Interview With Zeljko Glasnovic – Croatian Diaspora MP

Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament
representing the Croatian Diaspora
Photo: SBS Radio and Television Australia


By Stjepan Ivan Mandic, Fenix Magazine

Translation into English: Ina Vukic

Croatians In the diaspora carry Croatia in their hearts.  Croatia must professionalise its administration and its public governance. It must have functional institutions that would implement laws. Independent judiciary that would guarantee safety in the administration of law must exist, Zeljko Glasnovic said.

Member of Croatian Parliament for Croatians living outside Croatia, retired Croatian Army (HV) and Croatian Defence Council (HVO) general Zeljko Glasnovic had recently spent two weeks visiting Australian Croatians. He led the tour of Australia, organised by Croatian Diasporan Voice Association, accompanied by other delegates from Croatia and was guest speaker at forums held in Melbourne, Geelong, Perth, Canberra and Sydney.

This interview was carried out with him after his return from Australia and in it General Glasnovic speaks about his meetings with Australian Croatians and about the impressions he brought back from there.

– Croatians in Australia are in a complete information blockade there. They are isolated because the Croatian media is constantly creating a perception of a situation that is not real, but false. Forums were organised and as part of these Jakov Sedlar’s film “Hundred years of Serbian terror in Croatia” was shown. Other guests were historian Igor Vukic who is systematically disassembling the myths about Jasenovac, publicist Josip Jurcevic and our best culturologist prof. Tomislav Sunic.

What did you speak about?

– I spoke about the state Croatia is in and the need to modernise the Croatian State, which is going very slowly. Given that the topic was “Croatia Uncensored” I too spoke without censure. And so, I also spoke about the Croatian diplomacy, which has so far been mostly inert. There has been no diplomacy for the economy nor have real conditions for people to return to Croatia been created. Unfortunately, it’s now coming to light that some of our diplomats were involved in criminal activities, and that was covered up and is still being covered up. It has to do with people who are anational, who have no feeling for the nation (state), who want to live a life of Monte Carlo style even though they have Balkan work habits. Nevertheless, the clearing away of such Yugoslav cadres is slowly progressing. I’ve heard that a lawsuit against an Ambassador for money expenditure is on the way and that lawsuits against the one who visited “public houses” and against the one who stole the furniture from the Sydney consulate and shipped it to his home in Croatia are also being prepared.

Which meeting had the most people attending?

– More or less all meetings were well attended. But, Sydney had the biggest number people. I gave a considerable number of statements and interviews, one of which was in English, for those who do not possess enough knowledge of the Croatian language to understand why we came there.

In the reports that came through there was a mention that you were the first member of the Croatian Parliament to officially visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra?

– Yes, I took part in the Last Post Ceremony there and solemnly laid a wreath as sign of respect and remembrance for the members of the Croatian and Australian armed forces who participated in past wars and today’s conflicts across the world. On that occasion I handed over a gift of the commemorative plaque of the HVO First Brigade Ante Bruno Busic, which attracted significant attention and respect as expressed by one of the Australian War Memorial heads. In my statement for the media I said that the fact that we have no central memorial for all Croatian war victims who have fallen, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Austrian and Italian borders, is a tragedy for Croatia. I think that it’s a historical disgrace that, unlike other civilised countries that respect their dead and make the effort of burying their remains with the greatest of military honours, not one single Croatian government has even attempted to compile an official list of fallen Croatian soldiers from the First and the Second World Wars.

Zeljko Glasnovic at
the Australian War Memorial, September 2018
standing in front the War Memorial’s exhibit
of Tom Starcevich, Australian Victoria Cross recipient of Croatian descent

What do you think are the main deficiencies in the non-functioning of the Croatian state apparatus?

– Croatia must professionalise its administration and its public governance. It must have functional institutions that would implement laws. Independent judiciary that would guarantee safety in the administration of law must exist. There is nothing without safety in the administration of law. And that is where we must start. Unfortunately, the old Balkan brigand saying, which says ‘work little steal hard’, has remained in the Croatian blood. They take pleasure from deceiving the country. However, the biggest barrier for Croatia as a country is the communist mental heritage. It has completely demolished the moral and ethical values of the Croatian society, as does the Croatian media that systematically blocks all critical news. There is no democratically Christian and truly conservative media in Croatia. We do not have a truly Croatian television or something that would connect Croatians from the diaspora to the homeland. Recently, the state television has commenced broadcasting the so-called Fifth channel for Croatians outside the homeland. And all one can see there are repeats of old opuses and series but there are no concrete things to address the questions for the Croatian emigration such as postal voting, getting rid of double taxation etc.

Why is it so?

