- Created on Friday, 07 April 2017 00:00
A delegation of Holy Family Primary School Bell Park of Australia's Victoria, the only such school in the world at which the Croatian language is part of the mandatory curriculum, visited the Croatian Heritage Foundation on the 31st of March.
The delegation, consisting of the principal of Holy Family Primary School Peter Brunt and Katica Perinac, the long-standing president of an association of Croatian language teachers in Victoria, met with CHF acting director Mirjana Ana-Maria Piskulić and the head of our education, science and sports department Lada Kanajet Šimić. Also on hand for the meeting were Ivana Pranić and Anita Franušić of the science, education and sports ministry, the host and organiser of the study visit.
Katica Perinac recalled in short the history of Croatian language instruction in Australia, with an emphasis on the current situation. Croatian language instruction in the schools of Victoria is integrated into the regular curriculum, with pupils having the option of learning the language from the time they begin to attend school, i.e. from age six, and right up to the final, twelfth grade when there is an option to take a final Croatian language exam, which is the basis for any of the offered university study programmes. For decades now one of the critical institutions on this path has been Holy Family Primary School Bell Park in Geelong, a richly multicultural city some eighty kilometres from Melbourne that is home to some seven thousand Croatians.
As principal Peter Brunt pointed out, Holy Family Primary School is an Australian private Catholic school that covers several parishes. The school's name is a source of encouragement to the school administration, which aims to live in the spirit of the Catholic religion and to abide by its tenets. It was opened in 1955 by the Sisters of Mercy and has, from day one, had over fifty per cent enrolled pupils of Croatian ancestry. The Croatian language was introduced as a mandatory subject in 1978 and has been integrated into the curriculum since then. This year 373 pupils, of whom 187 are of Croatian extraction, attend classes: third and fourth generation descendants of the people who moved here from Croatia.
Along with this school the Australian state of Victoria has others in which Croatian is offered as a subject, including Melbourne's own Victorian School of Languages, which pools all supplementary Saturday Croatian language instruction classes. Also very active is the association of Croatian language teachers in Victoria.
Since moving to Australia in 1978 Katica Perinac has been and remains at the forefront of the lion's share of activities in the local Croatian community – she teaches at both of the cited schools, and has for over thirty years served at the important and demanding post of president of the Association of Croatian Language Teachers in Victoria. In 2003 she was presented with a decoration of the State of Victoria, presented by the state's premier, for her contribution to the preservation of the Croatian identity and the promotion of multiculturalism.
This, the third such visit of an Australian delegation to Croatia, was achieved at her initiative. The visits to the competent institutions of the national administration – the science and education ministry and the State Office for Croats Abroad – were an opportunity to work out the details of continued collaboration on the Teacher Assistant Program in Victoria, with the talks also focused on the opportunities and methods of providing systematic support for Croatian language instruction at Holy Family Primary School. The delegation also visited the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Teacher Education (http://www.ufzg.unizg.hr/?p=28226&lang=hr).
At the meeting in the offices of the Croatian Heritage Foundation Perinac asked the CHF to support a proposal that would see the late Artur Nalis and the late Tomislav Starčević, two Croatians and prominent figures in culture in Australia, receive top Croatian national decorations, to be presented posthumously for their contributions to the recognition of the Croatian language and in the promotion of Croatian cultural heritage in Australia.
Also under discussion was the need to revive the Croatian Days for Children, Youth and Teachers project organised in February of 2009 by the Croatian Heritage Foundation, with the support of the science and education ministry, at Holy Family Primary School and the Victorian School of Languages. Top teachers and mentors for Croatian as a second language from Croatian took part in direct work with children at that event and were on hand during classes, seeing first hand the exceptional quality of the programme at these schools.
Acting CHF director Mirjana Ana-Maria Piskulić thanked the dear guests for their visit and for everything they have done to the benefit of the Croatian community in Australia. She expressed her support for the initiatives and the need to sound out the best possible models for the Croatian language instruction programme at Holy Family Primary School within the frame of both education systems, in Croatia and in Australia.
By: Lada Kanajet Šimić; Photos: Snježana Radoš