21 February, 2024

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:02):

That this council—

  1. Congratulates the Dom Polski Centre for reaching its golden jubilee anniversary and notes the centre as the heartbeat of the Polish community since the foundation stone was laid on 29 December 1972;
  2. Recognises the proud history of Dom Polski Centre as the community hub that plays a significant role in the Polish community through its mission to 'promote Poland and Polish language, culture, tradition, and history for present and future generations' and to foster Polish-Australian business enterprises;
  3. Acknowledges the outstanding contributions and dedication of founding members, community leaders, current and past presidents, committee members, volunteers, cultural dance groups and supporters of the Dom Polski Centre for organising programs, courses and events that promote Polish and Polish-Australian culture and accomplishments and for maintaining a repository of artifacts, archival materials, works of art, and publications;
  4. Highlights the Dom Polski Centre as an iconic function venue in Adelaide that fosters inclusive community engagement and multicultural partnerships by hosting festivals and special events for the Polish community as well as serving the broader multicultural community; and
  5. Reflects on the achievements and legacy of the Dom Polski Centre over the last 50 years and wish the centre and members of the Polish community every success and a bright future ahead as they enter a new chapter.

It is a great honour today to rise to convey my heartfelt congratulations to the Dom Polski Centre for reaching its golden jubilee anniversary. The name Dom Polski in Polish means 'Polish house', and today in this parliament we recognise the proud history of the Dom Polski Centre as a community hub that plays a significant role in the Polish community through its mission to promote Poland and Polish language, culture, tradition and history for present and future generations and to foster Polish-Australian business enterprises.

Dom Polski is the home of the Australian-Polish community's heritage and culture in South Australia. For over five decades it has housed numerous Polish-Australian organisations, including the Federation of Polish Organisations in South Australia; the very well-known and well-loved Polish folklore ensemble, Tatry; a Polish theatre group; the Polish Hill River Church Museum in Sevenhill; numerous artifacts of historical importance; and meeting facilities for the many elderly people in the South Australian community.

To continue celebrating its 50th anniversary, Dom Polski Centre is hosting a year of celebrations throughout this year. They kicked off with their Golden Jubilee Gala Dinner on 9 December 2023. I was deeply honoured to attend the memorable event to convey my best wishes on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, representing the Liberal Party of South Australia.

The Dom Polski Centre on the night was decorated proudly with Polish flags and a colour scheme that was perfectly curated by the organising committee to mark the golden jubilee gala. It was well supported by special guests and dignitaries and of course 300 members of the Polish community. Guests were delighted with the exquisitely designed Polish dinner.

The audience was mesmerised by the spectacular Polish Folklore Ensemble Tatry dance performance, and they were joined by the Volya Ukrainian Cossack Dancers. Having the two most amazing, talented and energetic dance groups perform at the 50th anniversary dinner was a true showcase of the great bond and the longstanding friendship and cohesion between the Polish and Ukrainian communities in South Australia.

I vividly recall that, in August 2022, the Polish community put together a fundraiser and raised $10,000 for the Ukrainian refugees in Poland. The funds transfer took place at the Dom Polski Centre, where I joined key Polish community leaders, as well as leaders from the Association of Ukrainians in South Australia to witness the generous donation and electronic funds transfer to Caritas Poland, which is the largest charity organisation in Poland. This is one of many philanthropic projects by the Dom Polski Centre working in partnership with other groups that demonstrates the generosity and compassion of the Polish community towards their Ukrainian friends and communities in need.

The Dom Polski Centre, located at 230 Angas Street, Adelaide, is well known to many honourable members in this parliament and has long been recognised as an iconic function centre in the heart of our multicultural city of Adelaide. While the Dom Polski Centre on the current site is celebrating its 50th anniversary, the history of Dom Polski goes back much, much further.

The Polish community in South Australia has a rich and proud history of contribution in state and national affairs, with the first settlement of Polish émigrés in the mid-1800s. The South Australian History Hub recorded that the first group of people clearly identifying as Polish arrived in South Australia in 1844. This first group consisted of about 30 people from nine families. As this record shows, the Polish community has been an integral part of our South Australian community for 180 years. Following World War II, many Polish refugees came to Australia. Between 1947 and 1954, the Poland-born population increased from 6,573 to 56,594 people.

The Polish community saw it important to preserve their heritage and culture in South Australia. The original Dom Polski was purchased in the 1950s as a community hub for the newly-arrived Polish immigrants from war-torn Europe. The original building was a house purchased in suburban Woodville and it proved to be a popular gathering place for the growing group of hardworking Polish migrants who contributed much to the emerging industrial base of South Australia at the time, and they continue to make social and economic contributions across different sectors and in all aspects of our society.

Dom Polski has always valued the spirit of community working together and it has been well supported by many Polish community groups, including the Polish Women's Association of South Australia, the Polish Ex-Servicemen's Association in Australia (No. 2 branch), the Tatry Folkloric Dance Ensemble and the Federation of Polish Organisations in South Australia.

By the late 1960s, the Woodville property was getting too small to accommodate the numbers of growing Polish-Australian families, so, under the leadership of then chairman, Mr Stanislaw Gotowicz, the site in Angas Street, Adelaide, was selected and plans were drawn up to begin construction. To raise the much-needed funds for the building on Angas Street, Mr Gotowicz and his dedicated team of volunteers worked relentlessly and went forth every night after work to nearly every single member of the Polish community, asking and begging for money.