– Because the left and the right UDBA wing doesn’t want that. Because they want to remain endangered by the Croatian émigrés, they’re scared of their monetary power and the knowledge they have accumulated while living abroad, in the world. And these people (living abroad) carry Croatia in their hearts. The Croatian diaspora is the largest business branch that invests into Croatia every year more that the whole lot of the foreign investments. It was like that during the 1970’s and it is so today. Croatians from the diaspora are as undesirable in the homeland just as, I often say, a Pork steak is at a Jewish wedding. But, it can’t go on like this for much longer. Croatians in the diaspora need not despair but fight for Croatia and for their own people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because, if it wasn’t for Croatians from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the four Croatian Defence Council (HVO) assembly regions we would not have a Croatian state today.

Australian Labor Party Should Apologise For Persecutions of Croatians

“It’s Time”
by John Ovcaric

It would seem that Tony Jones recently plagiarised a Yugoslav era work of Propaganda titled “Dvadeseti čovjek” (the Twentieth Man) written by “Đorđe Ličina” and while we sit and read this in astonishment, Jones, who obviously must be suffering some form of writer’s block let alone dementia has the gumption to think that this will go un-noticed? Well no it isn’t, and this isn’t the most alarming factor here so let’s try again.

Perhaps it’s because he is supposedly writing about a situation that had passed all legal burning hoops and is undeniable in its accuracy? Sorry still no cigar, shall we try again?
OK, how about, not only does he appear to have plagiarised someone else’s propaganda, and not only are the supposed facts unfounded by lawful process, but that he laces into the plot fictional characters which only serves to subliminally cement in the readers mind that this work of semi fiction is based on fact?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, we are getting close.

It’s actually all of the above and much more, but, he is perpetuating a smear campaign against a segment of the Australian community who have spent the last century battling conspiracy and injustice designed to deliver cultural genocide at the hands of what many now realise, but dare not admit, was as evil a regime as that of either Pol Pot or Idi Amin.

The fascinating reality is that like some cursed undead creature from the grave, this regime and its political secret service continue to campaign against us in a modern Western society let alone within the shadows of the modern political corridors of the Croatian parliament in Zagreb at this very moment.

But what Tony Jones is doing, which I will take a leap of faith and define in a few moments, reaches back further than many of us would care to remember and which some of us reading this may be too young to.

In the 1960’s, Broz Josip Tito, after his break with the Soviet Union of the 1950’s, realised that in order for his abomination Yugoslavia to survive, had to peel back the Yugoslav Iron Curtain and allow unthinkable numbers of the regime’s citizens out so as they could work and inadvertently fund the country through their earnings, Dad goes off to work in Germany and sends Deutsche Marks home strategy.

The exodus of citizens, namely from Croatia made their way not only to Germany and other like European economic powerhouses but far further flung places globally, consequently the benefit economically gained from doing so for the regime was counted by a new problem, these economic workers now joined with political exiles and Croatian nationalism and the fight against the tyranny of Yugoslav communist rule was fueled.

Such was the concern that estimates put the number of workers allowed out from behind the curtain near the end of the 1960’s to be in the vicinity of 600,000, a number based on declassified CIA documents of the era, and of greater concern, as also discussed in these CIA reports was the fact that the Yugoslav Secret Services (UDBA) could not keep track of their movements.

During this time, the CIA was dealing with a host of communist actions globally, Vietnam, the growing threat of communism spreading through other parts of Asia, not to mention South America, were key focal points for the U.S. administrations of the day, of equal focus in Australia’s back yard was the expansion of communism into the Pacific region and as a result, and as later exposed in a number of Royal Commissions, ASIO actively worked with the CIA in numerous Black Operations globally in the good fight.

No, I haven’t forgotten Tony Jones, bear with me, the enigma will all come together shortly.

Ok, back to Tito’s mobsters the UDBa, the 60’s apart from being a drug induced footnote in modern global history was also a time of incredible political psychedelia, the Yugoslav government of the day, which played a very similar if not identical game to the Serb’s of today, played West against East for its own gain.

As reported in several CIA and ASIO intelligence reports for the time, the West’s socialist “Stick that up your backside Stalin” pin up boy Broz tried to conjure the West to assist in monitoring its citizens and dissidents globally, Foreign Governments of the day however had more pressing business to attend to.

Ok, quiz question time. You are a foreign Government, concerned about your dictatorship and a potential revolt internally fuelled by Nationalists in exile, inadvertently you had the bright idea to tell the Soviet Union in the 1950’s to go shove the hammer and sickle up their collective Politburo orifices and opened the doors up to allow 600,000 of your citizens to work outside your borders to raise money, and now your global buddies from WW2 are too busy fighting the good fight against your very own kind elsewhere to help as your eyes and ears in their own backyards – what would you do?

If you answered as follows, big elephant stamp for you.

What you do is create a threat, spread misinformation, conduct black op or black flag operations in other sovereign states under the guise that such actions are being perpetuated by the same dissidents you asked your buddies to keep an eye on, you send in agents who infiltrate the immigrant population and either set in play black flag operations or collect information on those individuals while proudly acting as one of them.

