... "And then after the opening we went to this reception where there was no protocol and this is why this unusual situation occurred that people sat down, I would say, in quite a relaxed way"... "and at this table were sitting beside me the Honorary Consul Derry Maddison, former Honorary Consul General Alfred Breznik, Father Ciril, Father David, both Starihas, and thus the main guests were sitting at this table the furthest away from the speaker which is unusual, I admit, it is not according to the protocol, but this is how it is when you are dealing with people who haven't got it yet. Nicholas Oman sat at this table, up here, diagonally at the opposite end of the hall, and at the beginning when the greeting was due the Consul General Derry Maddison went to this side of the hall where he took the microphone and greeted everyone present, and I went with him; as I had to wait for a minute while he made his greetings I sat down on  this chair and if you take a detailed look I don't sit turned toward the table but look, I am turned with my chair directly toward the speaker as a minute later I went up to greet people myself and then I returned to this main table."
"I did not know Mr Oman personally, I remember him from the 90s as he was an infamous person and he is the kind of man you remember." ..."...he then came to the Embassy to get this paper, a passport for himself, his daughter Patricia and his son Aleksander."..."In short, I received Mr Oman at the Embassy, he did his consular things and then I found out, I recognised him and so on, and I also asked him what the weather was like in Melbourne,  but as to other issues, as I say, as far as this information goes I wouldn't want to go any further."

Full transcript of the Meeting (in Slovenian) is available here.

Pirhi Competition - Results



The winner of the Easter Egg Competition is Marko KOVAČ from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Congratulations!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Saturday, 12 April 2014

PIRHI Competition - Reminder



Please don't forget - 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. Last day for submissions: 19 April 2014.

For more information, please see Competition - Colourful PIRHI.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Open letter from Frances Urbas-Johnson, President of Slovenian Association Melbourne


Avstralsko-slovensko športno in družabno društvo Melbourne Inc.
Australian-Slovenian Social and Sporting Association Melbourne Inc

9 April 2014

The following public statement has been ratified by the Committee of Management,
Slovenian Association Melbourne.

The Slovenian Association Melbourne Committee of Management held its’ monthly meeting
on Tuesday 8th April 2014, the first opportunity to meet in person as a group to discuss the
controversy surrounding the opening of the Slovenian Honorary Consulate in Victoria, since
the event was held on 7th March 2014. Our prior month’s meeting had been held on Tuesday
10th March however committee members present, including myself, were not aware of the
circumstances surrounding the event. I was invited to the Consul event, however was unable
to attend and only found out about the issue on Thursday 13th March via one of our club
members.

Along with the majority of the Australian-Slovenian community, we are horrified, outraged
and disappointed at the attendance of  Mr Nicholas Oman at the opening of the
Honorary Consul in Victoria and the subsequent response from the Slovenian Embassy in
Australia. Over a month has passed and we are yet to be afforded a plausible explanation by
the Slovenian Embassy of Australia and / or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic
of Slovenia in relation to Mr Oman’s presence at the event. The longer we are kept waiting
for an answer is, in effect, fuelling a growing public perception of mistrust and disrespect
between the Slovenian Embassy in Australia and the Australian-Slovenian community.
We represent only a small portion of the Australian-Slovenian community; however we are
passionate and stand united in demanding a truthful, detailed explanation from the Slovenian
Embassy of Australia and / or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, as
to why Mr Oman was present (invited or otherwise) at the Consul event during the formalities
and later at the private reception, sitting across the table from the Slovenian Ambassador.
This week we have sent written correspondence to both the above-mentioned offices to this
effect.

I sincerely hope that our community stands united on this issue. We look to our leaders and
public representatives for inspiration, strength, passion and hope; leaders who place the
community’s interests above personal agendas and ego. This is the foundation of a vibrant
and sustainable future, so that our younger generations are inspired to continue our proud
traditions and actively participate in the community.

God bless!

Frances Urbas-Johnson
President Slovenian Association Melbourne
(2nd generation Australian-Slovenian)


Controversial invitation of the Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia in Australia

On 8th April 2014, 52nd meeting of the Committee for Foreign Affairs at the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia was held in Ljubljana. The meeting was attended by members of the Slovenian parliament and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Karl Erjavec.

The Committee agreed that it was indisputable that Mr Nicholas Oman:
- was, at the very least, included in the draft list of invited guests for the opening of the Consulate;
- appeared among guests who attended the opening ceremony in Sunbury;
- appeared among guests at the reception following the opening ceremony at Jadran Club in Diggers Rest, and
- was sitting at the main table together with the Ambassador at the reception in Jadran Club in Diggers Rest.

The Committee was unanimous in the view that it is not in line with Slovenian politics that convicted persons attend Slovenian receptions (Dr Jozef Kunic, PS) and that quite a lot of people in Slovenia do not support and "do not agree that Slovenian politicians, representatives of the government, publicly, at public functions associate with" convicted persons (Dragutin Mate, SDS).

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Karl Erjavec, said that
- the special supervision over the Embassy in Canberra that has been imposed since  the end of March has not yet been finalised;
- he will ask Ambassador Balažic to come for a talk with him in Ljubljana;
- in his view, "ambassadors can only be those who are professional and professional are those who are experts, who are ethical and who inspire public trust with their behaviour ";
- the main question is no longer whether the Ambassador sent an invitation to Mr Oman but "whether it is appropriate that the Ambassador associates with such a person";
- following his talks with Ambassador Balažic, the Minister will decide on further measures;
- this issue is not just a technical but also very much a political question. "It is very much a political question since the Slovenian community in Australia was horrified and remains dissatisfied and therefore this aspect is also becoming important from the political perspective and is no longer just a mere disciplinary procedure".

Saturday, 5 April 2014

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.



Friday, 4 April 2014

Father Ciril Božič's reponse to Anita and Andrew Fistric's open letter

the second paragraph states:

“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.”

I have to add to this that one word only is missing but it gives the sentence "by invitation only" a slightly different meaning. The word that I used and is missing here is "PROBABLY" (Slovenian word "VERJETNO" - I spoke in Slovenian).

It was a matter of guessing and not knowledge. I was guessing aloud as I never saw or heard any public invitation to the Opening of the Consulate (I received my printed invitation on 21 February 2014). For this reason I said among announcements about the Opening of the Consulate that this was PROBABLY an event that required an invitation, but I wouldn't know! 

I should also add that I am still not aware whether this was an invitation only event or was perhaps possible to just come and attend. I never asked about this anybody present there.

With the greeting of St Francis of Assisi: Peace and good!

Fr  Ciril A. Božič OFM OAM

Kew, 3 April 2014

____________________

Just read pater Ciril's comment in Slovenian.  Yes, it is true he did say   . . . menda samo s povabilom, but he then looked at someone in the congregation to his left and asked if that was so.  This person must have nodded his/her head because he then added, it is by invitation only.

Needed to be cleared.

Anica Markic

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Another photo from the Opening of the Consulate in Melbourne


Zoom in

The picture was taken at the reception held in the Jadran Club in Diggers Rest after the opening ceremony at Derry Maddison's premises on 7 March 2014. The zoomed-in photo shows Mr Derry Maddisson as the speaker and seated at the front table (from the left) Ambassador Dr. Balažic, Mr Peter Mandelj and Mr Nicholas Oman.