Slovenians in Geelong and their Association

by Joe Ramuta 

The Australian Slovenian Association Ïvan Cankar” Inc. is located in Geelong, a city of approximately 260.000 population in the State of Victoria, Australia. The city lies on the shores of Corio Bay and is located about 80 kilometres south west of Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria. The Association was established in 1955, after a small number of Slovenian immigrants met in 1954 and decided to establish a club which was officially registered the following year. As the first Slovenians started arriving to Australia only after the Second World War, there were not many members. Most were employed by the Ford Motor Company, International Harvester and a few smaller companies. Soon they bought a house allotment for a club building but decided it was too small and sold it.

The present land of 5 acres was acquired in 1969 and a hall was built in 1974-75. During 1983 -85, it was extended to accommodate up to 300 people. Then in 1992 we added a sports pavilion with 6 bocce lanes which are also used for inter-club bocce competitions.

Since the beginning, there have been 22 presidents leading the club of whom 11 are no longer alive and many older members have also already passed away. In their memory, we erected a Triglav lookalike monument and a typical Slovenian chapel.  Most of the members are actively involved with every-day activities, including Slovenian language classes and cultural activities.

On the weekend of 7th and 8th of November 2015, we celebrated 60th anniversary of its inception. There were many invited dignitaries, including the Ambassador Helena Drnovšek Zorko, members of the state Parliament and the local government. The Association is also affiliated with the Council of Slovenian Organizations of Victoria, trough which we maintain close links with Slovenia and organize visits by Slovenian artists and musicians. Trough this Council we also participate in Slovenian festivals which are held biannually and hosted each time by another of four Victorian member clubs.

As the original immigrants are slowly getting older and the number is diminishing, it is now hoped that the younger, Australian-born members and the new immigrants from Slovenia will continue to uphold the Slovenian culture and tradition. Many of them are married to partners of other nationality; however, so far it looks pretty promising that the club will survive for generations to come and the sound of Slovenian music will continue to echo within the walls and the polka will be danced by the young and the old alike.