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Komisji Edukacji Narodowej
Jubileusz 50-lecia Polskiej Macierzy Szkolnej
The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO [5.48 p.m.]:
On Saturday 7 May 2005 I had the pleasure of representing the Premier at the Polish Educational Society's fiftieth anniversary banquet at the Polish Club in Ashfield. Also present were Mr Henryk Dobrowolski Consul Republic of Poland; Mr Grzegorz Jopkiewicz from the Polish Consulate; Mr Jurek Krajewski, President of the Federation of Polish Organisations in NSW: Mrs Halina Szunejko, President of the Polish Organisation of Western Australia: Dr Bozena Szymanski, President of the Polish Education Commission of Australia; and Mrs Marysia Nowak, President of the Polish Educational Society. It was a great pleasure to represent the Premier and to join with members of the Polish community in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Polish Educational Society in New South Wales. The Polish Educational Society was established in New South Wales in 1955 to help co-ordinate Polish language teaching and encourage the maintenance of the Polish language by future generations.

The society aims to instil a love of the Polish language and heritage in young people through cultural activities, holiday camps and lessons in the Polish language. The society became incorporated in 1996. It is a member of the New South Wales Federation of Community Language Schools and also works closely with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training and the Community Language Schools Program. Among those present at the banquet were the founders of the society, representatives of Polish community organisations, teachers and former students of Polish Saturday schools. The society operates Saturday schools in the Sydney metropolitan area through the Community Language School Program. The schools are located at Ashfield, Bankstown, Marayong, North Ryde, Casula and Minto.

The Polish Educational Society advised that in 2005 there are approximately 200 primary school students and 100 high school students learning Polish in New South Wales. Approximately 20 students are undertaking Polish language studies as part of their Higher School Certificate this year. Natural history studies, exploration and the gold rush were all factors in the establishment of early links between Poland and Australia. The first contact between Poles and Australia occurred in 1696, when 10 citizens of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were part of the crew of Captain Willem Vlamingh's Dutch expedition which explored the Western Australia's coast.

The first Polish arrivals to Australia were a natural scientist and his son-the Forsters-Reinhold and George, who were members of the scientific staff of Captain Cook's second expedition on HMAS Resolution. The Polish presence in Australia dates from very early in the period of European settlement, the first definite record being that of a convict transported to Port Phillip in 1803, who subsequently became a successful farmer in Tasmania. A number of early Polish settlers in Australia were aristocratic refugees from Tsarist oppression, whilst others, mainly from the part of Poland then under German rule, were of agricultural background and established themselves as small farmers. In South Australia two such groups, principally from Silesia, constituted a distinct Polish cultural enclave, maintaining its own language, schooling, cuisine, music and architecture. The larger of those settlements endured until after the First World War, but then became largely assimilated into mainstream society.

Later, in 1839, Polish nobleman Paul Edmund Strzelecki arrived in Sydney and went on to discover gold near Bathurst and in Tasmania. Another group of Polish political refugees who came to Australia during the gold rush years comprised some 50 former Polish Legionaries who had fought alongside the Hungarians in the anti-Hapsburg revolution of 1848. Those men were largely university educated and made a contribution to the developing Australian society out of proportion to their numbers. Significant Polish migration to Australia began in the postwar period. Between 1947 and 1954 the Polish-born population increased more than eight times to 56,594. That first wave of Polish migrants have made their mark on communities across Australia. Many were refugees and displaced persons, seeking safety and a place to start again.

During the 1980s many younger people from Poland came to Australia equipped with professional or trade qualifications. In fact, the tradesperson who painted my house last year was a young man from Poland. Today, we in New South Wales reap the benefits of their expertise in business, technology and academic life. The Polish community is a large and important one in the multicultural mosaic that is New South Wales. At present, according to the 2001 census, some 44,000 people in New South Wales were recorded as having Polish ancestry. The Polish community has from the very early days of settlement made a significant contribution to Australia's civic and economic development.

We can find people of Polish heritage playing prominent roles in politics, business, sports and the arts. For example, explorers Sir Paul Edmund Strezelecki, who named Mount Kosciuszko during an expedition to the Snowy Mountains in 1840, and Dr Ludwick Bernstein, who explored the Australian Alps and named the Snowy River. The first director of the prestigious Australian Film and Television School in Sydney was Professor Jerzey Toeplitz, who held this position from 1973 to 1979. The Polish surnames of Australian swimming champions and Olympic medallists Michael Klim and Daniel Kowalski are household names throughout Australia. In business, the co-founders of the successful franchise The Cheesecake Shop, Robert and Warick Knopacki, are of Polish origin. And, of course, there is Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, who, along with the late Al Grassby, has been referred to as the architect of multiculturalism. There are, of course, many others of Polish heritage who have made a valuable contribution to the community.

The importance of cultural and linguistic maintenance cannot be understated, and I am well aware of the importance of the Polish language to the Polish community. I grew up in Cabramatta in the 1960s and 1970s and quite a few of my school friends were of Polish origin and went to Saturday school and learnt traditional dancing, and we all attended social functions at the White Eagle Hall. Learning a language and its culture assists family communication across the generations, and enables people of Polish background to maintain strong links with Polish speakers in Poland and other countries. This maintenance of Polish language and culture has broader implications for economic development and international trade in an increasingly globalised economy.

The valuable contribution of the Polish Priests of the Society of Christ needs to be mentioned as their pastoral role was of prime importance to the development of traditional Polish Catholicism among the younger generations. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mrs Marysia Nowak and all those who have put their time and effort into supporting the Polish Educational Society of New South Wales.




© Copyright 2004 Polish Educational Society in NSW Inc