Many had young families and funds were tight, but these Polish-Australians nevertheless generously made financial contributions towards the building cost because they shared the same vision to see their Polish house become a dream come true. They recognised the importance for the Polish community to preserve their identity, cultural heritage, language and unity for generations to come. Their incredible hard work and persistent fundraising efforts would soon bear rewards as the foundation stone was laid on the site on 29 December 1972. Subsequently, the Dom Polski officially opened its doors 12 months later, on 8 December 1973.

For his longstanding commitment and outstanding service to the Polish community, Mr Stanislaw Gotowicz was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, a very well-deserved recognition for a wonderful community leader. Although Dom Polski was built as a place for the Polish community to gather, it has always intended to welcome South Australians from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, to make use of the venue. As stated by Mr Stanislaw Gotowicz at the opening of the Centre:

 “As we celebrate today the opening of our Polish House, it is not our intention to become an island unto ourselves. Rather we would wish that our 'Dom Polski' became known as a centre where all can share and enjoy the cultural side of our heritage and which, we sincerely hope, will help to enrich the Australian way of life.”

His vision and his words would be fulfilled, with the centre hosting events for many communities and groups over the last 50 years. It has hosted hundreds of events and cultural exhibitions for the Polish community and other groups and become a popular function centre for members of our South Australian multicultural communities, including the Indian, Afghani, Nepalese, African and Pakistani communities, just to name a few. It has also catered for local South Australian groups, not-for-profit organisations and government agencies. It has even served as a polling booth for early voting in state elections.

In the latest ABS 2021 Census data, there are now 20,394 people of Polish descent living in South Australia, which is about the size of a state electorate. That is a 9 per cent increase over the five-year period since the previous census, up from 18,708.

The much-accomplished history of the Dom Polski Centre would not have been possible without its strong leadership and the dedication of those involved. I want to thank the former directors of Dom Polski, including the late Stanislaw Gotowicz, Helena Duluk, Stanislaw Duluk, Zygmunt Pawlak, Stanislaw Brog, Eugeniusz Hejka and Antoni Fela. I take this opportunity to pay respect and tribute to their remarkable legacy for the Dom Polski and their wonderful contributions to South Australia.

As Shadow Minister for Multicultural South Australia and the continuous longest serving member in the portfolio of multicultural affairs, I want to take this opportunity to give special mention to the current board members of the Dom Polski Centre, whom I have the pleasure to get to know and work closely with.

They are Leonard Nowak, Chairperson; Chris Gibki, Secretary; Adam Skuza, Shareholder Liaison Manager; Richard Szkup, Treasurer; Zofia Brzezinski, Functions and Operations Manager; Wanda Koplin, Share Registry Team and Seniors' Liaison; Dr Rick Wiechula, Grants and Gifting Director; and Camille Trepa, Design and Marketing. Thank you to all of these board members for contributing their time, knowledge, skills and talents to serve the Dom Polski community.

Leadership is crucial to the success of any organisation. I would like to commend Mr Leonard Nowak, who as the chairperson is a knowledgeable, collaborative, capable and hardworking community leader who dedicates his valuable time and efforts to the Dom Polski Centre and the Polish community of South Australia. With a background as a former airline captain, Leonard was also ministerial adviser in the South Australian government and served as the national aviation and defence correspondent at the ABC.

Len brings to the community a rich legacy in teambuilding, communication and management. It has been a privilege to work with Len and his team over the years and I have personally witnessed his tenacity and dedication in achieving great outcomes for Dom Polski and delivering many meaningful community projects and activities for the Polish community.

Today, Dom Polski continues to attract a dedicated band of generous and hardworking volunteers who continue this tireless tradition of service. I want to once again express my deep appreciation to the current board members for their amazing work for the Polish community and their involvement in organising the golden jubilee celebrations at the centre. Thank you again to the founding members, community leaders, past presidents or past chairpersons, committee members, volunteers, cultural groups and supporters of the Dom Polski Centre, without whom the centre would not have been able to survive and thrive as it has for the past 50 years. I would like to quote Leonard:

“Dom Polski would not have survived if not for the hard work of the many hundreds of dedicated volunteers. For 50 years they tirelessly supported our community, recognising it is bigger than just themselves.”

Dom Polski is the most significant asset of the Polish community in South Australia. It is an inspiring example for the newer communities across Australia to model their vision on: “working together with a common purpose, a vision, holding onto their traditions and working tirelessly and selflessly to achieve their dream”.

As we learn from its great history and legacy, Dom Polski certainly enriches our multicultural state and the Australian way of life. The positive impact Dom Polski has had on the Polish community and the wider multicultural community is testament to the hard work and resilience of the Polish people in South Australia.

I look forward to continuing working together with the Dom Polski Centre and all the team. Congratulations once again on their 50th anniversary. I wish them well for another 50 years and beyond, building on the strong traditions and foundation to take Dom Polski to a new era with the hope of a very bright future ahead. It is truly an honour to recognise the marvellous achievements of Dom Polski in parliament today. With those words, I wholeheartedly commend the motion to the Chamber.