And then if you’re really smart, you infiltrate the Governments of those nations and manipulate them so as to either use or draw information from their security agencies.

By the start of the early 1970’s Australian politics was moving away from the decades old conservative governance, which had existed under the Menzies era. Consequently, Australian’s were questioning our alliance with the United States particularly in light of our involvement in Vietnam, let’s not forget also that it wasn’t uncommon for a Prime minister to dip a toe in the water, go for a leisurely swim and disappear, times were changing and the left of politics in Australia were looking North towards new potential trading partners and regional players.

Times were a changing, and this gave rise to Gough Whitlam’s campaign theme of 1972.

“It’s Time”

Edward Gough Whitlam was swept into power based on a sway in the Australian public’s perception of decades of conservative governance that was no longer being in touch with a modern Australia both politically and socially, and the growing involvement of Australia in global affairs (Read Vietnam), which they believed the United States was dragging Australia into. Behind the scenes, this perception was true as ASIO was secretly working with the CIA without the Australian Governments knowledge as would later be revealed in a number of Royal Commissions.

Attorney-General Lionel Murphy upon entering his role with the new Government in Canberra was so suspect of ASIO that he had his offices in the old parliament building swept for surveillance and phone bugs numerous times, his and Whitlam’s suspicions were correct in that ASIO had become as powerful within the Australian political scene as that of the CIA in the U.S. equivalent.

Dr Jim Cairns who had held a number of portfolios during the course of the Whitlam Governments reign completed what would become for Croatians in Australia the Unholy Trinity of the Labor Government of the day, with Murphy’s focus on ASIO, Whitlam’s overtures to China and Cairns support of the Anti-Vietnam movement, the stage was set for a showdown and years later, as CIA documents would justify, the Australian Government of the day, leftist in its views and abhorrent to its partnership with the U.S. became the focus of an angered CIA and subsequently the British equivalent in MI5.

What connected the Croatian community in Australia to all this was the simple fact that the Whitlam Government of the day, for all its perceived foresight and vision for a modern Australia, was playing straight into the hands of foreign influence and as I previously mentioned foreign concerns. It was Yugoslavia and it’s UDBa that saw opportunities in Australia to indeed infiltrate the Government and use its security agency, namely ASIO, as its pseudo secret police force on Australian soil.

What transpired as this uneasiness grew resulted in what is dubbed the “ASIO Raid” and the Croatian community in Australia was flung into this international web of intrigue.

On the 15th of March 1973, Attorney-General Lionel Murphy and senior Commonwealth Police officers forcibly entered ASIO’s headquarters in Melbourne as a result of Murphy’s suspicions that ASIO was withholding information on terrorist threats and undermining the newly elected Whitlam government.

The Yugoslav Prime Minister was due to visit Australia and there were concerns that local Croatian dissidents were planning to assassinate him. Due to post WW2 propaganda, these dissidents were labelled as “Ustashe” and the remnants of the Croatian movement of that time that had been allied with Germany in World War Two and had active networks in Australia.

Dreaming of overthrowing Tito’s communist regime, “Ustasha” supporters were implicated in bombing Yugoslav diplomatic buildings and social clubs throughout Australia in the 1960s and 70s. In 1962 and 1973 they launched unsuccessful military raids into then Yugoslavia.

But ASIO was relatively indifferent to this perceived terrorist threat and was chiefly concerned with Soviet espionage and the perceived menace from that quarter of the time being communist subversion. The NSW Police Force had presumptively uncovered evidence that a Ustasha group planned to assassinate the Yugoslav Prime Minister, which was passed through the Commonwealth Police to Murphy, but ASIO denied knowledge of these threats.

Not trusting ASIO’s assurances that they had no information to support these concerns about assassination threats, the Attorney-General entered their Melbourne headquarters on St. Kilda road and declared to the ASIO staff that “it is our policy to bring open government to Australia” and demanded to know if they had been hiding information from him. Murphy questioned the officers for hours while Commonwealth Police carted off documents.

It is the question as to what occurred to those documents while in their care that has always plagued me and a recent piece I wrote on a UDBa document GHD (Croatian Diasporan Voice – Glas hrvatske dijaspore) recovered from Belgrade which clearly shows my father’s file number next to his name “X.2257” and which I believe to be an ASIO file reference that leads me to think this information was passed on to Yugoslav authorities.

So much has been uncovered since the 16th of March 1973 as to the involvement of both Yugoslav consulate staff and undercover UDBa agents during that time and their infiltration into both the Australian Government and their service arms and the Croatian community that it bewilders me to this day that a blind eye has been cast and a total lack of reflection on their activities maintained while the perpetuation of untruths continues, Tony Jones and his comic strip paperback being a prime example of this attitude.

For the Croatian people, Australian Citizens in every respect of the term, what transpired as a result of these raids is despicable. Personal threats both known and clandestine continued for years, the naming of names in the media of Croatian Australian Citizens being terrorists and war criminals would be unthinkable in this day and age, Jim Cairns stating under parliamentary protection in the old Parliament House that every man, woman and child of Croatian heritage should be returned to Yugoslavia as war criminals and terrorists is incomprehensible.

