Croatian diaspora in Australia
According to the census taken in 2016 there are 176,952 Croats and their descendants living in Australia. Of this number 43,688 citizens were born in the Republic of Croatia, and 133,264 are Australian citizens of Croatian origin. However, based on estimates, more than 250,000 Croats and their descendants live in Australia today. Australia is one of the countries which is traditionally considered to be a country of immigrants. Croats began to settle in Australia in the second half of the 19th century.
First immigrants from Croatia, mostly from Dalmatia, settled in the area of Western Australia. The centre of early settlers was the town of Perth and the port of Fremantle, the only immigrant port at that time. At first, they were engaged in primary economic activities such as fishing and agriculture, and later they worked in the mines and started settling in the mining centres of Australian hinterland.
Croats in Australia began to organize their parties in 1910 when Seljačka stranka was founded in Broken Hill (New South Wales) influenced by the politics of the Radić brothers. It published the newsletter Seljačke novosti. The party was dissolved in 1922. In Kalgoorlie-Boulder, West Australia Hrvatsko-slavjansko društvo (Croatian-Slavic Society) was founded in 1912 and soon became the centre of social, cultural and political activities. The president of the Society was Ante Jukić and the secretary Jure Stela.
Only After World War II due to unfavourable economic and political changes the number of emigrants to Australia started to rise even from other parts of Croatia, although the majority of emigrants came from coastal areas and the islands. In the second half of the 20th century the number of Croatian immigrants in Australia increased significantly. The reason of this is a restrictive and selective immigration policy of the USA so the number of potential imigrants to the USA decreased. At the same time Australia welcomed political emigrants and other emigrants from European countries in general.
The number of Croats who settled in Australia is 30,000 from 1991 onwards but since the beginning of 2000 the number has been falling steadily.
Status of Croats in Australia
The majority of Croats who imigrated to Australia have Australian citizenship, as well as their descendants. They have the same rights and responsibilities as other Australian citizens. So, they have a voting right/duty (voting is compulsory) including the right to be elected at federal, state and local elections. Australia is considered a country of immigration and in line with the policy of multiculturalism, respecting the multiethnicity of the society, the entire state administration and other entities aim at ensuring equality and prevention of discrimination on any ground.
Pensions of residents of the Republic of Croatia acquired abroad are taxed as regulated by the Law on Amendments of the Income Tax Act of 2012. The agreement for the avoidance of double taxation has not been concluded between the Republic of Croatia and Australia, but the issue of taxation ( by Croatian side) of Australian pensions received by the Croatian citizens has been solved as our Tax authorites made a decision not to impose a tax on Australian retirement pensions. These are pensions paid by the Australian state and are considered a social benefit so in Australia they are tax-free (contrary to pensions based on payments made by their employers into pension funds during their working life). This type of income is not covered by this decision on tax exemption of old age pensions in Croatia.
Dozens of Croatian clubs and societies are active in Australia. Most of them are located amidst Croatian communities and are largely built by Croats. The best known Croat clubs are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra. The most important folklore societies are:
- Association of folklore societies of NSW, Sydney
- Folklore ensemble “Mladi Frankopani“, Sydney
- "HFS Croatia“, Canberra
- Folklore ensemble “Mladi Hrvati”, Melbourne
- Folklore ensemble “Hrvatska Zora”, Melbourne
- “Hrvatsko folklorno društvo”, Melbourne
- HKUD(Croatia culture and art society) Lado, Geelong
- KUD(Croatia art society) Hrvatski Pleter, Adelaide
- Croatian folklore ensemble Lenek, Adelaide
- KUD “Krvatski pleter”, Adelaide
The most important humanitarian and social welfare organizations:
- Australian Croatian Community Services, Melbourne is a not-for-profit organisation which provides help to elderly and infirm persons
- Adria Retirement Village, aged care facility
- Adria Village Limited was established by the Croatian community of Canberra in 1989. Its official opening in 1994 was the result of years of voluntary work undertaken by members of the local Croatian community.
- Cardinal Stepinac Village, aged care facility. The Village was built by the Australian Croatian community in St. Johns Park, the suburb of Sydney. The purpose of the village was to provide housing to the elderly members of the Croatian community in Sydney, as many believed that majority of Croats will not return to their homeland. Croatian Community of Sydney managed to purchase the land in 1988 and complete the project in 1992. Several years later a new facility was built for the provision of care for the aged. The last built facility wa blessed by Archbishop Josip Bozanić and the new nursing home was officially opened by Mr. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia at that time. Most of the project was funded by the Australian Croatian community, and the Federal government gave financial support/cofinanced this project by donating one dollar for every three dollars collected by the Croatian community.
The Catholic Church also plays a strong and important role among Australian Croats, particularly in the preservation of their religious and national identity, as well as their Croatian language and cultural heritage. Croatian Catholic centres have been active continuously since the 60s of the last century, and they were founded in the regions where Croats settled, in about ten cities and places of Australia with a total of 18 priests being active there. Today in Australia there are 14 Croatian Catholic centres (in Adelaide, Brisbane, Camberra, Geelong, Hobartu, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney andi Wollongong) and two convents (in Sydney and Adelaide). In the places where lots of Croats live and the parish cannot be established, then a priest travels once a month, or more often if necessary, to that particular town or a village.to say a mass in Croatian.
Croatian classes and courses of the Croatian language
Australia was the first country in the world to recognize the Croatian language as a separate language. In 1975, the state run TV, SBS began broadcasting programs in the Croatian language, and in 1989 the teaching of the Croatian language became an elective subject in secondary schools.
Australian Croats organized classes of the Croatian language in Croatian Catholic centers , so-called Saturday schools, already in the 70s of the last century. The Suturday School of Community Lnguages was founded in 1978 by the decision of the Australian Government, within the Ministry of Education. Classes of the Croatian language are mostly integrated into the regular school system, and the Ministry of Science and Education of the the Republic of Croatia supports the teaching by providing textbooks and other teaching materials and by organizing professional trainings in Australia or in Croatia at the traditional summer seminar for teachers professional development, members of Croatian national minority and immigrants. The first Department of Croatian Studies was established in 1983 at the Macquarie University in Sydney. In 1998 the Centre for the Study of the Croatian Language was set up. In February 2008, the Macquarie University opened the Croatian Studies Centre as a joint project with the University of Split.
“TAFE“, is the institution in Australia similar to Open University Zagreb in the Republic of Croatia, where the courses of the Croatian language are organized for beginners, but also for those who have certain knowledge of the language.
The institutions in Australia where Croatian language classes are organized by Croatian communities and Catholic Missions abroad are the following:
- Technical college”TAFE“, Northbridge
- Association of Croatian Language Teachers, Geelong, Victoria
- Association of Croatian Language Teachers, The Victorian School of Languages, Melbourne
- Croatian language course for Adults, Melbourne
- Croatian Language School ( primary school up to 4 th grade), Croatian Sports Center, Adelaide
- Croatian Ethnic School up to 7th grade (Croatian House), Adelaide
- Croatian school in Melbourne
- Croatian school in Canberra
- Croatian language school Blacktown, Sydney
- Croatian school Summer Hill, Sydney
- Croatian school St.Johns Park, Sydney
- Croatian school Bonnyrigg, Sydney
Publishing and Media:
- Hrvat (Sydney, Melbourne)
- Hrvatski vjesnik (Melbourne)