Community language schoolsThe first attempt that led to a continuous teaching tradition took place in 1960 at the Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre in Melbourne with the support and encouragement of Fr. Basil Valentin, the Franciscan priest, whose efforts for the Slovenian community became legendary.
In 1960 Jože Kapušin officially opened the first Slovenian class. The class was later taken over by Anica Srnec, a teacher of German. Štefan Srnec, her brother was untiring in his efforts to establish classes and increase attendance. He even collected children by car, when parents lived too far from the Centre to bring them in. Other teachers joined as the numbers of students increased. Draga Gelt was asked to teach in 1968, later joined by the Franciscan sisters Pavla Kaučič and Silvestra Ivko. In 1975 Lucija Srnec took over a class, and was subsequently joined by Viki Mrak, Anica Špacapan, Pavlina Pahor and Maksimiljana KaučičThe Slovenian school at Planica in 1986 with the A few years later Veronica Smrdel took over the teaching, assisted by Barbara Smrdel, teacher Lucija Srnec, Mary Petelin, Lidija Lapuh, Maria Stathopoulos, John Golja, Anita and Mary Žele and now Iris Dietner and Lidija Bratina. The teachers also taught the children folk dances, modern dances, drama and singing and prepared children”s cultural programs and appearances. For a number of years Katerina Vrisk directed the youth choir Glasniki.
It was initially difficult to persuade parents that learning Slovenian was important when the only language needed for education, communication, employment or business was English. This was particularly the case in the early days, when every migrant struggled to gain a foothold in the new country, learn English, cope with the new social environment, save money, build a home for the family, and most importantly, ensure a bright future for the children, by providing a good education.
Slovenian community also established other classes. In 1966 Lidija Čušin began to teach a group of children, first in her home, then in the Hall of Slovenian Association Ivan Cankar in Geelong. In 1974 Lucija Srnec established Slovenian classes for pre-primary and primary school children at the Slovenian Association Planica. At the Slovenian Association Melbourne Jana and Viki Gajšek offered a Slovenian youth class for a short period in 1976. Draga Gelt then established permanent classes in 1978. At about the same time Ivanka Škof opened the school at Slovenian Association Jadran, the Slovenian Association St.Albans is planning to open a class with eight students at the beginning of 2003 with the teacher Evelyn Kojc.