President of the CSF GC John Gavljak gave a speech on behalf of the Croatian community in NSW

The President of the CSF Mr John Gavljak addresses the Croatian President at the gala dinner on behalf of the whole NSW Croatian community. His whole speech is available here:

————————-

Your Excellency, Madame President Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, distinguished guests and friends of Australia & Croatia,

Neka se pokusa, ali dvojim da ce ti ljudi uspjeti

“It’s worth a try, but I doubt these people will succeed”

These were the words penned on the back of a conditions document by a famous Croatian Archbishop over 135 years ago and were made in reference to my forefathers whose fate meant they were to leave their homeland and were invited to settle uncultivated lands in the Croatian region of Slavonia.

“It’s worth a try, but I doubt these people will succeed”

I wonder how many times this quote was applied to the Croatian immigrants making their way to the land of Australia. But not only did we succeed, we flourished – we built churches, language schools, community clubs, sporting clubs, folk & dance groups, nursing homes, we founded the Croatian Studies Centre & Foundation at Macquarie University.

We educated ourselves, we bettered ourselves – taking advantage of the opportunities that Australia offered us. Australians of Croatian descent have featured in all aspects of Australian political & cultural life, sports, business and academia and to use an Australian idiom, as a community we have “punched well above our weight”. Fully integrated into Australian society while maintaining a strong cultural identity.

Many of these achievements were made at a time when it was not easy nor fashionable to be called Croatian. During these times of unpleasantness & hardship the Croatian community in Sydney, NSW & Australia continued to grow from strength to strength and we did not allow anyone to divert us from our path and activities.

Some basic tenets were always underlying our community engagements.

First, and foremost, was our shared dream of the realisation of freedom and independence for our Croatian homeland. Croatian patriots promoted Croatian customs, traditions, culture and indeed the name Croatia within our multi-cultural Australia. The pinnacle of our efforts came in the late 1970s with the official recognition of the independence and autonomy of the Croatian language within Australia. This achievement marked the Croatian community of Sydney as a model community in the entire worldwide Croatian diaspora.

The second pinnacle of our efforts came with the independence and proclamation of the Croatian republic in 1991. Our enormous humanitarian efforts during the homeland war and our political efforts in the form of lobbying for the recognition of Croatian independence and sovereignty, were rewarded with a visit by the first President of the Republic of Croatia, Dr Franjo Tudjman in 1995.

As a nation we have always been forced to be pioneers & settlers and have always worked towards the Croatian national cause for freedom, independence and sovereignty. The values of hard work, commitment to the rule of law, family, our culture, language and traditions have meant that there was never “any doubt” as to whether we would succeed.

“It’s worth a try, but I doubt these people will succeed”

I wonder how many times these words were uttered as the people of Croatia struggled for independence and survival during the homeland war. In our minds there was never “any doubt” as to whether we would succeed.

However, survival alone is no longer a sufficient outcome.

As we now look to the future it is incumbent upon us, Australian Croatians of 2nd & 3rd generation to take over from our parents & grandparents and to work on the strengthening of political & business contacts between Australia & Croatia.

In this modern world of technology, disruption, skills mobility, 24-hour news cycles, improved overseas travel – the tyranny of distance between Croatia and Australia is no longer the barrier it once was. It is easier for us to stay in contact with our family & friends in Croatia, it is easier to build on these relationships, easier to build social, political & business contacts. At the same time, it is easier to lose oneself, to be overwhelmed by all the information & opportunities presented to us. We are drowning in data, but starved for wisdom.

At these times, it is important that the values of hard work, commitment to the rule of law, family, our culture, language and traditions that have been instilled in us become our anchor points as we move forward in strengthening the bilateral ties between our two nations.

We welcome you, Madame President and thank you for your attendance this evening, for the time you have spent with us, for the lifting of our spirits and wish you all the best of success during the rest of your stay in Australia.

As we look towards the opportunities that benefit both our nations, at the building of bridges between Australia and Croatia I reflect back on the words written over 135 years ago and would like to rephrase them:

“It’s worth a try and I have no doubt we will succeed”

Thank you.

Mr John Gavljak giving a speech at the gala dinner at the Croatian club Sydney

Mr John Gavljak giving a speech at the gala dinner at the Croatian club Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>