Croatian Viewpoint
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'Former Yugoslavia' is Not a Country and Not a Nationality

Health Workers Advised Not to Use this Term:
"The term 'Former Yugoslavia' is a misnomer because Yugoslavia still exists although only with two of the original states. Some migrants, may take offence at the use of 'Former Yugoslavia' preferring to be identified by their ethnicity, or as nationals of the now independent state in which they were born".
(quoted from Community Health Profiles on internet (1999), a link to which no longer exists.)


The incorrect portrayal of Croats and Croatia in Australia is an infringement of the rights of Croatian individuals and any misleading inaccurate portrayal of statistics or history needs to be sorted out. Currently (in 1999) there have been some protests regarding the offensive, inaccurate use of the term ‘Former Yugoslavia’ at the Immigration Museum which violates the rights of school children, the taxpaying public and an international treaty.

Immigration Museum Mainstream Display

The Immigration Museum has an ‘interactive’ computer touch screen in their Long Room gallery where visitors and students are encouraged to touch the screen in order to view a video message, a map, and statistics about a few countries where immigrants in Australia were born.
The list of countries names is not comprehensive but it is described as having been selected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – including 1996 census figures on ‘Country of Birth’. Selected were:

Cambodia, Chile, China, England, Former Yugoslavia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Scotland, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Vietnam.  [see Appendix below for more details]


All those on the list are 'Countries of Birth' with the exception of the incomplete term 'Former Yugoslavia' which is not a Country of Birth, as it appears on the touch screen. All of those listed have 1996 ABS figures given, except under the heading of 'Former Yugoslavia' it is written: "no data available" – thus, it 'appears' that census figures for Croatia (by inference) are not available either, even though 1996 data is freely and publicly available for Croatia as a 'Country of Birth'. 

Under the term 'Former Yugoslavia' when the screen is touched one can select in either English, Serbian or Croatian to view a brief 'History of Immigration from Former Yugoslavia'.
But there are other anomalies with the touch screen. In addition, it appears that the Australian 1921 census used 'Yugoslavia' or 'Former Yugoslavia' as a category when contemporaneous usage of the term 'Yugoslavia' did not exist in 1921, as is the suggestion, or appearance given, in the touch screen's history text, that Bosnia-Hercegovina was a separate constituent region under the first Yugoslavia. Even the map on the touch screen of this "Former Yugoslavia" is only a map of Bosnia-Hercegovina!
The touch screen 'interactive' information with regards to the'‘Former Yugoslavia' situated within the Immigration Museum's main exhibits gallery is not on the Immigration Museum's website (1999) on their online 'Education Centre' project called 'Home or Away Project' (for years 3 to 10). On this website they tell a parent to take their child to see this touch screen 'interactive' at the Museum to get information about post-WWII immigration to Australia for a school project. (search official site at [link no longer available in 2009 -- replaced by other education kits, etc.] click on 'View the questions and responses'.)

The 1996 Census and Croatia

On the ABS census which recognizes the new categories for Countries of Birth such as Croatia etc. there are also categories which always appear in their full form: 'Former Yugoslavia Not Further Defined' or 'Former Yugoslavia nfd' or 'Former Yugoslav Republic Serbia/Montenegro' or 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'.
Croats have registered their details in the 1996 census under the term 'Croatia' -- (CLIB 96 -- ABS -- see Appendix II) Basic Community Profiles, available at public libraries, or in government publications since 1997, or (1996 ABS) 'Ethnicity Thematic Profile Services' -- a CD on Croatia for every region, state, etc. available for purchase.
Therefore the implication that there is "no data available" is discriminatory.
Croatia is placed into some kind of limbo because it does not appear to fall into the category of a 'cultural group(s)' that will be represented later; because through inaccurate terminology and the use of the 'Croatian' language on the touch screen, together with the absence of Croatia on the list, it is implied that no data about Croatia is available when it IS available.

The 1921 Census and 'Yugoslavia'

In addition, it is not totally correct to suggest that 'Yugoslavia' or 'Former Yugoslavia' was a 'Country of Birth' in the 1921 census. The category of 'All Non-British European Born' was used in 1921.
Although there was an international treaty in 1919 at St. Germain-en-Laye between 'Serb-Croat-Slovene' State and the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, entered into force in 1920 in Australia ( [1999-2009] ) known as a 'Yugoslav minorities' treaty, this was not used in the census. At that time the 'Country of Birth' was The Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes.

