ROMANO SINTI UNITED COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
OF QUEENSLAND INC.
Inc. Number: IA36508
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Cairns Sun Newspaper
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ABC Coffs Harbour
4BC Brisbane, QLD
SYN 90.7 FM, Melbourne
Read more about
Yvonne Slee here
AN INTRODUCTION TO ROMANI HISTORY AND CULTURE
A 15 minute PowerPoint slide presentation narrated by Yvonne Slee to introduce Romani history and culture to school age children
View the slideshow at SlideShare
Read the brochure used in conjunction with the slideshow (167kb PDF)
A couple of YouTube clips from Alembic.tv filmed at the Conway Hall concert in London for the 'Coming and Going' DVD which was part of the Gypsy/Roma History Month 2008.
Click the picture to read some news about Romanies
in Perth in the Ethnic Communities Council newsletter
Click the picture to download Issue 2 of Australia's Romani newsletter (PDF 380 kb)
Like Water/Sar o paj edited by Hedina Tahirovic Sijercic.
This is a first all women anthology - Through poetry, eight women write about their feelings and views of Rromani life.
Besides Hedina Tahirovic Sijercic- Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-authors are: Yvonne Slee - Australia, Rasa Lee Sutar - USA, Lynn Hutchinson, Julia Lovell, Sarah Barbieux, Thais Barbieux and Gina Csanyi - Canada.
Translations into Rromani language were done by Hedina Tahirovic Sijercic and Ronald Lee
Cover illustration: Lynn Hutchinson - Canada
Back cover poem: Mario Ines Torres - Mexico
This book really deserves to be out in the public eye, especially for groups on equality and human rights and for education in schools, so you can now read Like Water/Sar o paj online here.
Click on the Romani flag to listen to an interview by Yvonne and Dave Slee on the Romani Radio Program in Perth WA with an Indian couple about similarities between Romani and Indian culture, religion and language.
At a glance: Who are the Roma?
20 August 2010. Source: Szilvia Malik Game, SBS Radio
There are no official numbers, but it is estimated that 10 million Roma live in Europe and they represent the poorest people group on the continent. There are estimated to be about 25,000 Roma living in Australia. The President of the Sinti-Romani Organisation in Queensland, Yvonne Slee, explains their origins.
"We originate from India. In the 11th century groups of Indians were taken out by Mahmud of Ghazni the conqueror, and he took the people out, he took the gold, he took jewels, he burned down temples and he did that over 30 years.
Many of us were taken out of there and ended up in Afghanistan for a while because that is where he went and then after the army was defeated by the Seljuks we ended up in Anatolia where we stayed for 200 years and that is where we crystalised into our own culture.
The words that we use now, our language still has a lot of Indian words, Hindi mixed with Greek words.
And then we went on further westwards into Europe, because the Ottoman Empire encroached on Anatolia and so we were pushed out again and we had to go further, into Europe".
Ever since the Roma arrived in Europe they have suffered discrimination and everywhere they have settled, they have ended up with inferior social status, education, employment, wealth and political power.
During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of them were burnt in the gas chambers by the Nazi Germans.
David Diaz-Jogeix is Europe's Deputy Program Director for the human rights group, Amnesty International. He believes European states are not seriously trying to break the Romas' cycle of discrimination and poverty.
"The Roma people are the largest minority in Europe, but it is not just a matter of numbers.
It is a matter of severe and entrenched discrimination that the Roma people have been subjected to in Europe," says Mr Diaz-Jogeix.
Mr Diaz-Jogeix believes that a tendency of many Romas to live in caravans has given rise to negative impressions about their lifestyle, and has contributed to their marginalisation.
"The great vast majority of the Roma people are not nomads.
The people live in towns, but the prejudice against them has resulted in no access to jobs, no access to education," he says. Mr Diaz-Jogeix says in many European countries, Roma children have been forced to attend segregated special schools or segregated classes where they study according to an inferior curriculum.
He says in some cases, they are even treated as "stupid" and "disabled".
"For example in Slovakia, the administration are treating the Roma different from the mainstream population and placing the children in school that are meant for people with mental disabilities," he says.
