CROATS IN MELBOURNE If you're one of them, you have, no doubt, had affiliation with parish of Sv. Nikola Tavelić

First official Croatian Catholic Parish in the Melbourne community.

Author: Maya Juka, Sandra Juka

During the 1960s and 1970s, Croatian migrants were flooding into Australia in large numbers as many were escaping the communism that was rife in their native country. This generation of Croatians came to Australia with no knowledge of the English language, and very little belongings to help them in this new chapter of their lives. What they did have was a strong connection to their Catholic faith and a desire to hold on to their Croatian culture that they treasured so much.

No matter what part of Croatia they came from, the Croatians in Australia were able to connect with one another through their faith and culture. These two elements became the foundation that Croatian communities across Australia were built upon. These communities provided them with a sense of belonging in their new country and are still present almost 40 years later.

If you are a Croatian based in Melbourne, Australia, then you have no doubt had some sort of affiliation with the parish of Sveti Nikola Tavelic in Clifton Hill. It was the first official Croatian Catholic Parish in the Melbourne community and it became a place where Croatians all over Melbourne came together to practice their faith, celebrate their culture and get to know one another through social events held on the church premises.

The Parish priest of Sveti Nikola Tavelic - Clifton Hill at the time was the late Father Josip Kasić. Father Kasić arrived in Melbourne on the 4th May in 1961 and saw the need to establish a Croatian Catholic Centre where Croatians could gather together, attend mass and receive the sacrament in their native language. He helped struggling Croatian immigrants find jobs and homes, and also helped establish other Croatian communities around Melbourne.

The Sveti Nikola Tavelic community in Clifton Hill has made enormous contributions to the Croatian community in Melbourne since over the years. Several of its members were involved in the building of well-known Croatian establishments; the centre runs a Hrvatska Skola for children of Croatian descent to learn their language fluently; the Sveti Nikola Tavelic church choir takes part in religious celebrations in parishes across Melbourne; and it is also the home of Folklorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati.

In 1978, Father Kasić had an idea to start a Croatian folkloric group as a way to bring the Croatian youth of Melbourne together. Father Kasić called upon local parishioners Mr Aleks and Mrs Gizela Kechenovich to teach our youth about Croatian folklore. Mr and Mrs Kechenovich were seasoned folkloric dancers and had been a part of a cultural and artistic society in their hometown of Tavankut, in the Bačka region of Vojvodina. 

With the help of hard working and dedicated members of the Croatian community, Folklorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati was formed. Countless members of the Sveti Nikola Tavelic Parish spent hours sewing together traditional Croatian costumes, and local musicians recorded tambura and piano accordian music for the group to practice to.

Thirty-eight years later, Folklorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati is still celebrating and sharing its love of traditional Croatian song and dance. The group has over 75 members that are spread across Junior, Intermediate and Adults groups as well as a Tamburica Orchestra.

Folkorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati’s aim has always been to instil a sense of cultural pride, awareness and appreciation of Croatia’s rich cultural history with our own community as well as the broader Australian community. As a folkloric group, we believe that by preserving our traditions, customs and dances we contribute to the preservation of Croatia.

Folklorna Grupa Mladi Hrvati is proud to be a part of a Parish that has played such an important role in the Croatian community of Melbourne. We are honoured to take part in Parish feast days and celebrations where we are able to give back to the community that gave so much to us all those years ago.

We will strive to keep both our Mladi Hrvati folkloric community and the community of Sveti Nikola Tavelic alive and well so that the vision of our grandparents, parents and the late Father Kasić can continue on for the generations to come.

Na mladima svijet ostaje!


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