Yet it did deliver us one crucial thing in spades, fortitude, fortitude to continue the struggle with greater focus and depth of conviction and this was never more apparent than at the outbreak of the 1990’s war in Croatia when we rallied to the cry.

Eventually the Whitlam Government came into disrepute, Dr Jim Cairns was uncovered for his affair with Junie Morosi, we watched The Loans Affair unfurl as the political scandal involving the Whitlam Government demonstrated how they attempted to unconstitutionally borrow money from Middle Eastern countries through the agency of Pakistani banker Tirath Khemlani, bypassing standard procedures of the Australian Treasury. Minerals and Energy Minister Rex Connor, along with Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Jim Cairns misled Parliament and were forced from the Whitlam Cabinet over the Affair, and finally The Dismissal itself instigated by Sir John Kerr then Governor General of Australia with an ever towering and defiant Gough Whitlam declaring on the steps of the old Parliament House “Well may they say, God save the Queen, for nothing will save the Governor General!”

It wasn’t the Governor General as such at the time as it was the CIA, ASIO and Yugoslavia’s UDBa that ushered in the eventual fall of his Government.

“Yes! Yes! I know! Tony Jones, I’m getting there”

Tony Jones and his current likely plagiarised book “The 20th man” reflects much on the circumstances of that era based on propaganda and the effects of inter-government manipulation and espionage facilitated by unseen interests, where it fails is that it is a perpetuation of lies and deceit and delivers any potential reader a skewed view of history based on those premises.

But Tony is just a small pin in the greater machine that we thought had come to a grinding halt when Prime minister Paul Keating stood up in Federal Parliament, in January 1992, and recognised the Modern State of Croatia as a sovereign nation when in our darkest hour under attack we looked to the world for affirmation. To me that moment defined the crowning accomplishment of the Australian Croatian Community and justified our struggle, but it didn’t and never will justify what we were subjected to.

We cry for Lustration in our matriarchal homeland, yet is it paramount that this action must start in the heartland we call the Diaspora, our Diaspora, our Australia.

John Ovcaric

I put it to every reader that just as Prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised to indigenous Australians back in 2007 for the indiscretions imposed upon them as a culture, that we, as persecuted Australian Citizens of the day are as deserving of such an apology from the current Labor Party on behalf of their leaders in the Whitlam Government of 1973.

I call upon you, the reader, to deny Tony Jones his moment in the sun and send him back to the crypt of corruption deceit and treachery from whence the material he writes about came from.

I call upon every Croat, every Australian born citizen with a drop of Croatian blood running through their veins to protest the malicious play of words in the “20th Man”.

I call upon every one of you who read this to commit to signing a petition to the Attorney General of Australia and to the leader of the Labor Opposition calling upon him to apologise in Federal Parliament on behalf of his party and its predecessors to the Croatian community.

I call upon the Government of the day to release all documents highlighting and exposing the affairs of the Government of the day in its dealings with the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and to enter into Lustration, providing the Australian public with details of all information of a personal or communal nature that was transmitted to the FSRY.

Finally, I call upon the same Government to bear pressure on the Republic of Croatia to also Lustrate and reveal through the opening of its FSRY files all information collected and used against both Australian Croatians and their families under siege at that time in Croatia.

Lustration starts in Australia, and as the campaign slogan of the ALP in 1972 stated, “It’s Time”

I would urge you all to speak to your loved ones of that time, learn the stories of what we endured and then take a moment to visit the following Australian Human Rights Commission page which clearly compliments and demonstrates our rights which in my opinion are retrospective and applicable to the circumstances of the 1970’s.…/racial-vilification-law-au

Interview With Dr Andrew Theophanous – Croatia’s Independence 25 Years On

Dr Andrew Theophanous 16 January 1992 in Sydney The Day Australia Recognised Croatia as Independent and sovereign state

Dr Andrew Theophanous
16 January 1992 in Sydney
The Day Australia Recognised
Croatia as Independent and Sovereign State


An interview by Ina Vukic with Dr Andrew Theophanous, a former member of Australian parliament for 21 years, whose ardent support for the international recognition of Croatian independence was of key importance during the early 1990’s. In 1996 Croatia’s president Dr Franjo Tudjman awarded Dr Theophanous with a Medal of Honor – the Order of the Croatian Interlace, an award bestowed upon foreign and domestic nationals for their distinguished contribution to the development and reputation of the Republic of Croatia and the welfare of her citizens.



  • This year, 2016, will mark 25 years since Croatia declared on 25 June 1991 independence from former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia and in the eyes of Australian Croatians you stood as one of Australian heroes and champions that supported Croatia’s plight for secession from communist Yugoslavia. Could you tell us what were some of your main political and moral beliefs that led you to actively support and lobby for independence of Croatia as a Member of Australian Parliament at the time?