Angela Kocze is a former president of the Hungarian-based European Roma Rights Centre, which lobbies for Roma rights across the continent. From a Roma background herself, she currently researches Roma issues for the Institute for National and Ethnic Minorities at the Hungarian Science Academy.
Ms Kocze says the Romas' poor access to education has a ripple effect, resulting in bad employment possibilities.
"There are several human rights reports which pointed out that Romani children are facing serious obstacles in the educational system.
They are not able to get into high school, especially those who are coming from a segregated area, and they were attending segregated schools. And if we can see the statistics that approximately half million Roma are living in Hungary now and only five percent of the Romani schools' pupils were able to get to high school. I mean compared with the non-Roma students, which 70 percent of them were able to go to high school, so there is a huge discrepancy," she says.
The often unemployed Roma tend to live in segregated, substandard housing, and face much lower life expectancy than that of non-Roma. Forced evictions have left thousands of Roma without homes Europe-wide.
Romas are also often perceived as criminals. But according to the United Nations Development Program, many of the crimes committed by Roma can be linked directly to poverty - like stealing of crops. Recently, the Second European Roma Summit took place in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
Mr Diaz-Jogeix from Amnesty International, who was present at the event, says he was disappointed with the absence of European government representatives promising political action. "The agenda of this year's conference looks at the exchange of best practice among member states of the European Union.
However Amnesty International would have liked to have a far more political leadership from the European Union, reminding the obligations of the member states not to put specific categories of people subject to discrimination for example in the areas of health, in the areas of education and subject to force evictions in many countries in Europe," he says.
The Roma in Australia face different hardships to their kin in Europe. Here they are not discriminated against, and in fact are barely even recognized. That's a situation that Yvonne Slee, from the Sinti-Romani Organisation in Queensland, is trying to change this, through running education courses about the culture of her people.
"It is misunderstood, sort of stereotyped, you know not understood as a culture, they sort of see us as a Hollywood gypsy and we do not seem to get the right acknowledgment for our culture here and it is very hard to get it across.
People do not understand, so we have to do, like I do, cultural exhibits to educate or to do talks at schools to make them understand what culture we are, otherwise we get overlooked often and it is, well quite, we get left out again, our kids get left out again that way as well," she told SBS.
Read more at SBS World News
In this book, written in the traditional Gypsy style of family biography, Yvonne Slee gives us a collection of stories about her ancestors who lived in Germany in the twentieth century. She begins with her great grandfather, called August, "torn away" from his Gypsy relations to be adopted into an uncaring family with a viscious stepfather. Running away at 15, August finds employment and friendship amongst Gypsies who teach him how to survive, and eventually marries a German woman and raises a family, including Elsa,Yvonne's grandmother. They adopt a disabled Gypsy boy called Freddy. As a half-Gypsy, with dark skin and long black hair, Elsa experiences racism at school, where her plait is cut off during a lesson by a spiteful classmate. She finds solace playing with friends in a nearby Gypsy encampment. Conditions in Germany during First World War force Elsa's mother to go to the woods to pick berries and nuts, while August hunts for animals. In the 1930's, Elsa notices ethnic families being taken from their homes to be rehoused. Each time a truck appears in the street, her mother grabs Freddy and hides at the home of a friend, while August disappears till the danger passes. Eventually, Freddy is snatched away by the authorities and put in a home for the handicapped. The family eventually discover the dreadful truth - he has been sent to a concentration camp and gassed. Elsa marries an anti-Nazi called Willy, who is called up during the Second World War. After he is killed at the front, Elsa is left to bring up their young children alone. Almost arrested for being non-Aryan, she is rescued by an acquaintance, and lives out the rest of the war living on food she gathers from the forest. Surviving bombs, semi-starvation, and the destruction of her home, Elsa lives to the age of 80. Despite its sad theme, the book has many lively incidents. Elsa is almost gored by a bull, narrowly escapes drowning, and uncovers a butcher's pet-stealing scam. Yvonne Slee writes with compassion about a family surviving the Holocaust and war.
Janna Eliot. London, UK
This is an outline of an interview with Yvonne Slee that was recorded in the studios of 3CR Community Radio, Melbourne with presenter Hsin-Yi Lo for the Accent of Women program on Tuesday 4th January 2011, 8.30am AEST.
