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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 June 2011) . . Page.. 2194 ..


Australia is truly the best country in the world in which to live, and I wish the rest of the world was so fortunate. It is the best characteristics of Australia that I wish for Croatia to have as well: freedom, opportunity and security.

Many Croatians came to Australia after World War II to escape the oppressive regime in Yugoslavia. Croats were very much treated like second class citizens. Many present tonight were persecuted by the State because of their nationality, intimidated, orphaned, deprived of education and fled seeking freedom and a better life. They made their way to Australia, following friends or relatives into the unknown, and leaving loved ones behind in poor conditions, often terribly oppressed by a regime that wanted them to flee as well. They started new lives, and helped those they left behind. There would be setbacks, but they would try again. They embraced Australia, took opportunities to work and learn, build and grow, recognising their good fortune in coming to this great land. Once settled they redirected their energy towards making a better life using their minds, and not just their hands. They made many sacrifices so that future generations could have an unobstructed path before them, and on behalf of so many I thank them for that. 

I cannot begin to understand how difficult it must have been to leave your homes and your families, knowing you may never return, and, carrying the heavy burden of responsibility, knowing that the very act of leaving may lead to further persecution of those left behind.

I have heard many stories sad and courageous, fortunate and tragic. This gave me only a peek into the window of the hearts of Croats at home and abroad, and what independence for Croatia could possibly mean for them. Living their lives in a heightened state of anxiety, independence could finally provide relief, knowing that all Croats could enjoy the liberties we take for granted in Australia.

I first travelled to Croatia as a 9-year old with my mother and sisters in 1982. My father was not allowed to go to Yugoslavia as he had not done military service and would have been locked up. I remember going with my mother to report to the police in her home town and be questioned about my father and other family members in Australia. My mother implored that I take nothing to eat or drink from the police, people I had been taught in Australia to trust and go to if in need of help. Such was the fear that people lived under every day.

It was such a relief for Croatia to be independent, free of the oppression that had become normal. A country with such natural beauty, cultural wealth and tradition could finally determine its own future. That its people could vote and choose their destiny for themselves.

For many Croatians who made Australia their home this battle for the independence of Croatia was hard fought and seemed to last forever, but they never gave up. Time has made many realise that despite their love for their homeland, which they can visit freely now, Australia is their home. Many have enabled my generation to have opportunities they only could have wished for and now their grandchildren have the good fortune to live and grow in Australia with their grandparents free of the burden they carried for much of their lives because Croatia is free.


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