Melbourne gives new ambassador Dr Damir Kušen a warm welcome

The new Croatian ambassador to Australia, Damir Kušen, was welcomed by the community again with a dinner held on 15th November at the Croatian Club in Footscray in the Gotovina Room. The event was attended by a large number of guests who were all eager to meet the new ambassador and wish him a successful start to his new mandate and good co-operation.

Following a brief introductory speech by AHD Melbourne head Ante Jurić, the guests were greeted by Ida Paulin-Dutković from the Croatian Consulate in Melbourne.

“Respected ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending this evening to welcome Croatia’s new ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Mr Damir Kušen. The Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in Melbourne thanks Mr Jurić and the Club’s secretary Šimun Samardžić, the president of the Croatian Club Geelong Andro Jurković as well as Paul Šarić, president of the United Croatian Clubs and Associations of Australia and New Zealand, for their support in organizing Mr Kušen’s visit to Melbourne. I would also like to thank Lidija Jelinić from Sky Air Services, Mr Mate Šop from Šop&Šop. I would also like to sincerely thank my colleague Senka Grancieri who organised every single detail of Mr Kušen’s visit to Melbourne herself and my husband Zoran Dutković for being the personal driver of our ambassador while he is here,” said Mrs Dutković, before handing over to Ambassador Kušen.

“It’s easier if I introduce myself as Damir, without these titles and role descriptions, because I really do feel as if I’m at home here. I would like to greet the representatives of all the clubs and associations from the community and thank you for everything you have done throughout the years for Croatia. It is a great honour to be the ambassador of Croatia in Australia and I hope to earn your trust and that we will work together as a team on projects that will strengthen the ties between Croatia and Australia. I’m not a politician or a member of any party, nor have I ever been. I am a public servant,” said our new ambassador in his opening address, which was not read but rather spoken fluently.

“Australia is a rich country, a member of the G-20 group and one of the most developed countries in the world. It is certain that Croatia is interested in increasing co-operation with Australia in various fields, and it is our job to do this.

I also must mention that the Croatian language became recognised first here in Australia, and only later in our homeland. Apart from that, there was a Croatian embassy here in the 1970s, which was the clearest message that the Australian Croatian community could have sent to the international community. Furthermore, the fact that Australian Croatians funded, built and gifted consulates to their country is a unique occurrence in the world,” said Mr Kušen. He then went on to reflect on the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar and asked all guests to observe a minutes’ silence for all those who had given up their lives for a free Croatia.

In the rest of his address, Mr Kušen reflected on his career to date.

“Over the past 23 years, Croatia has bleed for its independence and to free its occupied territories, has become a NATO member and more recently a member of the European Union. These are great results, but we must also be honest and say that many mistakes have been made over the past 20 years. We only need mention the privatization process which took the worst possible path. Over the past 20 years, we have undergone a series of difficult reforms, and during that time we have been under the scrutiny of various international organisations, so I have to ask whether we are satisfied with the Croatia that we have today. No, we cannot, because the country is not prosperous. You yourselves know what it is like to participate in building one of the richest countries in the world. That experience and knowledge, and not money, is necessary for Croatia to begin to be prosperous. We have to have a joint vision for the future, because without that there will be no prosperity. The unity of Croatia and the diaspora is a platform which will secure a better future. If you have ideas, projects, please feel free to contact us because that is what we are here for. We will never tell anyone what they should believe in,” concluded ambassador Kušen in his inspired speech which impressed many guests.

AHD Melbourne president Ante Jurič thanked Mr Kušen for his words and told him that the members of his club and the community were always ready to participate in any initiative that comes from the embassy in Canberra.

After the formal part of the evening was over, numerous respected members of the Croatian community, representatives from the Australian Croatian associations, clubs, sports organisations as well as business people sincerely congratulated the new ambassador on his role and once again welcomed him and wished him all the best in his work to strengthen the ties between Australia and Croatia.

The reception for Mr Kušen continued with a dinner, pleasant conversation and warm handshakes with the ambassador who is prepared for sincere co-operation and a new page in the life of the Croatian community of Australia.

Suzana Fantov & Damir Ljubičić

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