SLOVENIANS IN QUEENSLAND
The Slovenian community in South-East Queensland comprises 600 to 700 people. According to the census of 1996 there were 517 people of Slovenian birth for the whole Queensland, a figure which is underestimated because some Slovenians indicated for census purposes the former Yugoslavia as their country of birth. Although some Slovenians began to arrive in Queensland earlier last century they come here in substantial numbers only after World War II. Dr.Zlatko Skrbis who lectures at QUT once said: “Slovenian never made claim to have been on board of one of Captain Cook’s ships.”
MANY SLOVENIANS HAD TO START A NEW LIFE IN AUSTRALIA BY UNDERTAKING MANUAL LABOR, SUCH AS CUTTING CANE. THEY OFTEN TURNED TO BUILDING INDUSTRIES AND PROSPERED. MANY OF THEM BECAME TRADESMAN, BUILDERS AND SUBCONTRACTORS WORKING AS PLUMBERS, CARPENTERS, PAINTERS, BRICKLAYERS AND TILERS. MANY HOMES IN SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND WERE CONSTRUCTED BY SLOVENIAN BUILDERS. THEIR DILIGENCE WAS REWARDED WITH INCREASING PROSPERITY, A FACT, WHICH IS ALSO FOR THE BENEFIT OF AUSTRALIA AND THE AUSTRALIANS.
The post- war migrants to Queensland were successful in small business and they, and their offspring, established various enterprises such as brake and clutch mechanical workshop, kitchen cabinet workshops, continental small goods, stock handling equipment, boutique apartments. They become self-employed butchers, plasterers, tailors, plumbers, restaurateurs, photographers, motel owners, computer technicians. There is also Slovenian owned dental laboratory. The second generation is entering the professions and office work, management and small business.The early beginnings of Slovenian presence in Queensland were sporadic and largely insignificant in terms of numbers. After a long and unsuccessful search to identify the first Slovenian to come to Australia, dr.Zlatko Skrbis began to explore the validity of a story that run in his family about a relative by the name of Drolz who lived in Australia around the turn of the century. In 1885 Drolz embarked on an epic journey to find gold and get rich during the Gold Rush in San Francisco. He never got there. After his ship arrived in Melbourne, a local lady caught his eye. All told, he spend the rest of his life in Australia yet the fact and stations of his Slovenian – Australian life appear to be blurred forever.Few Slovenians arrived in Queensland prior to the Second World War.The first organized gathering of Slovenians took place in Brisbane 1952. BAFS Hall in George Street in the City was used for the first social Dances.There is also Slovenian program on Community Radio 4 EB. This one hour program in the Slovenian language is broadcast on Saturday from 6pm.
ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Slovenians are largely Catholics and the church is an important part in their lives and social contacts. The first Slovenian Mass was celebrated in St Mary’s church in South Brisbane by father Okorn in late 1954. Since then Slovenian Masses were celebrated by visiting priest from Sydney in the same St. Mary’s church. We generally receive a visit of Slovenian priest 4 to 5 times a year. Only in last few years community center in Cornubia is used for Slovenian church celebration of Holy Mass. Following Slovenian Catholic tradition the MARIJA POMAGAJ shrine was erected at community centre with the names engraved of the deceased members of the Slovenian community in Queensland. Remembrance prayers for the past members and our past relatives on All Soul day are traditionally said in November by large community participation.
The Slovenian community has built the very beautiful Slovenian Chapel of Marija Pomagaj in Marian Valley at Cannungra. Lifestyle magazine from Beaudesert call this Marian Valley a united nations of devotion, this Valley now consists of more than two dozen chapels of different Queensland ethnic communities. Many national groups have constructed and maintained their Chapels of different devotion on more than 200 acres of land.
Marian Valley attracts many local and interstate visitors, especially on Christian feast days. The one weekend in September has become a traditional annual pilgrimage time for all Slovenians from across Australia to celebrate the Marian feast day at the Marian shrine. Other national ethnic groups have their annual celebrations on their feast days located in different times and at their own chapels. A number of Slovenian Bishops and priest have visit the community in Brisbane.
Mirko Cuderman “Mirani”
SLOVENIAN ASSOCIATION LIPA