National Identification is a Human Right

Whereas, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UN Resolution 217A (III) identification with one's nation and culture is a human right, and such cultural rights are indispensable for one's dignity and the free development of one's personality, and whereas discrimination is described by the Equal Opportunities Commission in Australia as being either of a direct or indirect nature.
Imagine the outrage if a visiting Australian parliamentarian in Zagreb was described as being from a 'Former British Colony' after Australia had achieved its status as a republic and Croatia had recognized this internationally. Yet the following occurs:
The statement, or appearance, or impression, or implication is given to the Australian public and to Australian school children that no information is available in 1996 about Croats in Australia, contrary to the fact that there actually is a great deal of information on Croats available - and this occurs in a new Immigration Museum.
There is an anachronistic association of Croatia or Croats or Croatian with the incorrect term 'Former Yugoslavia' or 'Yugoslavia' in 1921.
The treaty which exists since September 1996 between Australia and Croatia for cultural cooperation and promotion of understanding about each other's country appears not to have been respected by this government institution. A letter of complaint from the Republic of Croatia's Consul General on 28 August 1999 was followed up on the 6th September 1999 by the Immigration Museum's referral on its internet page to the exhibit in question.
The Department of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs' visa application office assists Croats to come to Australia today as permanent settlers, yet in the Immigration Museum a few city blocks from there Croats as a major European migrant group do not appear in its permanent exhibits!


Croats are acknowledged in some encyclopaedia as being one of the top ten ethnic groups in Australia over past decades. Unfortunately, statistics available at the ABS are rarely published in 'extended' detail in government books which serve the public and private sectors in Australia. Sometimes confused and inadequately informed public servants and journalists resort to handy terms like ‘Former Yugoslavia’ and believe that they are within their rights no matter what the context.
For example, there is sometimes a discrepancy between ABS statistics published, and information available at Australian City Council offices. (, [1999] )
It is up to Croatian people therefore to take some action if their rights are to be respected. Wherever they see injustice it is up to them, as an individual to claim discrimination, and to prove it. Collective protests are not effective, nor are petitions, in comparison to an equal number of 'individual' claims.
It is discriminatory to a refugee or to a 'displaced person' or to their children, for example, if their health or dignity has been degraded as a result of information which is incorrect in a public institution. Students of Croatian ancestry from one of Australia's major ethnic groups deserve equal treatment and freedom from humiliation within a classroom or school excursion environment. To learn more about freedom from discrimination search 'Obecanje' (A Pledge to Victorians') in the Croatian language on the internet. (www. [1999] )

Access & Equity at the Immigration Museum

It needs to be pointed out that the Immigration Museum, as a multimedia campus offers information about Croats through its Library and database, and it maintains a comprehensive internet webpage with links about Croatia (some links are out of date as at 1999 but that is a separate issue). Croats are not in the Museum's mainstream permanent exhibits! The temporary Croatian exhibit as currently advertised on the Museum's internet website '150 Years of Croatian Immigration to Victoria' also invites the public to attend and learn a little about Croatian settlement in Victoria.

What Australian Citizens Expect

Whereas, the presentation of material in relation to the incomplete 1996 census term 'Former Yugoslavia' is inaccurate, misleading, inconsistent, unprofessional, offensive, and therefore discriminatory, and, Whereas, the decision given to the Croatian Consul-General in Victoria Mr Sikic by the Immigration Museum representative, that recent and accurate information about Croats in the Australian census will not be available for presentation until after the year 2001 census, is thus is a serious violation of an international treaty signed by the Australian government.
Croatian people expect that the Australian government which encouraged the settlement of Croats in the past and which anticipates their ongoing immigration in the future should issue a Press Release or Policy Statement or Fact Sheet which obligates taxpayer-funded institutions to abide by correct portrayal of census material. It is not the fault of the much-traumatized Croatian community that discrimination has occurred in this instance.
At the Immigration Museum in particular, a venue built to foster multicultural tolerance, correct 1996 data about Croatia should appear! (see Table II, Appendix for 1996 census re Croats) It is not enough to merely eliminate existing inaccuracies as they appear at the moment because much upset has already occurred and correct information should appear by way of compensation now, not in the year 2002.

