Slovenes in Australia

Slovenian community groups are dispersed in all the states of Australia, with largest groups residing in Melbourne, followed by Sydney. There are active groups in and around all the capital cities, and the areas of Geelong, Albury, Gold Coast, Newcastle, and Wollongong. There are twenty-six Slovenian organizations in Australia. Many organizations and social centres have been formed by the first generation Slovenes as the place for: Slovenian community activities, festivals, cherished Slovenian traditions, and customs. The organizations, achievements, activities, and individuals who have participated in the life of the Slovenian community reveal continuing commitment and connection to the distant homeland of Slovenia. Australia as an inclusive society, recognizes that the cultural ground is enlivened and enriched with the knowledge of different cultures in the celebration of traditions, events, customs, language, and sharing of common human experience and endeavour. 

The Slovenian population of Australia has been estimated to total about 25,000. This estimate excludes the second generation of Australians whose parents are of Slovenian origin. The census data of the Australian Bureau of Statistics has relied on citizenship, and official documents which did not take into account people’s nationality. Slovenes have been identified only in terms of the country of origin, such as from Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia. Australia has a diverse population due to overseas migration. Migrants have come from over 200 countries since European settlement in 1788. More than 6.5 million migrants have settled since 1945. 

Community life
The major wave of migration to Australia occurred around 1950. The Slovenian community soon established social organizations. These were a place for social, community and cultural activities. The first Slovenian club was the Slovenian Association Melbourne formed in 1954. In the following years other associations were established in various parts of Melbourne and Geelong, providing social, recreational and school facilities: Jadran, Ivan Cankar, Planica, Snežnik, and Veseli Lovci.

The Council of Slovenian Organisations of Victoria, the coordinating body for five clubs was established in 1984. All the clubs of Victoria, with the exception Slovenian Sports Association St. Albans Inc. are represented on the Council. The clubs meet regularly to discuss and make decisions on policy, undertake arrangements for visiting representatives of Slovenian government and performers. The Slovenian National Council of Victoria was formed to represent the Slovenian community and promote Slovenian cultural activities and programs.

Associations hold cultural, sporting and social functions throughout the year contributing to the awareness of Slovenian cultural heritage in Australia. The associations organize cultural events providing: art and craft displays, performances in music, drama, dancing, by the local and wider community, and guest performers from Slovenia and other countries.

The Slovenian Franciscan order arrived in Australia in 1951 and has established churches in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. It has played a vital role in the religious and cultural life of the Slovenian community. The Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre in Melbourne, SS. Cyril and Methodius Mission, was founded (1960) as the first of Slovenian religious and cultural centres in Australia. Father Basilij Valentin OFM, OAM established a community centre in Kew. The centre is a large complex of: the Church of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Baraga House, Office of the journal “Misli” (1952), Baraga Library (1977), the Mother Romana Hostel for the Aged (1992), and Slomšek Primary School. Cultural events, community celebrations and concerts are held in the church hall.

Some individuals have made an exceptional contribution with many years of service for the Slovenian community in Australia. Amongst them are: Alfred Brežnik in his role as Honorary Consul General, assists the Canberra Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in facilitating co-operation between Australia and Slovenia. Milivoj (Misha) Lajovic had long meritorious public service as an active member of the Slovenian community. He was the first president of the Slovenian Association in Sydney, and a Senator of New South Wales. His political career is distinguished as the first senator in the history of the Australian Parliament of non-British origin. Peter Mandelj OAM founded and was president of the Council of Slovenian Organisations of Australia (1993), and the Council of Slovenian Organizations of Victoria representing a group of five social associations (1984). Aleksandra Ceferin achieved pioneering work in Slovenian language education in Victoria since 1976. She initiated the Slovenian Teachers' Association of Victoria in 1976 for the introduction of Slovenian language in the school system. Her work provided the framework for Slovenian as a school subject and as a matriculation subject for the first time in Australia and in the English-speaking world. She develops Slovenian language and cultural heritage projects on the web portal since 1998. Ivo Leber made a considerable contribution for many years to the community as one of the initial key founding members of the Slovenian Association Melbourne, as 3EA ethnic radio co-ordinator, official representative of Slovenska Izseljenska Matica (SIM), and most importantly as organizer of major art exhibitions by Australian Slovenes in Australia and a travelling exhibition through Slovenia in 1996. He was the organizer of the Slovenian participation in the annual multicultural Oz Christmas Festival of Melbourne for elderly citizens for over 15 years. 
A new organization, Slovenian Welfare and Information Office Inc. was initiated by Peter Mandelj in 2005. Members attend the office weekly at Baraga House to assist and provide information to the older members of Slovenian community on a variety of issues, such as health, legal and financial matters. The SWIO has a web site with information.