I began by talking about Romania and how Romanies are treated there with an explanation of the discrimination they endure and how their settlements get knocked down and that there are no jobs for Roma and in the schools the white people don't want to see Roma children attending them. I talked about France and what I thought of the Romanies being expelled, which is so racist and heartless. Then the interviewer asked me when the prejudice against Roma started. I said it stemmed from wrongly written material about our culture done by outsiders who never bothered to ask us anything and just wrote their books. Poor assumptions and stereotyping us did Roma so much harm and spread many misconceptions. She asked about India, our old beliefs and the army who took us out etc... I also talked about living without any identity papers, not having a place in the territorial European countries and being shoved from place to place and country to country. The interviewer commented that the nomadic life was forced upon us. I said yes it was, a far cry from the fanciful life that people pictured us living. We were discriminated against and even though we had our trades, the Europeans only wanted us for so long before forcing us to move on. I said that even today, Roma get very little help, like welfare etc. Also she asked about the many Hindi words in our language. She asked why we're often seen wearing colourful clothes. I said they wear colourful clothes in India and we still do, it comes from there. I talked about how Romani people were taken away in WW2 and killed in the holocaust and how my grandmother saw the area where she lived which was nicknamed Gypsy Island, emptied out by the Germans until there were hardly any Romanies left there. They were all killed and even after the atrocities of WW2 the Germans carried on discriminating against the Romanies that were left by putting signs in the windows of shops in the towns saying, No Gypsies allowed. It never stopped. She asked about Australia too. I told her how hard it can be for Romani kids being not understood so we have to carry on explaining our culture so we can be accepted. It's a constant effort. She asked about our Romani org and what it does. I explained the different things we do. Talked about the exhibits. She asked about the poem book Like Water and Torn Away. She asked about the Kosovo Roma living on lead poisoned land. I said it was just awful how those children have to live with lead in their bodies. I said some more things about our culture she wanted to know and about our spiritual side. I said we like cooking outside, being close to nature and about our belief in the Goddess which is the same Goddess as the Indian Goddess despite having had adopted other religions. We never forget where we come from.
I met two Romanichals who were looking into their cultural background and they bought some of the Romani booklets I had on display. I gave info brochures out to others who read the display board. My kids and I joined in a Bollywood dance workshop too which was fun. The weather just held out till the festival finished at 3pm, and then the rain came.
Romani exhibit by Yvonne Slee at the Coffs Coast Harmony Day festival 20 March 2011
Size of Gypsy population unknown; estimates range from 500 to 20,000. Many Gypsies were deported to Australia from England as petty criminals when this penalty was introduced in1787. The first was probably Lazarus Scamp, who arrived on the Scarborough in 1790. He had been sentenced in Hampshire in 1788 for stealing a sheep. The main clans to be found today are English Romanies (descendants of the earlier deportees and newer voluntary emigrants), Kalderash (who came from 1898 on), and Roma from Eastern Europe after 1945. Organizations include the Romani Association of Australia (founded 1990) and Romani International Australia. There is an annual gathering, now held at Byron Bay. Notables among the Romani community include university lecturer Kenneth Lee, writer Yvonne Slee, poet Henry Lawson, and musician and playwright Brian Hungerford.
Extract from the book
A Comment from the POLITICS.HU website on the article 'Government official says Roma exclusion not to be treated as an ethnic issue'
Hi there. It's been awhile. Eastern European Roma are uneducated because of a variety of reasons. They need more education, including sex education. Once they get up to par with the rest of Europeans in education they will realize they have more options which would include limiting the number of children.
Ronald Lee, Ivan Vesely, Ian Hancock, Tamara Demetro, Yvonne Slee, Paul Polansky and there are many other Romani activists. They all fight hard and some have devoted their lives to this cause.
Australia and Romanies by Yvonne Slee
Sponsored by the Sinti Romani Community of Queensland Organisation, Australia
To purchase a copy email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Craig's list or Gumtree
A book with stories about the different Romanies in Australia that I've come across while doing my activism. Ones I've worked with, danced with, ate with and shared thoughts on the importance of speaking up about our Romani identity.
