Draga Gelt OAM, the HASA Archives and the Slovenians in Australia websites

Draga Gelt OAM about the websites of the Historical Archives of Slovenians in Australia (HASA Archives) and the Slovenians in Australia.

You are initiator of the Historical Archives of Slovenians in Australia (HASA Archives) website. Can you tell us more about the HASA Archives and why was the website established?
As a physical archive the HASA Archives was established by the former President of the Slovenian Association Melbourne in late 90’s. After she died, collected information has been saved digitally using new methods. We have to digitise the documents and photographs because the items were getting old and fragile and you don’t really want people to touch them. With digitising, they can still read them.

I came up with the idea about the webpage because it is good to show the other clubs in Victoria and across Australia, and also to the world, the activities of the Slovenians and some Association here. The HASA Archives website is owned by the Slovenian Association Melbourne. With the expansion certain questions and problems arouse.

Therefore another website, independent of any club, named Slovenians in Australia, will showcase Slovenians in Australia and thus cover all the other clubs and institutions. It is democratic and positive step for everyone, and it is important, the information, no matter of the club, or church, or any institution, is offered to the world.

Lots of times people didn’t know that Slovenians in Australia had the associations with many activities. It is important that public is informed about the activities and the history. The oldest club was 60 years old last year and only a few people knew about that. That is not fair. We need to bring information to the public. That was the reason and the aim of the website. In Australia Slovenians has such a small community and it is not fair they are pushed in the background.

Will the HASA Archives continue to develop?
The proposal was that the HASA Archives deal with the clubs and the institutions, which would contribute to the physical archive. If the other clubs do not contribute to the physical HASA archive, they do not belong to the HASA Archives website. However, the Slovenians in Australia website is independent of any club and both pages are linked to each other. It is not a competition. With the Slovenians in Australia the idea is to give other clubs and institutions chance to be exposed as well. I am looking at the possibility of a backup in case of a drastic situation.

For whom is the Slovenians in Australia website made?
The website is created for general public, for each club, Slovenian associations and other institutions. For example, today I received an email from a student, year 12, who would like to use the YouTube videos about migrants coming by ships to Australia and about the Bonegilla migrant camp that we have published. Once the content is exposed, people search the web and the website comes up with the certain information. I think that is a great plus for Slovenian community. This is the whole reason why it is important that we offering to the public such information.

What exactly the Slovenians in Australia website contain? What are your plans for the future?
The website showcases each club with the activities. Each club has social activities and different groups. For instance, ladies group, the dances, the quests, beauty quests, the mothers of the year and a lot of other events such as special celebration of the year like “Pust”, “Fašink”, the Shrove Tuesday which it is not known in Australia, then social meetings for seniors and youth as well as the Slovenian school. The main topics are social activities, cultural activities, sports activities and also multi-culture involvement. Lots of the clubs have participated in many Australian or multicultural festivals and we should be proud of all the participants. The website shows to the rest of Australia how active Slovenians have been all through the years. They participated all the time.

Are current activities published as well?
The website is up to date with all the involvement with the community. It presents the Church as an institution on its own – a short presentation, because Church has its own website too, and a link. We have Slovenians Reminiscing which is about migration: history of migration, migrant stories, covering the migrant camps and the ships that travelled to Australia. The work placement by the government is covered as well. Many personal stories as possible are included.

Separately we have the Slovenian Welfare Office, Slovenian drama group including videos of the performances and the supporting documentation. Slovenian folk dancing groups will be another page, showcasing folk dancing groups across Australia. The website will also include very talented Slovenians in Australia who have excelled in certain fields. That could be art, politics, writing, science, sport, being entrepreneurs – successful businessmen. We’ll try to show personal stories or documentation on each of those people. It is important that the rest of the Slovenians, and the rest of the world, find out about these talented people – Slovenians.

Is this website established for older audiences or addresses more the younger generations? Do you have any information how often the older generations are present on the Internet?
First generation, some people, do use Internet, but mainly second, third and other followers. The website is in English language (most of it) since it is aiming the younger generations. The elderly know how to use it, but are not very enthusiastic about computers. However, younger generation lives in the computer age. They love computers and whatever is on the web they will read. If you give them a book, they will look at it twice. Therefore I think the Internet, or any digital presentation, is the ‘in thing’ right now. And digitisation of the documentation is the step for the future, to keep, preserve and offer the information in a format, user friendly and accessible all the time, everywhere.

Do you have any additional message for the conclusion?
Just to stay proud, who we were, and who we still are, that we are still Slovenians. It is important to keep, and to hand over, to the younger generation. Hopefully they will be proud of the heritage of the parents and grandparents, and will continue with traditions. That is when the digital presentation comes in. If they will enjoy looking at the digital things, they will get more involved. They are not interested only in dancing polka, but they want something more for their mind and more, to move with time and according to their age.

June 2015

The websites are available at the following links:
Historical Archives of Slovenians in Australia (HASA Archives)
Slovenians in Australia

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See also:
– Dr Elizabeth Tomažič, author of the book From Hands and Hearts: Slovenian Recipes in Australia. Read more.
– Nevenka Golc-Clarke, Hon. Consul for Slovenia in Queensland. Read more.
– Father Darko Žnidaršič OFM, Head of the Slovenian Catholic Mission and Church of St. Raphael in Merrylands – Sydney. Read more.
– Ludvik Štefko, a Slovenian chef and artist with a passion for herbs and spices. Read more.
– Jana Jereb, Sarah Robinson, Frank Pristov and Kate Pristov, participants of the Slovenian language course with a cooking lesson. Read more.
– Sasha Kos and Alenka Caserman, the Facebook groups Slovenci v Avstraliji and Novi Avstralci. Read more.

This is a website of a research project exploring digital technologies for communicating the culinary heritage of Slovenian Australians in collaboration with the University of Canberra under the 2015 Endeavour Fellowship Programme (PDR).