What should the Immigration Museum Do?

The Immigration Museum in Melbourne should have provided accurate reference somewhere to Croatia or Croats in Australia, as a well-documented, large, European ethnic group over past several decades, in their mainstream, permanent galleries. The interactive computer touch screen is a 'user friendly' mechanism designed with overseas-born pensioners and school excursions in consideration as two of the major identified groups who will visit this museum.
Unfortunately, many people do not have the internet (1999) and they need help operating a data base, therefore inclusion in the permanent exhibit would provide access and equity to the Croatian community.

What Concerned Individuals Can do

Visit the Immigration Museum as individuals, in family groups, with overseas visitors from Croatia, in Pensioner groups, or as a group of Croatian Language students, etc. Keep your entry tickets as proof that you have shown an active interest in Australia's multicultural society. If then you have a complaint, photocopy the ticket to illustrate your personal attendance and concern.
Contribute to the Immigration Museum's 'Education Centre' internet website by requesting that your school teacher participate in their projects and excursions, and then register questions about Croatia, or Croatian immigration in Australia or Victoria through the correct channels.
The Immigration Museum also provides a facility for individuals to register their immigration stories and experiences by filling out a form, for inclusion on their library's database.
Write letters or make contacts. (Discrimination is seen to violate the rights of 'individuals' rather than groups, when it comes to claims, so it is individuals who most effectively register a complaint). Letters can go to:
  • The Victorian Government’s Community Support Fund—which funded this museum.
  • The Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs.
  • Museum Victoria, of which the Immigration Museum is a part.
  • Your local MPs.
  • Your Consulate or Embassy The Minister for Education.
  • The Australian-Croatian Parliamentary Friendship Group
prepared by
Jean Lunt Marinovic
October 1999


Long Room Gallery Computer
"Information displayed on this interactive is based on data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Countries selected were based on the following:
  • To reflect the range of immigration experience and the diversity of motivations.
  • Each group's proportional representation in Victoria's population.
  • It is the Museum's intention that in time as data becomes available all cultural groups that have come to Victoria will be represented on this interactive."
The interactive screen invites the public to touch a country on the screen, and listen and view the video clip of that particular country’s chosen speaker about their immigration experiences and history. Then statistics are given on the screen for the 1996 census and other years. The countries listed are:
Cambodia, Chile, China, England, Former Yugoslavia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Scotland, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Vietnam.
Note, for all of the above countries, maps, 1996 Victoria ABS statistics, and a brief history, written and sometimes spoken are available, at a touch, on the interactive screen in the Long Room Gallery. (see Table I, Appendix)

Table I

"Former Yugoslavia (select language below) English -- Serbian -- Croatian".
A map then appears showing only Bosnia-Hercegovina in orange, with white background with following writing:
History of Immigration from Former Yugoslavia:
The country classification of Yugoslavia was first used in the Australian Census in the 1920s when the regions of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia were united. Yugoslavia existed as a nation until 1992.
There was a small flow of Yugoslav immigration to Victoria in the 1920s. By the 1930s there was a small group of Yugoslavia-born people in Mildura, working in the local fruit industry. Many other immigrants from Yugoslavia worked in Victoria as rural labourers.
Large numbers arrived after WW2 as Displaced Persons and many of these were employed on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. A formal agreement between the government of Australia and Yugtoslavia led to increased immigration in the 1970s. Former Yugoslavia (in English)
Victorian born in Former Yugoslavia - No Data Available.
As at 1996 Victorians born in:
Germany 29,686
Greece 61,683
Hungary 7,566
Italy 98,231
Malta 24,150
Netherlands 25,293
Poland 22,211
Turkey 14,765
Above list includes only selected European Country of Birth as on touch screen.

Table II

Selected 1996 Census figures for Croats -- Victoria (C LIB 96) -- accessible to public
Complete overseas-born profiles available on CD for purchase
B05 Birthplace Victoria
VIC    Male    9146    Female    8360   Total    17506
B08 Language Other than English for Croatian - Victoria
VIC    Male    12271    Female    12187    Total    24,458
Note the discrepancy between Birth & Language figures can be accounted for by the number of Croatian settlers in Victoria from Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Also note that these figures exclude under 5 years speakers, so an accurate number is not reflected which would include many young recent refugee families.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
October 1999
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