Review by Janna Eliot
This is the saga of energetic and passionate Yvonne Slee as she journeys through Australia, on a mission to educate Australians about Romani culture. The adventures of this admirable lady include opening a Romani cafe in Melbourne, breaking into international broadcasting, and getting museums and centres to put on a Romani exhibition she curated herself. She sees off stroppy teachers, ignorant shopkeepers, sexist lazy Romani men and racist Gadje, helped by Dave, her loyal and talented husband.
The book is wellwritten, fastmoving and inspiring, full of eccentric and fascinating characters, and offers a glimpse of Romani life in Australia.
Yvonne also runs an organisation called the Sinti Romani Community of Queensland, Australia and is the sitemanager of The Rromani Connection website
School Presentation on Romani History and Culture by Yvonne Slee
The kids really responded well. A girl from Africa asked questions about our history and the invasions when Mahmud and his army took our forefather's out and she said that she would have gone with his army too, rather than being killed by them. She said, I can understand that many had to do that just to survive. An Aboriginal girl was very interested too and asked how long we've been without a country and I told her that our culture has not had a country of its own since the invasions took place and that we have had to live in other countries. Another girl, an Australian, asked how we manage without our own country, without our own government and who do we turn to. I said we have advisors who help us with advice. I gave out little picture boards with our food on them, our books on Romani language, Torn Away Forever, Romani music CDs, our national anthem and the 1971 Romani world congress board when we got our flag. The kids were so interested in it all. I used the slideshow to do the talk and got it all across, even how our word Gypsy came about and that we were called that when we got into Europe and we were misnamed and it stuck with us and we are known as the Gypsy culture. I also explained that Romani or Roma is from our language and this is what we are correctly called.
More information on Romanies from our Indian friends.
Click on the YouTube window to hear an interview with Prof. Ian Hancock
Click the picture to watch a video with Yvonne Slee cooking Sarmi, a traditional Romani dish consisting of filled, rolled cabbage leaves.
A community within and between communities: multiculturalism, education and the Australian Romani community
Ph.D. in Social Science
The Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology
Australian Romani community (462 kb PDF)
To read an in-depth review by Geoff Bryan about the book click here
January 27 marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. In 2005, the U.N. designated this day International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day of commemoration to honour the victims of the Nazi era where over 1 million Romanies were killed along with millions of Jews. Every member nation of the U.N. has an obligation to honour the memory of Holocaust victims and develop educational programs as part of an international resolve to help prevent future acts of genocide. So, on this day, please light a candle to commemorate the Romani and other victims of the holocaust.
THE ROMANIES IN THE HOLOCAUST
Click here to read
MS Word doc. 100kb
Sinti Romani Community donated a book pack of 3 Romani booklets, 2 Romani books and a Romani brochure to the library at the local university. They were pleased to have them and we in our organistation offered to take part in the living library. Also, we met some beautifully dressed Indian dancers there as the uni was having a multicultural day.
Click here to read an article Yvonne Slee wrote on Australian Romanies in the ABC Open website
Click on the picture to listen to an informative interview with Romani Lecturer, Dahlia Gregory on the situation of Romanies in Romania
Click on the picture to read an article Yvonne Slee wrote on Romani music and dance in the ABC Open website
During a family holiday to Queensland, Yvonne Slee was invited to lunch on the Gold Coast by Jim Wowa Gatsby, a Rom from the Rumungro group who comes from the Polish Russian Balkan state. Jim is a singer who sings in Romani chib. Yvonne also met his wife, Jagoda and his daughter, Sandra.
Also Lojzo, from the Karpatian Rom group in the Czech Republic, was there as well.
Go to this new facebook page and join it and support a united Romani people.
From our Romani colleagues in Poland, Europe. An artistic, colourful video expressing our Romani culture authentically through art, pictures and traditional songs.
TVG-9 GIPSYROAD - KUSHTY CHAVIES (Ederlezi)
The Romani Cultural, History and Traditions exhibit
held at the
Ethnic Communities Council Hall, Perth, WA
Watch a 2 part video of the exhibit on YouTube
Click on this picture to watch Yvonne Slee cooking Romani style Chicken Paprika
Click on the video to watch a short film on Moldova's Roma
The Hindu/Romani goddess, Kali, explained in Romani and English text.
