Victoria's Polish Connection
A brief background
- Melbourne (and subsequently Victoria) has the highest concentration of Polish-born and people of Polish decent in Australia.
- In 1838 Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki travelled to Australia, where at the request of George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales, he made a geological and mineralogical survey of the Gippsland region of eastern Victoria, where he made many discoveries. The Strzelecki Ranges in Gippsland are named in his honour. Later, in 1839 he set out on an expedition into the Australian Alps and explored the Snowy Mountains with James Macarthur. In 1840 he climbed the highest peak in Australia and named it Mount Kosciuszko, to honour Tadeusz Kosciuszko, one of the national heroes of Poland.
- First records of organised Polish community life in Victoria date back to 1863. In the wake of the November 1830 uprising in Poland a small number of people took refuge in Australia.
- During World War I, a Polish Fund Committee was formed in Melbourne. With considerable help from Dame Nellie Melba and other prominent Australians, the Committee collected funds to assist the victims of war in Poland.
- After WWII from 1947-54 Australia received 60,000 displaced Poles.
- The Polish Community Council of Victoria (Federacja Polskich Organizacji w Wiktorii), was established in 1962 as the state?s peak Polish organisation or federation of Victoria?s Polish associations, organisations and individual grouping of Polish migrants. The Council represents 43 member associations across the state who?s diverse interests cover all aspects of Victorian and Polish society including the arts, music, sport, scouts, returned service men and women, media and religion.
- POLONEZ Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble of Melbourne was formed in Melbourne in October 1965 with the aim of performing and promoting Polish folk and national dances, and as a means of perpetuating an adherence to, and understanding of, Polish culture, tradition and history. Three generations of Poles have now participated in Polonez with current membership at 100 singers and dancers.
- ZHP, the Polish Scouting Association in Victoria, has conducted it's scouting activities continuously for more than 50 years in Victoria including representing Polish Australian Scouts at World Jamborees.
- In 1973 Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later to become Pope John Paul II, blessed the Polish Marian Shrine in Essendon.
- During the period 1980-91 there was another wave of Polish migration to Australia as a result of the emergence of the Solidarity trade union movement and the declaration of martial law in Poland at the end of 1981, many of these migrants arrived as refugees.
- Some 40,000 visitors from across Victoria, Australia, New Zealand, S/E Asia and Europe joined us at the 2008 Festival.
Famous Australian's with Polish Heritage
A sample of Australian's of Polish origins making their mark.
Michael Klim OAM (1977 - ) - born in Gdynia. World record holder and gold medallist in the 2000 Atlanta Olympics.
Michael Kasprowicz (Cas-pro-vich) (1972 - ) - also known as "Kasper". Born in Brisbane Queensland and cricketer for Australia as a batsman and a medium paced bowler.
Jacek Koman (1956- ) - born in Bielsko-Biała, actor and the lead singer of the Melbourne band VulgarGrad.
Daniel Kowalski - (1975 - ) - born in Singapore former Australian middle- and long-distance swimmer specialising in freestyle events.
Peter Luczak - (1979 - ) born Warsaw, a professional tennis player for Australia.
Alicia Molik (1981 - ) - tennis player, Alicia was born in Adelaide to Poles parents Andrew and Teresa Molik.
James Podsiadly (1981- ) - Australian rules footballer for the Geelong Football Club
Cezary Skubiszewski (1949 - ) - born in Warsaw, an Australian composer for film, television and orchestra winner of multiple Australian Film Institute awards.
Dr Zygmunt "Ziggy" Edward Switkowski (1948- ) - Polish Australian businessman and nuclear physicist.
Magda Szubanski (1961 - ) - actress, comedian and writer. Born in England to Scottish mother Margaret and Polish father Zbigniew Peter. Internationally, best known for her performance as Esme Hoggett in the film Babe and its sequel Babe: Pig in the City, as well as her recurring character of Furlow on the television series Farscape. She is well-known to audiences for her writing and performing skills in several of Australia's most successful television comedy programs; more recently, she starred as Sharon Strzelecki in the highly successful television comedy show Kath & Kim.
David Wojcinski (1980 -) - Australian rules footballer for the Geelong Football Club
Prof. Jerzy B. Zubrzycki AO CBE (1920 - 2009) born in Krakow Australian sociologist, widely regarded as the "Father of Australian Multiculturalism"