Slovenian community news is broadcast on the radio nationally since 1975. The weekly Slovenian radio program is supported by the Special Broadcasting Service in Melbourne and Sydney. On Australia's largest Ethnic Community Radio Station 3ZZZ, Meta Lenarčič coordinates and presents the weekly Slovenian Language Program in Melbourne. On Channel 31 Community Television, “One World - Slovenia” is shown weekly in Melbourne and Geelong from material sent by the Slovenian Government; first sponsored by the Slovenian National Council of Victoria, and donations.

In Australia there are three main Slovenian web media publishers. The Slovenian Franciscan friars publish the monthly journal “Misli - Thoughts” established in 1952 In Melbourne. It is a religious and cultural magazine in Slovenian, edited by Father Ciril Božič OFM, with articles and detailed information about community activities and events. Misli is distributed throughout Australia and overseas, with online archives located on the web site of the Slovenian Australian Network,
In Sydney, the “Slovenian Australian Network” is the web publication managed by Florijan Auser for speakers of Slovenian and Australian community groups. The web site operates in the Slovenian language and provides news, community information, newsletters, and articles from Slovenia and Australia. It started as the Australian Slovenian monthly news journal "Glas Slovenije" (1993), and was published on the Web as Slovenian Media House from 1996.
The Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria, in Melbourne, on (1998) initiates ongoing web and heritage projects. The President, Aleksandra Ceferin, leads a project team to develop web projects such as; Webzine Sloveniana (1998), Slovenian language and cultural resources (1998), Careerlinx (2000), Literator (2001), Galeria Sloveniana (2002), Slovenian Connections (2002) and (2008).  

Slovenian language education
Slovenian language as a secondary school subject was introduced into the Australian school system in Victoria in 1976, in NSW in 1978 and taught formally until 2005. Its introduction was proposed and implemented by Aleksandra Ceferin with the support of the Slovenian community. The two teaching organizations, The Slovenian Teachers’ Association of Victoria (1976) and reinstituted as the Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria (1998), were formed to provide resources for the teaching of Slovenian as a second language and to develop language and cultural study materials. The web site (1998) is a web library of Slovenian language and cultural resources for both class and distance learning. ISSV initiates and develops web and cultural heritage projects, and promotes intra-cultural dialogue with events, and the publication Webzine Sloveniana.

Slovenian in centres and clubs
Language classes for primary school aged children are available in centres and clubs. The teaching consists of rehearsals for various cultural club events usually fortnightly. In Victoria, Ss. Cyril and Methodius Mission in Melbourne provides fortnightly conversation group sessions for adults on Sundays. Planica Social Club conducts regular language classes at primary school level. The Mission runs the Slomšek Sunday School for children from pre-school to primary levels with classes held once a fortnight. Similarly, Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centres in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and Slovenian clubs offer classes subject to interest and availability of teachers. In general, the classes are aimed at preparation for cultural events. In all centres there are annual celebrations and festivities. An important feature are children's performances of Slovenian songs, plays, recitations and folk-dances.

Victoria and New South Wales have separately established the valuable community archives known as HASA, The Historical Archives of Slovenian Australians. Archives collections held by many of the associations are being prepared for archiving during the last few years. Some centres regularly issue a newsletter for their members.

The first Slovenian historical archives were maintained in Victoria from 1952 on the initiative of Milena Brgoč, at the Slovenian Association Melbourne, where it is located. It includes all the publications of Australian Slovenes, containing the record of their activities following the settlement in Australia. The journal "Misli" in Melbourne is archived from 1952 with archives of the Mission of Ss Cyril and Methodius. ISSV has the first online archives from 1976 published on the web site in 2008; these consist of over 2,000 documents, arranged and maintained solely by Aleksandra Ceferin.  
An annotated bibliography of Slovenian books and periodicals published in Australia was compiled by M. Brgoč (1996). The Slovenian Archives form part of the collection of the State Library of Victoria. A new archive on was co-produced between Slovenian Ethnographic Museum of Ljubljana and ISSV of the first Slovene Emigrants Handicrafts of Victoria in 2008.

