Working holiday visa for young Australians and Slovenians

Australia and Slovenia signed a new agreement according to which 200 young people from Slovenia will be able to visit Australia and during their stay take temporary paid work. Similarly, 200 young Australians will be able to visit Slovenia and find temporary employment there. This agreement has been eagerly anticipated by many young Slovenians.

Already in place is a similar program between New Zealand and Slovenia. It allows 100 young Slovenians to holiday in New Zealand and undertake temporary paid work there. The visa is highly popular among young Slovenians and 100 places are taken up very quickly. There is considerably less interest among young New Zealanders to travel to Slovenia with only a few places claimed each year.

Please note, however, that although the agreement between Australia and Slovenia was signed on 16 June 2015 it is not yet possible to apply for Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462). Australia and Slovenia must first put in place appropriate administrative and legal procedures and decide upon the date when this arrangement comes to force.

For more information please check regularly the Immigration Department web site.

Letter from J. Ramuta: Slovenska miza and Professor Biggins in Seattle, USA

I have spent 3 months on a visit in Seattle, Washington State, and during that time I met a number of interesting members of the Slovenian community there. 

I was visiting my partner Shirley, whose father migrated from Slovenia in 1940 as a young sixteen-year-old. Shirley was born in the States and since her mother was not Slovenian she didn't understand the Slovenian language. However, in 1983 she decided to visit her father's birthplace together with him. There wasn't anyone who spoke English and she had to rely on her father's translations. She then decided to start studying the language and has been a number of times a student in the Summer School in Ljubljana and in Seattle she hired a private tutor. Three years ago she also enrolled in Slovenian studies at the University of Washington. The lecturer was Professor Michael Biggins who does not come from any Slavic background, nevertheless, he is fluent in Slovenian, Russian and German. It was on his insistence that a small Slovenian club "Slovenska Miza" was formed and the members are mostly newer immigrants and students from Slovenia.

He has translated over 15 Slovenian books into the English language. I had the honour to meet him in Seattle and again at his house where he organized a BBQ for Slovenska Miza and few other times. In 2013 he visited Slovenia with his wife and another student at the same time as Shirley and I visited Slovenia. Shirley organized a welcome party for visitors at her cousin's cellar in the village of Kal in Bela Krajina. Then we took them to some interesting places and to a local firemen's fete and I couldn't believe how fluent his Slovenian was when he talked to people there.
The Slovenian government has recognized his work in promoting the Slovenian language and literature and on the 11th of June this year he was awarded  "Janko Lavrin" Prize for his work. The presentation was in the auditorium of Cankarjev dom. Professor Biggins also created a Slovenian section in the University of Washington Library which has a highest number of Slovenian books in the country.

Shirley of Seattle, USA
While in the States, we also visited Enumclaw, a small town of about eleven thousand inhabitants. It is about 80 kilometres East of Seattle and near Mt. Rainier. The name Enumclaw is a native Indian name and it stands for "place of bad spirits". There is a small Slovenian community there and Shirley was invited to the gathering. No one speaks Slovenian there, however, the president and another member were playing Slovenian music on their accordions. Present were 3rd and 4th generation Slovenians from mixed marriages, mainly Italian, German and Norwegian.

I have been involved in the "Ivan Cankar" club in Geelong for over 50 years and am noticing our numbers dwindling as we are getting older. I would like to see the generation of Australian Slovenians more involved and proud of our language and culture. I hope some of the younger members across Australia will read this and be proud of what Professor Biggins is doing for our language and culture even though he has no connections to our past.

Best regards,
Joe Ramuta,

Welcome Home

You are invited to attend "Welcome Home" event which will take place in Ptuj this year.

The Slovenian success story

When Tina Maze and other successful Slovenian athletes are winning their races our hearts are filled with national pride, only to discover that our Australian neighbours do not watch winter sports and are completely ignorant of the fact that our Slovenian heroes even exist. It is a tough battle convincing the world that Slovenians can be and are successful internationally.