In my federal electorate of Calwell, there were many Croatian people. In the years before 1991, I became quite close to the Croatian community and recognized their concern for an independent country – given their cultural differences with the other states of former Yugoslavia. At that time, Croatian identity was not approved of in Australia; notwithstanding this, I supported funding for Croatian programs. I came under criticism because there had been a smear over the very idea of Croatian identity. I have always been a supporter of freedom and the right of different cultural groups to have significant and meaningful levels of self-determination.
Naturally enough as events unfolded in former Yugoslavia, it became clear that the movement for Croatian independence needed support within parliamentary circles. So together with several colleagues in both the Labor party and the Liberal party, we formed the Parliamentary Group in order to support this claim for independence. WE did this while, at the same time, sticking within the rules of parliamentary procedure. We were prepared to undertake various activities to promote this cause and we certainly did. I must say though that, when we began this, I never realized the enormity of the task facing us, the problems we would encounter and the exciting events that would follow.



  • In August 1991 you were a member of a group of Members of Australian Parliament who formed the “Federal Parliamentarians For Croatia and Slovenia” Friendship Group. While your book “Understanding Multiculturalism and Australian Identity”, first published in 1995 by Elikia Books, speaks of pathways to Australia recognizing Croatia and Slovenia as independent states could you summarise the circumstances and central aims for the formation of this group within the Australian Parliament?

Actually I was the founding Chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Croatia and Slovenia. In 1991, events in former Yugoslavia were becoming very dramatic. The Croatian community had approached me about the importance of doing something to promote the cause of Croatian independence within parliament. Together with the secretary of the Group, Mr Paul Filing (who was a Liberal MP), we decided around that time to form the Group and we encouraged MPs and Senators to join and a significant number did so.
However there also was a lot of reticence by many MPs because of the smears that had been made for years against the Croatian community. As Chairman of the Group, I myself came under very heavy criticism from some MPs who were ferociously opposed to the idea of Croatian independence. Nevertheless we persisted and we began making representations, collecting information and building links with the Croatian community.

It was because of my position as Chairman of the Group and the impact we were having in parliament that there followed a dramatic series of events. This began in June 1991, when Croatian community leaders Antun Babic and Tom Bosnjak came to my electoral office in Melbourne and presented me with an official letter from President Tudjman inviting me to visit Croatia to see the situation for myself and to express support for the Croatian people. This was at the time when Croatia was being bombed by the Yugoslav forces and the situation was quite dangerous. Nevertheless I undertook that trip and I was the first MP from the West to make such a visit. I had important meetings with President Tudjman and other key members of the Croatian Government. Many other dramatic events occurred after that.
I remained as Chairman of the Parliamentary Group until March 1993 when I became Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Paul Keating and therefore member of the executive government – when I was no longer eligible to hold the post. However, as you are aware, I continued as a very active member of the Group for many years after that – Indeed until I left parliament in 2001.

Dr Andrew Theophanous and Mr Paul Keating (Prime Minister of Australia), 1996 launch of Dr Theophanous' book "Understanding Multiculturalism and Australian Identity"

Dr Andrew Theophanous and
Mr Paul Keating (Prime Minister of Australia), 1996 launch of
Dr Theophanous’ book
“Understanding Multiculturalism and Australian Identity”

  • In your book “Understanding Multiculturalism and Australian Identity”, you refer to the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the lobby of the Croatian community in Australia and how as war-related events unraveled there the “Australian foreign policy was increasingly directed towards giving greater priority to events in that region.” How did you personally, as Member of the Australian Parliament experience any lobbying that may have come your way at the time from the Australian Croatian community?

As I have indicated, my personal experience in relation to the submissions and lobbying of the Australian Croatian community resulted in a dramatic series of events – beginning with my visit to Croatia during the war in June 1991. I remember very clearly that night when we entered Zagreb ; the whole city was completely dark and all you could hear was distant bombing from the Yugoslav forces. It was a very eerie situation. Notwithstanding the dangerous circumstances, I was very warmly received by President Tudjman and several key officials including Dr Zdravko Tomac Deputy Premier of Croatia, Mr Stipe Mesic, Dr Zarko Domijan, President of the Parliament of Croatia, and Dr Zvonimir Separovic, Foreign Minister of Croatia.