To read this interesting article click on the picture
Click on the picture to read an article Yvonne Slee wrote in The Hub website
Click on this picture to watch Yvonne Slee cooking Lamb Morenas Romani style
Click here to read a couple of Romani poems, one written by Alois (Lojzo) Horvath, a SintiRomani Community member.
Click on the picture to read this interesting magazine
Click on the pic to watch a video of a small Romani Gathering at Scarborough beach, Qld.
Yvonne Slee's story on ABC OPEN, The history of Australian Romanies, now and then, was included in the Producers picks of the best stories for 2012.
Click on the OPEN logo to go to the best picks.
A year of damn fine stories
By Open Producer Vanessa Milton
I never stop marveling at how much I learn about my country from our website, from this fascinating history of Romanies in Australia from Yvonne Slee on the NSW north coast.....
The President of Sinti Romani Community, Yvonne Slee, and her daughter Eve took part in helping to stock a new library in a school on the island of Fiji. The school needed new and used books and her daughter's school asked parents to donate what books they could for the library. Yvonne donated Torn Away Forever and Australia and Romanies together with some general reading books. It's nice to have Romani books in the new library. Sonia Meyer also donated her book, Dosha, to the Fijian school library.
Here's an extract of a few comments of the many we got on one of our Romani Exhibits. As you can see the exhibit was well received, so if anyone would like to include a Romani exhibit in a multicultural event or has space for a Romani cultural display in Brisbane let us know at email@example.com
Jews and Gypsies. Myths and Reality by Ruth Barnett
Jews and Gypsies, Myths and Reality, is one book that should be available in every school and council library for people to read and learn about equality and embrace minority groups and cultures. Ruth highlighted in her book that prejudice makes no sense. People should listen more to what the culture or group has to say rather than listening to others who know nothing about them.
She draws comparisons between Jewish and Romani cultures, both of which were without their own countries for many centuries. Now Jews have their own state, but Romanies are still a people without a country. Their ancestors from different castes were forcibly taken out of India 1000 years ago and since entering Europe 600 years ago they have endured persecution and racist attacks against them. The Holocaust, which affected both Romani and Jews alike, is mentioned repeatedly. Ruth wants people to learn from the atrocities of WW2 so that they never allow them to happen again. In this day and age, people's ignorance still allows them to believe in the propaganda and stereotypes written in the media and portrayed on television. It's important to have a book like Ruth Barnett's that shines a true light on Romani and Jewish cultures.
The images in the book are thought provoking and the stories are lively and positive. Romanies stories, such as Sally's was very interesting and warmly written, Also Robin's, a psychologist, reflections on his Romani side and travels to Australia were rather intriguing. Ruth also included my story. I was more than happy to contribute to the book and write about my Romani ancestors and how life is now for my family. The world needs more people like Ruth, who is sympathetic and understanding to the plight of minorities. She holds the view that if the right information about minorities is taught at school, then children won't grow up ignorant of other cultures and the world could change for the better.
President, Sinti Romani Community, Australia
After interviewing Yvonne Slee to learn more about Romani history and culture, news.com wrote a concise report about Romanies following the hysteria concerning the "Maria" story in Greece. The report put things into perspective and is in these australian online papers.
Sydney Daily Telegraph, Melbourne Herald Sun news.com.au and The Australian
A couple of days after the story had broke a Romani woman living in Bulgaria claimed the child was hers and that in 2007 she had left the daughter with the Romani family in Greece because she couldn't take care of her due to lack of money. Read the outcome here. DNA confirms mystery girl's parents
"A proud moment for australian media too, championing the rights of minorities," quoted Adam Bruin
An article from the Sydney Morning Herald on Romanies about dispelling the myths and stereotypes with comments from two Romani women, Yvonne Slee and Sarah Bedak, living in Australia.