HASA in NSW (2003) preserves historical records of the Slovenian community in NSW. In Australia there have been twelve Slovenian newspapers in circulation and over one hundred Slovenian books and periodicals published in Australia.

Photo Album:    11 Slovenian Festival - Victoria     25 Anniversary  of Slovenian Language    Slovenian Community Centre - Melbourne

Publications about Slovenes in Australia

In English
Birsa, Irena, Simkin, Keith, ed, (1994), Slovenians in Australia, Birsa Melbourne and Graduate School of Education, La Trobe University, Australia
Brgoč, Milena, (1996), An annotated bibliography of Slovenian books and periodicals published in Australia, Milena Brgoč, Melbourne, Australia
Ceferin, Aleksandra L., (2003), Slovenian language in Australia, 25 Years of Slovenian language in Victorian schools, Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria Inc., Australia
Ceferin, Aleksandra, (2000), The Future of Slovenian Language in Australia, pp. 31-32, Rodna Gruda, Slovenska Izseljenska Matica, Ljubljana
Gelt, Draga, Ferfolja, Veronika, Pax et Bonum, (2001), The Presence of the Slovenian Franciscan priests and nuns in Australia from 1951 to 2001, Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre, Ss Cyril and Methodius, Victoria, Australia
HASA -NSW, (2004), The Fruits of our Slovenian Heritage, HASA, Merrylands, NSW
Kobal, Ivan, (1982), Men who built the Snowy River, SCOPP, Sydney
Slovenski šolski odbor za NSW, (1988), Rastemo iz Korenin, Zbornik ob-10 let slovenske mature, Sydney, NSW
In Slovenian
Ceferin, Aleksandra, (2004), Slovenščina v avstralskem vzgojno-izobraževalnem sistemu dežele Viktorije, str. 138-146, Slovenski Izseljenski Koledar, 2004-2005, Združenje Slovenska izseljenska matica, Ljubljana
Ceferin, Aleksandra, Prihodnost slovenščine v Avstraliji, Slovenščina v šoli, št.6/ 2000, ZRS, Ljubljana       
Ceferin, Saša (Aleksandra L.), (1998), Od Padua Hall do Baragovega doma, str. 197-209, Misli; Spominska izdaja september 1998, Baraga House, Kew, Victoria
Čebulj - Sajko, Breda, (1992), Med srečo in svobodo, Avstralski Slovenci o sebi, Breda Čebulj - Sajko, Ljubljana
Fatur, Silvo Intervju: Slovenski jezik v Avstraliji, Pogovor z mag. Aleksandro Čeferin, Slovenščina v šoli,  Št. 5-6/2003, ZRSS, Ljubljana
Kobal, Ivan, (1993), Možje s Snowyja, Goriška Mohorjeva družba, Gorica
Mikola, Maša, (2005), Živeti med kulturami, Od avstralskih Slovencev do slovenskih Avstralcev, ZRC, ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana
Ogorevc, Metod, Ceferin, Saša (Aleksandra L.), eds, (1998), Misli; Spominska izdaja september 1998, Baraga House, Kew, Victoria
Pribac, Bert, (1962) Bronasti Tolkač, Slovenski klub Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Valentin OFM, Basil, Intervju o naših kulturnih dejavnostih, pogovor z mag. prof. Aleksandro Ceferin, Misli, januar, 1980, Baraga House, Kew, Victoria
Zbornik Avstralskih Slovencev-1985, (1985) Slovenian-Australian Literary Circle, Sydney, (some articles in English)
Zbornik Avstralskih Slovencev-1988, (1988) Slovenian-Australian Literary Circle, Sydney, (some articles in English)
Žitnik, Jana, Glušič, Helga, eds, (1999), Slovenska izseljenska književnost 1 Evropa, Avstralija, Azija, ZRC, Rokus, Ljubljana

Updated: 10 June 2008

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