There were a number of important meetings in which I was briefed on the situation. It was emphasised by all these leaders that the recognition of Croatia as an independent country by other countries was the most urgent matter. I undertook to do whatever I could to support this. During my short stay, I visited several places, which had been destroyed by the bombing of Zagreb, and I spoke many times in support of the Croatian people on the television news. I made some notes of the various meetings; the most important such note related to my meeting with President Tudjman. I now wish to quote from part of my note on that dramatic meeting:

“Dr Tudjman said that he was very disappointed by the response of the world community to the cries of Croatia for independence and self-determination. The cries of independence for other Republics, such as the Baltic States, had been recognised. A referendum had been made by the people of Croatia and over 90 percent of the people had expressed their desire to be a separate state.
Notwithstanding all of that, he had proceeded cautiously -preferring to discuss the issues over and over, rather than to move hastily and to be provocative. Unfortunately, all that these delays and his response had done, according to the President, was to give time for the Serbian held armed forces to move effectively in their attempts to seize territory and create the Greater Serbia.
Dr Tudjman was very disappointed with the failure of the Europeans to come to a coherent view and to move to either achieve some kind of peacekeeping force or to recognise the Republics of Slovenia and Croatia, and thereby give them the chance to defend themselves from what he perceived to be the outside attack of the Yugoslav armed forces.
The President enumerated many of the recent incidents – which other people I had spoken to had also enumerated. In particular, he had serious concerns about the attempts to take the war to civilian population, through shelling of villages.
Dr Tudjman also reiterated that Croatia was ready – as part of the package for its recognition – to give full commitment by legislative, constitutional and in terms of the administration, to the protection of the human rights of the Serbian minority. He denied the claims that had been put about by President Milosevic of Serbia that the Serbians had been attacked or provoked in any way in the current crisis”.

Further developments took place in Croatia in the next 18 months. During that time, I visited Croatia on two more occasions and had the honour of meeting President Tudjman again on those occasions. I reported all these meetings to the Australian Government and to major rallies of Croatian people in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and other places in Australia. These rallies were very important because in this way , we brought increasing pressure for the recognition of Croatia.


  • Australia was one of the first non-European countries to recognise Croatia as a sovereign and independent state on 16 January 1992, and indeed, I recall your announcement of the fact at a gala function held by the Croatian community at the Regent Hotel Sydney the same evening. Could you please share with us any conversation you may have had with the Australian Prime Minister on that day?

Prime Minister Keating rang me at 5 am in that morning; the decision had been taken very late in the night by the Cabinet. I was probably the first person outside of the Cabinet in Australia to know what had happened . Prime Minister Keating knew of, and respected, my interest and dedication to this cause. He wanted me to be able to convey this news to the Croatian community. I immediately rang the President of the Croatian Federation and several other major Croatian community leaders to tell of the news.
I was very happy to be able to announce the news at the function. This was a remarkable achievement of the Croatian community and the Parliamentary Group. It should be remembered that there was considerable opposition within parliament to this step taken by the Keating government. This is because there was still the idea in the foreign ministries of Australia and of the United States that they should still attempt to keep Yugoslavia together – rather than to recognize the march of history and the necessity for the Croatian people to have their independence. As it was the Parliamentary Group and the Croatian community in Australia were extremely happy. We certainly celebrated that night in Sydney.


  • Croatian immigrants have settled well, contributed notably to and assimilated into the Australian multicultural life, how valuable for this assimilation to occur do you think Australian government’s multicultural policy has been?

There is no doubt the Australian Multicultural policy has played a major role in the integration of the Croatian community into Australian society. As you are aware, I played a very active role in promoting the correct understanding of the philosophy and practice – especially through the book that you have referred to in your earlier questions. This book was officially launched by Prime Minister Keating in December 1995. I believe the Croatian community has been a very good example of how multiculturalism should proceed in this nation. The key features of multicultural philosophy are present in their approach. On the one hand, we need to respect the foundations of Australian society – including our laws and our democratic processes. On the other hand, we also need to provide the facility for people of different cultural backgrounds to express and retain their cultural traditions. The generation of Croatian Australians who fought for independence also put into place many programs and activities to retain the presence of Croatian culture within the Australian multicultural society. It is now important for the younger generation to continue this work and this tradition.

Order of Croatian Interlace Awarded to Dr Andrew Theophanous, 1996

Order of Croatian Interlace
Awarded to Dr Andrew Theophanous, 1996

  • At the time of the conflict in Croatia, as Member of Parliament for Calwell, you were also a member of the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration and you instigated some initiatives at the time in the humanitarian field for refugees and displaced persons who, in their hundreds of thousands, found themselves in Croatia in dire needs for assistance. Could you describe some of the work or initiatives brought by that Committee in early 1990’s?

Actually during those years of the conflict, I was also Chairman of the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration. That Committee, together with the Labor Party’s own Committee on Immigration (which I also headed), brought in several key initiatives. One of these was to implement a special humanitarian program for refugees coming from the conflict of the nations of former Yugoslavia.
The majority of people who took advantage of this program were Croatians and Bosnians – although there were also some Serbian people escaping from the Milosevic regime. This was a very significant program because it created a precedent. It was part of my philosophy that there should be special programs of this kind to deal with emergencies and special circumstances when large numbers of refugees were created in a specific part of the world. There have been very few such programs in Australian migration history. Unfortunately in the last 20 years or so there have hardly been any – even though the refugee problems have dramatically increased.
It was wonderful to see Croatian people arriving and telling us their stories: people who had been traumatised by the war, especially Croatian community members who had been living in Bosnia where the conflict became much more bloody and extended over a much longer period than did the battle for Croatian independence. I am pleased to say that those people who came under this program have participated well in the Australian community and made a significant contribution.


