Croatian Viewpoint
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A Pilloried Community Remembers

We awoke on New Year's Day 2004 to the news about the public release of the cabinet papers of the former Australian Prime Minister Whitlam, and about Whitlam's "greatest mistake", namely, about Lionel Murphy's 1973 ASIO raid being justified by an alleged governmental cover-up about Croatian terrorism in Australia. Justice needs to be served in view of the admission of this "mistake" and other damming evidence which has come to the attention of the public over the years about the innocence of Croatian refugees in Australia.
During the post WWII decades anti-Croatian propaganda could be traced to both the right or left of Australian politics, but it was the left which pursued a terrorizing campaign against Croats in Australia. The left's dedicated support and ideological adulation heaped on the Yugoslav Communist capital in Belgrade after WWII was always about more than foreign policy for the Australian Socialist Left and the Australian Communist Party--in unison with the totalitarian Yugoslav regime and its deadly secret police, the UDBA, the Left waged a campaign of psychological terror against Australian citizens of Croatian ancestry.
At the heart of the matter lies the basic fact that until the mid 1960s the majority of Croats arriving in Australia held political refugee papers. Successive post-war Australian governments who had benefited from the solicited labour of these Croatian refugees then betrayed them by denying them their identity. This betrayal in effect took the form of denial of Croatian claims against the Yugoslav regime they were in refuge from. Subsequently, and in direct response to this betrayal and official denial of their identity, Croatian people had no other option but to exercise their freedom of speech in protests in Australian streets, but to little avail.
The majority of people in Australia did not know of this betrayal and thus the injustice continued. Opportunities were never lost to associate Croatia or its people with the word terrorism, in spite of the fact that no criminal act in Australia was ever proven. On the contrary, Australian Croats experienced decades of slander in violation of their human rights. Unfounded allegations resulted in police raids on Croatian community and religious property, frame-ups, wrongful imprisonment. In addition anti-Croatian propaganda justified the spending of millions of taxpayers' dollars to serve the interest of the extreme left political agenda in Australian during the cold war period.  
But it was the machine-gun shooting into the crowd of Australian/Croatian demonstrators by a Yugoslav Consul in Sydney in 1988, seriously wounding an Australian-born teenager of Croatian ancestry, Josip Tokic, which forced the Australian Labour government to come to terms with the Yugoslav terrorism they themselves had nurtured.
After this shooting I wonder if the wider Australian public can begin to comprehend what kind of terror and fear the Australian Croatian people had suffered all these decades.
A generation of children of Croatian ancestry have been stigmatized. In the mainstream before the recognition of Croatian independence, young Australian-born people of Croatian ancestry often felt it easier to keep their ancestry to themselves during multicultural discussions at school or work, apart from staged folklore celebrations or soccer games. They were brought up amidst conflict between what they were taught and what was accepted, and what they heard in their home or community function. This lack of social inclusion left whole generations with a special bond when together, but many were also scarred with reduced self-esteem.
In an editorial in The Australian newspaper (July 1989) following the shooting of Josip Tokic, Barry Lowe's investigative journalism was analysed. The editorial suggested that the Croatian Australian community deserved an apology. This public expose of the sinister connections between ASIO and the former Yugoslav regime's secret police was never followed up with any formal or unofficial apology, legal inquiry, or affirmative action. It's time for justice to be served.
Post WWII massacres discussed in the film, Freedom From Despair included the murder of over 700 priests and Franciscans. Massacre sites were uncovered and eye witness accounts given. This immediate post-WWII period of communist Yugoslavia is known to Croats as the time of the Bleiburg Genocide, when hundreds of thousands of Croats were massacred. Ironically many Croatian communists or Croatian partisans had not escaped execution. One professor of communist political systems in Australia, J.Miller described the fanatical Yugoslav Central Committee before 1948 as "more Bolshevik than Bolsheviks" (La Trobe University, Lecture, 3 Aug 1989).
Jean Lunt Marinovic
January 2004
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