Dr Edi Gobec  has spent most of his life diligently collecting and researching every person of Slovenian background that could be considered a candidate for 'who is who' in any field, and in American science and industry in particular. His latest book  published recently in Slovenia 'Slovenski ameriški izumitelji in inovatorji' (the book is published in Slovenian even though originally written in English, it's English title is 'Slovenian American Inventors and Innovators') is another of his quixotic  attempts to battle this ignorance.

In the introduction to the book, Dr Gobec explains what motivated him to become so involved with this peculiar line of research. As a penniless migrant he supported himself as a student by working as a brickie hand on construction sites. His work mates teased him about his Slovenian background and demanded he named an important Slovenian in the American society. His inability to provide a convincing answer incensed him to spend all his free time for the rest of his life researching noteworthy Slovenians.

In over 60 years of research Dr Gobec compiled an impressive list of inventors and innovators of Slovenian background who significantly contributed to progress in the American and international science, technology and industry. His latest book reads like an encyclopaedia: one  great achiever of Slovenian background follows another. There is no doubt: some Slovenians are extremely smart, ambitious and successful people and we as a nation can be very proud of them. But are we?

Behind these powerful stories of people like Dr France Rode, the lead inventor of the first sophisticated pocket-size HP-35 calculator, or Ed Repic, the leader of the Rockwell’s Space Exploration Team and major contributor to the design of Apollo 11, the first spacecraft from the Earth that landed on the Moon in 1969, there is a certain unease. Do we really care about these people and their successful careers? Do they really have the potential to become the source of our national pride?

The high achievers presented in this book, to which we can add a list of very successful Slovenians in the Australian society, are people who left Slovenia themselves or were born overseas to Slovenian parents. While nobody denies or disputes their contribution, their achievements on the American or Australian soil are considered first and foremost American (Australian). This is only natural as their new country financed their achievements and reaped the benefits.

Slovenia, however, could potentially gain some moral credit from their high position and status - but remains fairly mum and numb. There was no real interest in the publication of this remarkable book by Dr Gobec. The author subsidised the publishing cost of only 1000 copies by giving up his right to royalties. The Office for Slovenians Abroad  - the institution whose main area of work, as its name tells us, are 'Slovenians abroad' -  in its press releases has not mentioned the book.

The main daily paper Delo published an article about the book by Lidija Pavlovčič on 16 May 2015 with a telling heading "American provocation" and subheading "Is the worldwide celebrity of individuals of Slovenian background the medicine for our collective pain for not being recognisable enough as a nation and a country?"

Why are Slovenia and its government sponsored agencies in particular so reluctant to embrace the great achievements of these distinguished Slovenians? How can the main Slovenian newspaper see successful people of Slovenian background from America as provocative? What have they done to provoke Slovenians?

Is leaving Slovenia in search for employment and a better life a provocation?

When I was in school we used to read Mile Klopčič's poem "Mary se predstavi", a sad picture of struggles in American mines many migrants had to endure. Nobody thought their suffering was provokative. On the contrary, we were sorry for the poor migrants and pleased that we were so much better off. Apparently the problem are not the poor, uneducated and struggling migrants, the last illusory remnants of which the Office for Slovenians Abroad is still trying to hang onto.

Successful migrants, though - that's a different story. They are the real provocation. Their competence, their abilities, their fearless move from the safety of their homeland into the unknown - and succeeding, this is the challenge the Slovenian official politics could never quite accept.

But in fact most of us who have moved out of Slovenia have successfully settled in our new country. Some have become prominent, others have just managed to live well. Sure, it was tough, even very tough for a while, but after the initial adaptive period most of us got the hang of it and succeeded. This gives us confidence and a feeling of achievement.

Let us celebrate those among us who have been able to show the world how smart Slovenians as a nation really are and feel also proud of our own, no matter how small, steps into the brave new world.

Thank you, Dr Gobec, for your remarkable work!