  • You had been a Member of Australian Parliament for over 21 years to 2001. Having in mind the personal commitment to freedom and democracy that you demonstrated in the case for Croatia’s independence during 1990’s what do you believe that a country which has transitioned out of the communist regime as Croatia has, should in its political ideology, which in turn influences public administration and consumer rights, have achieved by the end of its first quarter of century in democracy and independence?

The first and most important achievement in these first 25 years is the establishment in Croatia of the general idea of democracy, including the principles of human rights and the constitutional structures of democracy. Croatia has managed to achieve this in a reasonable way. Obviously there are difficulties at the moment because the current government is based primarily on a coalition of political parties. However this point should not be overstated; indeed this seems inevitable in the light of the European tradition to have a multitude of parties. However it is important that the situation not get out of control, so as to make the achievement of stable government too difficult.
A second major achievement has been the entry of Croatia into the European union. It was a great feat that Croatia managed this in such a short period of time. However Croatia needs to be very careful not to enter into the EURO system – at least not until major reforms are made to that system.
There are many major challenges facing Croatia in the future; I consider two of these to be major issues. Firstly, there is the need for the modernization of the economy – to introduce a higher level of technology, especially in the areas of industry, infrastructure and IT. Education needs to be upgraded with a focus on these technologies and the skills required to achieve these goals. Only in this way can the challenges of the 21st century be met. It is also important for Croatia to encourage investment in a whole series of industries, especially in manufacturing and in IT development. As I have already indicated, this requires the participation of the Croatian Diaspora to bring their knowledge and skills gained overseas for the service of the Croatian nation; they also need to assist in bringing more financial investment into Croatia. That the economy can pick up and modernize is already illustrated by the significant and substantial success of the Croatian tourist industry.
Secondly, there is a need for reform of the public service in Croatia. From the era of the early days of the Yugoslavian regime, Croatian society unfortunately adopted some archaic practices in relation to the operations of the public service. There is thus a substantial need to overcome the excessive bureaucracy in the public service and this will require significant reforms.
My comments here are intended to be positive suggestions in relation to achieving a bright future for Croatia. I believe that it is possible to build on the fundamental strength of the Croatian nation; this strength is reinforced because of the spirit and determination of the Croatian people themselves – who are aiming to make the new nation great. I believe that they will succeed.

Dr Andrew Theophanous February 1993 speaks at the celebration of the opening of Croatian Diplomatic and Consular Missions In Australia

Dr Andrew Theophanous
February 1993 speaks at
the celebration of the opening
of Croatian Diplomatic and Consular Missions
In Australia

  • What was your opinion of Dr Franjo Tudjman as a statesman and leader when it comes to achieving independence from a totalitarian communist regime as Yugoslavia was? What were the moments you remember best spent in Dr Franjo Tudjman’s company?

In all I had four meetings with President Tudjman – three in Croatia and one when he came to Australia for an official visit. I remember well that occasion, especially the enormous reception he received from thousands of Croatians in a huge stadium in Melbourne. I was also very honored by the reception the Croatian community gave to me on that occasion.
There is no doubt President Tudjman was one of the great leaders of the twentieth century. He showed courage and wisdom in the way he dealt with so many issues during that time of crisis. The following observations from my notes on the first meeting in June 1991 indicated to me that, while strongly backing Croatian independence, he was also a man who believed in peace and justice:
“I indicated to President Tudjman our concern, and the concern of the very large number of people of Croatian background in Australia, as to what was happening. I explained that it was the Australian Government’s intention to try to see an amicable resolution of the crisis and, as soon as possible, an end to the fighting. He was aware of the initiative of our government in taking the matter to the United Nations and he thanked Australia for that – and in particular for the efforts of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.
He was keen to see the matter achieve greater international prominence because he believed that much of what was happening was not really understood by the outside world. In this context, the President said that he was happy that the matter had gone to the United Nations. He was happy to give assurances to the Secretary General of the United Nations and to anyone else at the United Nations with respect to the Serbian minority. Finally he appealed to Australia to assist by recognising Croatia.”

Finally there was one event which has remained with me as a lasting memory. In the middle of this one hour discussion at th Presidential palace on that June day , the SIRENS began all over the city of Zagreb warning of a Yugoslav air strike. President Tudjman said to me that all his staff and myself would have to go down into the underground shelter below the Presidential building. I said, “Mr President, surely you are coming as well”. He said “ I am not going to allow this dictatorship in Belgrade to intimidate me. I am the President and I will stay in my presidential suite”. So we both stayed there and continued our discussions while the sires roared. This to me spoke volumes about the measure of the man.


