Dr Kaja Antlej

President, Slovenian Australian Academic Association (SAAA)


Your Excellency Mrs Helena Drnovšek-Zorko, the Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia in Australia, Professor Bruce Wilson, the director of the EU Centre at RMIT, key note speakers Professor Glenda Sluga and Professor Zlatko Skrbiš, distinguish guests.

In the name of the Slovenian Australian Academic Association – SAAA, I warmly welcome all present today to our first conference titled the Australian and Slovenian current and future research opportunities.

The SAAA was founded on the 25th of May 2015, which means this week we are celebrating our second anniversary.

The aim of the Association is to establish academic and academic-business collaboration between Slovenia and Australia, and their respective regions.

Throughout the initial two years we’ve been able to bring together a community of enthusiastic and dedicated individuals. Although, SAAA is still a small network with currently 21 members across Australia and overseas, our numbers are growing, which is also due to our active online presence.

Today, our Facebook Page has more than 330 likes, our Facebook Group more than 100 members, as for example one informative post can reach more than 1500 users.

Our website – saaa.si – was introduced in December and has since archived twice per year by the National and University Library of Slovenia.

There is an online membership form available on our website allowing anyone who is interested to join. As we would like SAAA to be decentralised, our regional sections with their own coordinators have thus far been established in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville.

Amongst our initial partners, we have also started to collaborate with the Slovenian Language and Culture Association Queensland, which President is Jerneja Svetčič and who is also with us here today, another being the Association of Slovenes Educated Abroad – VTIS as well as the American Slovenian Education Foundation – ASEF.

We are also involved with an ERASMUS+ project proposal. Project Debubbling increases inter-cultural competence of young entrepreneurs. It joins partners from Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Malaysia and Australia. The results will be released in a month or two.

The purpose of today’s gathering being our very first event, is not only to inform about the current and future research opportunities, and to provide a networking forum for everyone interested in knowledge exchange between Slovenia and Australia, but also to start identifying active Slovenian Australians – academics, researchers, students, entrepreneurs and other community members that we all can be inspired from. We truly hope our future events will be organised in different cities across Australia, and thus become more accessible for people in other states and territories to join and contribute to its purpose.

In the name of the SAAA, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the co-sponsor of the event and the saaa.si website the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Slovenians Abroad. Thank you also to our co-organisers: the European Union Centre at RMIT, the European Law Faculty – Member Of The New University, the Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce, as well as our supporter the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Canberra.

We would also like to thank the Slovenian Honorary Consuls, Slovenian Clubs, Slovenian media including SBS Radio, 3ZZZ, and Glas Slovenije, our members and all organisations and individuals who have spent time and effort in spreading the news about this event.

Before we start with our rich program today, this event would not be possible without you – speakers and participants. Thank you again, speakers, for your willingness to support our endeavours and for your presentations today. Thank you all participants for your precious time.

Last but not least, my humble gratitude goes to our Conference Manager Lara Černetič and a representative of the Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce, moderator Dr Maša Mikola, designer and photographer Manca Ogrizek, organiser of the Annual Meeting, our Secretary Katarina Persic, event staff  Neza Muzic de Vreis, Jerneja Sveticic, the EU Centre coordinators Fran Martens and Matthew Coote and the SAAA Vice-President Dr Robert Walters who initiated this event.

I wish you all an inspiring and friendly event today!

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