Following the media's focus on the 'Maria' story, Yvonne Slee was interviewed by the following Australian radio stations about Romani history and culture. 2UE Sydney on Australia's most popular morning drivetime show
SYN Melbourne the popular community youth station in Melbourne
4BC Brisbane afternoon program in Queensland
Read another article by Adam Bruin about Romanies in Australian history on the Events & Articles page
Yvonne Slee's Romani daughter Eve is doing a lesson in her school class called Unplugged, where the students have to choose an inventor, writer or a movie star among others and answer questions about the person. Eve chose a Romani author... her mum. Here are the answers to some questions she was asked.
What is the author she has chosen famous for?
She is famous for being proud of her culture and writing books about it.
How has reading Yvonne Slee's books changed people?
Becoming more aware of who Romanies really are and respecting the culture and learning about their real identity. People then understand what life was like for Romanies in the past and what it is like now.
How did Yvonne Slee become known?
She became known through sticking up for her culture and writing books about it. Lots of people around the world and in Australia too have read them.
What has Yvonne achieved?
Besides her books, Yvonne has also talked about her Romani culture on many radio stations and written numerous articles for newspapers.
Eve received the highest mark (29 out of 30) in her class for this Unplugged excercise and is using it to educate about our culture as well, as she is also proud of it.
Furthering the commitment to developing an awareness of an issue within the classroom, is challenging some of the deep seated ideologies held by both the community and curriculum development writers in Australia. From a global Human Rights perspective, attention is usually drawn to human rights abuses that occur in developing countries, or indeed any nation outside of the West. Human rights abuses within both Eastern and Western Europe are largely ignored. Specifically referring to the situation faced by the Roma diaspora in Europe, there is an obligation to include Romani perspectives in history. Currently, the curriculum content in Australia does not specifically address the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Whilst homosexuals and those with disabilities were also experimented on and murdered in the death camps, the Porajmos, or Roma Holocaust has been largely ignored by both historians and the international community.
Whilst from a social justice point of view it is necessary to acknowledge the Roma Holocaust, it may be difficult to convey how the inclusion of other content relating to Romani people will enrich the Australian curriculum. In October 2013 the story of Maria, dubbed the blue eyed blonde angel by international media, became the focus of a global investigation and inflammatory media coverage that drew attention to the ingrained prejudices of the non-Roma community towards this ethnic minority. Victim to the false perception that Gypsies steal children, the adopted parents (who were eventually proven innocent) were accused of abducting the young girl based on the fact that she had fair skin and they could not produce official documents relating to her adoption. Subsequently, there was an international response which saw neighbours informing local authorities of fair skinned Roma children living with dark skinned parents, which resulted in more children being removed from their families for DNA testing. This blatant disregard for human rights was eventually queried by Australian media after they were contacted by the Romano Sinti Community Association of Queensland. In order to address the broader education of the community with regards to Roma history and the stereotype of child stealing, President of the Romano Sinti Community Association Yvonne Slee, engaged in both radio interviews and providing information to journalists for online newspapers. This resulted in a number of very positive articles that helped to shed light on both the reality of the Roma situation, and the false ideology that Gypsies steal children.
In order to link this theme back to an Australian context, obvious parallels can be drawn between the Anti-Roma laws of Europe and the assimilationist policies of the Australian government towards Indigenous Australians. The cultural fable of Gypsies stealing children is based on the perceptions of the European community when Roma families liberated their own children from state or foster care and went into hiding. Given the moral superiority Europe seems to assume within the global community, the fact that children are still being removed from their families based on race and ethnicity is a controversial issue worthy of investigation. In the broader context of education in the global community, it is worth critiquing the attitudes of the developed world with regards to the human rights of ethnic minorities. Given the lack of understanding of the history and culture of the international Roma community, this topic deserves particular attention in the international community.
Bringing Romani issues into the Australian classrooms.
By Adam Bruin
Click on this picture to watch Yvonne Slee cooking Romani Goulash. (Gulyas)
Sintiromanicommunity.org has put together a new display of a Romani culture exhibit board which is informative, colourful and educational for displaying in public places where many people come to see it. The place costs $25 entry fee with lot's of people coming through near Brisbane in a shopping centre carpark, so many will see it.
The Romani board was an attraction that people came to read. We will take it again with us to the next market.
Campaign: Dont worry Be a Romnj - Roma Women
Click on the picture to look at this Facebook page from ROMN in Germany that Yvonne Slee was invited to join in.