  • You visited Croatia during 1990’s, what were some of the impressions you took away with you after leaving it?

I have already spoken of my impressions in 1991 during the struggle for independence. I also visited in December 1991 and in 1992. In 1996, President Tudjman presented me with a certificate for my work for the Croatian cause. I also visited Croatia in 1998. On that occasion, I was awarded Croatia’s medal of honour.
In November 2000, I undertook an official visit. By this time, President Tudjman had died and Mr Stipe Mesic had been elected President of Croatia. There had been a significant political shift and Croatia had now changed through a democratic process to a government without the HDZ. The new government also showed great respect for my work. In a televised meeting at the presidential palace, President Mesic greeted me and personally thanked me for the work that I had done for Croatia and the Croatian people over the years, and he said that “the Croatian nation will never forget the contribution which you have made, nor will I”.
You asked about my impressions of Croatia in those years. In the first years after independence, President Tudjman tried to reform Croatia towards a modern democracy. However he was much preoccupied with the continuing struggle in Bosnia, where the conflict became disastrous – with tens of thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. It was important for the Croatian community in Bosnia to be protected. In the end the ‘peace’ that was achieved through the Dayton agreement was very fragile and the tensions in Bosnia continued until Dr Tudjman died and indeed continue to this day.
It seems that, in the final years of the reign of President Tudjman, some developments took place involving certain people and policies, which led the Croatian people to vote for a change of government. There are several theories as to why this happened; my knowledge of these issues is limited. As I have indicated under question 7, even today there are serious challenges facing Croatia. However I am very confident that these can be overcome and Croatia can play a significant role in Europe and the world.
10. Significant economic power of the Australian-Croatian diaspora has been proven over and over again through humanitarian aid and purchase of premises across Australia for the establishment of diplomatic/consular missions, not to speak of individual investors of which there have been several. Are there some special tricks do you think that Croatia could pick up on in rejuvenating the strength of its relationship with its diaspora – a relationship that has grown somewhat stale?

I think that it is rather sad that, in view of the fact that the Croatian people in the United States, Canada and Australia made such a contribution to achievement of independence and the creation of the modern nation of Croatia, that the diaspora Croatians have not in recent times been given sufficient roles within the government, the public service, the universities and other structures of the Croatian nation. It should be noted that those countries in Eastern Europe who have given a significant role to their Diasporas have actually strengthened themselves economically, intellectually and at artistic and cultural levels.
What is important in this process is that both sides must respect each other. Diaspora Croatians returning to their original country should respect the sensitivities of the population at home and understand the problems which they face. The Diaspora people must try to ensure that new approaches that they are bringing are explained and are demonstrated as being positive and substantial through real evidence. On the other hand, the people and government within Croatia should acknowledge that often the Diaspora Croatians can bring high levels of skills and knowledge in economics, politics, social development, infrastructure, IT and the Internet. These skills should be accepted as potentially making a substantial contribution to nation; these people generally have enormous goodwill and love for Croatia. The Croatian government can do more to encourage cooperation and dialogue between the Croatian Diaspora (especially Australian Croatians) and the people in the home country. In this way, Croatians around the world can help the nation overcome its current problems and look forward to a much brighter future.

From left: Mr Marko Franovic (a distinguished Sydney based businessman), Ina Vukic and Dr Andrew Theophanous Sydney, June 2016

From left: Mr Marko Franovic (a distinguished Sydney based businessman), Ina Vukic and Dr Andrew Theophanous
Sydney, June 2016


  • Is there anything you would like to add with regards to your work for Croatian independence, or perhaps a message for people of Croatian descent living abroad?

I have already spoken above about the struggle for Croatian independence and I have also made some suggestions, which I believe can assist in the further development of Croatia. My message to people of Croatian descent living abroad (especially in Australia) is: firstly try to do whatever you can within the context of multicultural Australia to continue to support and develop the Croatian culture here. In so doing, it is important to teach the children about the great heritage and culture of Croatia – which goes back a thousand years. Croatia has remarkable a remarkable history over all those years; there are many wonderful archaeological sites and many stories that can be told about Croatia. This lovely country has developed its distinctive music, its art and literature and its great leaders with their amazing achievements. In my view, Croatian Australians should take advantage of the many forums that are available within multicultural Australia to promote their distinctive culture and heritage. The cultural diversity of Australia already encompasses Croatian culture; but this must be further acted upon.
Secondly, Croatian Australians can play a bigger role in promoting links between Australia and Croatia. Furthermore, as I have already indicated in my previous answer, the Diaspora can play a very significant role in supporting Croatia by taking their skills and their knowledge back to the original homeland; not only can they contribute their skills, they can also transfer their capital and build new enterprises there.
I want to thank Ina Vukic for this interview. I have fond memories of all that I have shared together with the Croatian community. Now that I am living in Sydney, I look forward to reconnecting with the Croatian community here. As I have said for so many years: Živjela Hrvatska. (Long Live Croatia)


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