Marles makes Macedonian pledge

May 20, 2022 BY

The church and community hall opened in 1980. Photo: MACEDONIAN COMMUNITY OF GEELONG INC./FACEBOOK

LABOR will put a new roof on the Macedonian Community Centre if it forms government at this Saturday’s federal election.

Corio Labor federal member Richard Marles announced the election commitment towards the major works last weekend.

The St. John the Baptist Church and community hall in Batesford has been a place of gathering for religious services, community meetings, dance groups, seniors’ gatherings and celebrations for the past 40 years.

Built in 1980, the centre has deteriorated over the years, with Geelong’s Macedonian community required to repeatedly run patchwork repairs on the roof and restore water-damaged fixtures.

The building was completely renovated and had a steeple added in 2005.

“This $40,000 grant will help to ensure that Macedonian Community can continue to gather and thrive in their service to the community,” Mr Marles said.

“Macedonian migrants who have come to Geelong have worked hard, raised families here and make wonderful contributions to our community.”

Labor says it is “committed to supporting multicultural communities in the Corio electorate and will continue to support the groups that make up our proud, diverse community”.

Geelong’s Macedonian community bought five acres (or just over two hectares) of land in 1976 after deciding to build a church and community hall, later resolving at a public meeting to name it Saint John the Baptist Church.

The church’s foundations were blessed in January 1978 and the completed building was opened and blessed on May 11, 1980 by Bishop Kiril from Macedonia. Father Chedomir Ilievski was appointed the first priest.

The origin of Geelong’s Macedonian dancing group dates to 1977, when some members of the community began having dancing practice in their homes and garages, with lessons based on traditional Macedonian dance steps that everyone knew.

A few years later, the ethnic Macedonian school Kole Kaninski was formed, with the dancing group named Biser, meaning pure or a string of pearls.

Since then, Biser has represented the Geelong Macedonian community at every Pako Festa since 1981 and dozens of other local festivals and events.

Biser toured the republic of Macedonia in 1997 as official guests of the government, performing all over the country over two weeks and culminating in performances celebrating Macedonia’s national day.