Page 2275 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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It is fantastic to see our schools embracing IT technology, allowing for improvements in and benefit to students’ educational outcomes. I would like to congratulate Latham primary school, the teachers, the parents and the school board for the work they are doing at that school.

Croatian national day

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (4.34): Today, at lunchtime, I was honoured to be a guest at the Croatian embassy to celebrate Croatian national day. 25 June is Croatian national day. As the only member of the Assembly of Croatian origin, I think, I would like to say a few words about this significant event.

On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. This was a momentous day for Croatians all over the world and for democracy in general. Tragically, as all members would be aware, this was followed by a bloody conflict in which tens of thousands of people were killed. However, despite this adversity, Croatia has emerged as a free, peaceful nation.

Modern Croatia is increasingly becoming a prized tourist destination, with a beautiful Adriatic coastline and towns such as Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar drawing many people from all over the world. The country has five million people and a presidential parliamentary democracy. Afterwards, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will get you to pronounce all the Croatian names that I mention in this speech.

I know that Croatian Australians take great pride in their newly independent homeland. My family, which came out here in the 1950s and 1960s, suffered under the former communist regime, with my uncle spending several years in prison for not toeing the communist party line. Because of this, my family took particular joy when Croatia emerged as an independent nation, free of the communist tyranny to which it had been subjected since World War II.

Croatian Australians have made a significant contribution to the life of Canberra. During the booming, expansive times of the 1960s and 1970s much of Canberra’s housing stock was built by Croatian Australian builders. Croatian Australians have also made significant contributions to other areas of Canberra life, such as the arts, culture and sport. Ante Dabro, the well-known sculptor, is one example of this contribution, and some of his sculptures can be seen at Brindabella Park at Canberra airport. In the sporting arena, the great soccer player Ned Zelic is probably the most famous Croatian Canberran.

Unfortunately, far from being welcoming to Croatians who came to Australia, the Whitlam government targeted Croatians for ideological and political reasons. In the worst example of this, Attorney-General Lionel Murphy organised raids on homes of Croatian Australians in Victoria and New South Wales whom he claimed were suspected of terrorist activities. No evidence was found to support Murphy’s claims and a Senate select committee subsequently found that infringement of civil rights had occurred and that Croatian Australians had been discriminated against by Murphy and members of the police force. This was a shameful period in Labor Party history.

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