Chaplain: Fr. Davor Dominovic OFM
Telephone: 3700 4300
Website: Hrvatski Katolički Centar
See also Archdiocese of Brisbane
What was then called Yugoslavia, presently non-existent, was formed in 1918 from diverse units — the Croats, Serbs and Slovenes. World War II saw the country become what Tim Dare, author of “Australia, A Nation of Immigrants” called a “three-cornered slaughter-chamber” where about half of the 1.75 million inhabitants perished. The wars in the 1990s were almost a repetition of this. As Dare wrote, “Few countries which have contributed to Australia’s immigration programme have a history as turbulent as Yugoslavia’s, and few people are as diverse in their cultural heritage, religious beliefs and outlook as the Yugoslavs.”
Dare further wrote, “The Croats and Slovenes use Roman letters, but the Serbs and others from the south use the Cyrillic alphabet. One third of the Yugoslavs are Roman Catholics but about two-fifths are Orthodox, and one-eighth are Moslems.”
The first known Croatian settlers arrived in Australia in the 1890s coming mostly from the coastal and northern Croatia regions. Big numbers, however, arrived as post-war immigrants in the late 1950s and early ‘60s along with the Greeks, Italians, Hungarians, Germans, Dutch, etc.
The Croatians are mostly Roman Catholics. Their arrival soon necessitated the establishment of Chaplaincies to minister to the spiritual needs of those living in major cities including Brisbane.
Father Marko Djokmarkovic, an Albanian who fled Zagreb to seek political asylum in Austria, arrived in Australia in 1961 and became the first priest to minister to the Croatian Catholic community in Brisbane. While based in Villa Maria, Father Marko celebrated Mass in Croatian in different locations for ten years.
Father Vinko Kanizaj arrived in 1972 and was the first official priest to minister to the Croatian community after Father Marko. 1973 saw the formal establishment of the Croatian Catholic Community “Cardinal Stepinac” with the purchase of an old cinema hall in Salisbury for the purpose of religious and social activities. Over the years, the Croatian Catholic Centre has also been the focal point for community, social, cultural, educational, humanitarian and welfare activities. (In 1984, a second Croatian organisation was established — the Croatian Community Centre which based their operations on a 50- acre property in Rocklea purchased in the ‘70s by and for the Croatian Soccer Club. The property features a two-storey clubhouse and two full size soccer fields. The Centre was the major focal point for community activities during the 1991-96 wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina hosting many parliamentarians, diplomats and entertainers.)
Father Ivan Jurak arrived in 1975 to replace Father Vinko as Chaplain. Father Ivan served for a brief six months and had to leave when he became a target of bomb threats. This left the Community without a Chaplain from 1976 to 1979. However, Father Istvan Miklos, a Hungarian priest who speaks Croatian celebrated Mass for them.
At the request of the Community, Father Drago Prgomet arrived in 1979 to become their Chaplain. During his time, Father Drago started Mass in Labrador, Gold Coast.
Father Drago left for Sydney in 1989 and was replaced by Father Nicholas Zlatunic OFM who arrived in 1989. The Chaplaincy then moved to the premises owned by the Croatian Australian Association in Carina. In April 2000, the Chaplaincy moved to Buranda until the second half of 2004 when it finally settled back in Salisbury (85 Henson Road, Salisbury).
The Community in Brisbane has regular Croatian radio programs on Radio Station 4EB. They also have a newsletter (Cro-News), a community business guide, branches of various Croatian political organisations and government-funded community support workers servicing refugees, the elderly and those with mental illness.
In late 2016, after 27 years of ministry to the Croatian Community, Fr Nick Zlatunic OFM moved on to a new ministry. Fr. Davor Dominovic OFM is currently the Chaplain for the Croatian Community.
(Source: What’sUp? 2001 Vol 4 Issue 7, a newsletter of the Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care)