MIGRATION OF SLOVENIANS TO AUSTRALIA
After World War II many Slovenians decided that life was not necessarily going to improve in Yugoslavia, so they took a chance to begin a new life somewhere else. They left behind their homes, friends and, more importantly, their families. They travelled to the well-guarded border with only the clothes they wore and perhaps some food and water, cautiously crossing into Italy or Austria. From the refugee camps of Italy and Austria, most migrated on to countries such as Australia that were welcoming immigrants. Often the friendships and relationships formed among Slovenians in refugee camps in Italy and Austria were maintained in Australia. These bonds became the fledgling support systems many depended on to sustain them in their new lives. They stayed in touch with each other to communicate in their beloved Slovenian language, to reminisce about their homeland, to be towers of strength in despair, and to dream together in the new country.
In the early years, many Slovenian men were sent to work on the well-known Snowy Mountains Scheme, to the Queensland sugar cane fields or to remote areas working on railway line such as the West and South Australian Railway. Slovenian women were most commonly sent to work as domestics.
Role of the Slovenian Church
As with many post-World War II migrants in their early re-settlement, Slovenians often had a difficult time coping with their changed environment. As ‘New Australians’ they often felt lonely and isolated having left family, friends and familiar surroundings, many in traumatic circumstances.
The Need For Clubs
As the community slowly increased, there was a need for additional clubs. Currently there are six Slovenian Associations in Victoria: Slovenian Association Melbourne Inc.; Australian Slovenian Cultural & Sports Association ‘Ivan Cankar’ Geelong Inc. Slovenian Australian Social....
In addition the Slovenian Teachers’ Association, Council of Slovenian Organisations in Victoria – a union of Slovenian associations; the Slovenian National Council of Victoria (which lobbied for the Australian Government’s recognition of newly independent Slovenia)
The aim of this publication is to enlighten readers and the general public of the contribution made by Slovenians to Australia as a then developing country in the post WW11 years.
Alongside all other immigrants at that time, Slovenians worked on major schemes and projects designed to bring Australia into the 20th century. This young country, full of promise of a bright and prosperous future, was offering freedom and opportunity for those newly-arrived from war-torn countries.
As they settled in to their new homeland which provided an ideal, clean environment to bring up young families, the need to remember culture and traditions became important. It was necessary to establish a number of meeting places for cultural and religious activities, due to the growing number of members and the problem of distance. Cultural, religious and sporting clubs accommodated these needs and became the hubs where important cultural traditions would be passed on to future generations of Slovenians.
Given their new environment and opportunity, some became active members of society and were successful in their chosen fields.