SLOVENIAN ASSOCIATION SNEŽNIK, ALBURY-WODONGA
In the early 1970’s, a community of Slovenian families and friends in Albury/Wodonga and the surrounding area, were meeting socially. There was a growing need create a social and cultural connection that would mould friendships, support and identity into something more.
There were picnics organised, and an Albury backyard hosted friends to socialise. On 13 August 1977, after being inspired by attending dances in Melbourne, the first Slovenian dance was organised and held at Wodonga’s Masonic Hall in Jack Hore Place. Entertainment was provided by popular well-known Melbourne band Bled. The event was a great success, and the hall was filled to capacity.
There was great enthusiasm amongst the community to establish a Slovenian Club. The mission was to unite the community and to create a place where the Slovenian language and culture could be shared. A number of families met in Wodonga to discuss forming an official club. On 21 August 1977, a committee for the Slovenian Twin City Club Snežnik Albury-Wodonga was formed, with Jože Kromar elected as its first President.
Further dances were then organised at various venues in Albury and Wodonga. One dance was held in the Civic Centre in Wodonga with 600 people attending with popular all-girl band from Melbourne, “Sava” playing. St Patrick’s Hall in Albury was another venue used. The kitchen facilities were minimal, so the meals were cooked at the Albury Base Hospital Kitchen and then transported to the venue. The Australian Franciscans hosted a group of young singing friars from Slovenia, Minores who were very well received throughout their tour of Australia. The event was held at the Baranduda Scout Hall on the Kiewa Valley Highway outside of Wodonga.
Many of the guests that attended the dinner dances included an ethnic melting pot of Slovenians, Dutch, Croatians, Germans and Italians!
Some picnics were held at the Mungabareena Reserve in Albury. There along the banks of the Murray River, the community enjoyed the beautiful surrounds while having lunch.
There were enormous donations of food, raffle prizes, building materials and countless hours of voluntary work.
Land was found on Olive Street, a 3036m² property at 234-242 Olive Street, a paddock with a dam in the middle owned by an Albury farmer. With the combined profits of functions, as well as foundation loans provided by the initial members, the property was purchased in 1979 with the three blocks purchased as one title. Future plans were discussed to build the Club rooms.
In 1980, a volunteer taskforce was established and work began on Stage 1 - a small building, which initially was going to serve them until finances enabled a bigger building. The first BBQ was then held to celebrate the achievements.
On 15 April 1981, The Slovenian Club Snežnik opened its doors on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm to 10pm.
Plans later changed and the initial building was extended to contain a kitchen and meeting area, with outdoor bocce alleys built as well. This would complete Stage 1 of the initial Club construction. All the while during construction, functions were still taking place at different venues around Albury / Wodonga.
With the second stage of build, the hall was extended to include an exquisite hardwood parquetry floor, stage and bar. The craftsmanship of the build was a testimony to the combined talented efforts of volunteer builders, carpenters, bricklayers and other trades. The construction continued in 1997 with the final Stage being a roof erected over the bocce alleys and power installed to allow for evening bocce competitions.
After years of endless toil from the hard working dedicated volunteers, the Club consisting of a 255m² brick clubhouse with function area and a parquetry dance floor for 150, was officially opened by Albury Mayor, John Roach AO and and Member for Albury, Ian Glachan MP.
Presidents and Committee members from 1977 to 2014
1977, August 21: elected President Jože Kromar, Committee members:
more coming soon
1977 Slovenian club formed as “Slovenian Twin Cities Club Snežnik”
1977 First dance in Masonic Hall, Wodonga – “Bled” band from Melbourne
1979 land purchased at the Olive street site
1980 1st stage of Club house built and 1st BBQ held
1980 26 January the first meeting was held on Club soil
1981 15 April Club was opened on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm – 10pm.
1986 Multicultural festival – Dean St Albury Parade with Slovenian Costume
1988 First Slovenian Club Bocce team to compete
1991 Slovenia declares Independence
1993 National Slovenian Convention in Geelong of all Slovenian clubs in Australia
1993 Slovenian ambassador Mr Aljaž Gosnar attended Carnivale celebrations
1994 SBS petition submitted to MP Lou Lieberman
1994 EKART from Slovenia performed
1995 Istrian Club Festival 25th Anniversary Bocce Tournament in Campbellfield
1995 Slovenian bishop visit Alojzij Uran
1996 Kvintet choir performed
1997 4 day trip to Adelaide’s 40th Club Anniversary
1997 Bus trip to Planica’s 25th Anniversary
1997 Sept International Fair
1997 Back to Bonegilla 50th Anniversary and Reunion
2002 Club becomes incorporated and changes its name to “Slovenian Twin City Sports Club Snežnik
2008 Oldest member, Anica Kalčic celebrates her 100th Birthday
2013 Club decides to sell and is placed on the market
2014 Club is purchased by the Albury Wodonga Theatre Company
Following the establishment of migrant families in the region, and as human nature was intended, people will want to be among others and share experiences. With the people settled in jobs and family, there was a need to connect as a community. To search and to long for a structure that would provide a space for culture, self-awareness and social cohesion. The time had come to bring together that longing for connection and belonging into a social community.
For a time in history, we had our shared cultured landscape, identified an interconnection of food and culture that bound the community together. Towards the end, with ageing members, and low membership, the Club struggled to revive the enthusiasm that it had enjoyed in the past years. In April 2014, after considerable consultation with its members, the club closed its doors for the final time.
All involved should be incredibly proud of what was achieved over the 37 years. An incredible organisation of events was achieved to bring wonderful live music to the area creating wonderful memories, and lasting friendships. A big thank-you goes to all the fantastically talented musicians, and the clubs that have supported us, and to all the people that supported by coming to the club on the many occasions.
Did it achieve what it set out to do? Was there shared belonging, mutual interest, a common bond and simple joy? For a time, yes, although with any volunteer organisation, it requires new ideas and goals to continue the journey. Plans must be made for the future and take those steps to transition, otherwise all is lost.
And now, with no club can the Slovenian community continue to survive, can we reconnect socially? Some picnics have been held, and there are plans for bus trips. Who knows, there may be some hope but we shall see!
by Mary Kromar
Museum and the Exhibitions