Croatian Diaspora Spotlight Series - Mirjana Cestar

Croatian Diaspora Spotlight Series - Mirjana Cestar

September 20, 2020


If you are interested in Croatian Arts & Culture, then our next guest needs no introduction. Mirjana Cestar is the President of Croatia House - a cultural association established to promote Croatian performing and visual Arts in Australia. Mirjana has a long history connecting Australia and Croatia with her previous roles in various community organisations including the Croatian Studies Foundation, the Croatian Archive Association and most recently as former Councillor on the City of Canada Bay Council facilitating the Protocol agreement between the City of Osijek and City of Canada Bay.  


Interview with Mirjana from Croatia House


1. Welcome and thank you for giving us the pleasure of interviewing you Mirjana. Let’s begin by telling our readers a little bit about yourself and your Croatian roots?

My family migrated to Australia in 1969 from a village in Slavonija near Nasice. My parents met and married in Croatia and had my older sister and I before moving the family to Australia, where my younger sister was born.


2. You have been a councillor for Canada Bay council. What does a councillor do and how did the opportunity to work with the city of Osijek come about?

 The role of Councillor on local council is an elected role, which means the role is to represent the community at local government level. Councillors on local government get voted in or out at regular elections - so it’s a very fickle position.

The idea of forging a protocol agreement between the City of Canada Bay and Osijek council was presented to me by the former Consul general, Hrvoje Petrusic. We worked together with the Mayor and councillors at the time to ensure we presented an agreement that would benefit both communities in Australia and Croatia.


Pictured L-R: (Former Councillor Tony Fasanella, Mirjana Cestar, Australian Ambassador to Croatia Elizabeth Petrovic, Councillor Michael Megna)


3. You headed a delegation from Canada Bay council and visited Osijek. What were the thoughts of your fellow councillors and members when they visited Croatia & Osijek?

The delegation went to Croatia last year-we spent 2 days in Zagreb, where we were received by the Australian Ambassador in Zagreb, then headed to Osijek to be part of a 3 day conference put together by the Mayor’s office for all of their ‘friendship cities’ around the world. This was the first time the members of the delegation were in Croatia and they were really impressed with Croatia’s natural beauty, history and how welcoming everyone was to tourists. All of the delegation said they would go back.


Pictured L-R: (2nd from left: Mirjana Cestar, Councillor Michael Megna, Australian Ambassador to Croatia Elizabeth Petrovic, Mayor Angelo Tsirekas, Cr Marian Parnaby, Former Councillor Tony Fasanella)


4. You are heavily involved in promoting Croatia through art & culture. Tell us more about Croatia House and what you are aiming to achieve through this organisation?

As mentioned, Croatia House is a cultural organisation- which coincidentally was also an idea by former Consul Hrvoje Petrusic -the main objective of Croatia House is to ensure that Croatian culture is showcased through performing and visual arts. It’s something that the community hasn’t focused on, aside from folkloric dancing.

Croatia has so many talented writers, performers, actors and artists that are yet to be showcased in Australia, so we really want to be the premier organisation that supports this group and expands the perception of Croatia as a sporting nation to also include Croatia’s rich cultural contribution through the arts.


Pictured: (Delegation in Korćula with former Consul General Hrvoje Petrušić)

5. Apart from movie screenings from Croatia, what other activities do Croatia House present?

Croatia House is a young organisation, we were incorporated in 2018, so we are just closing off our second year. Our previous events included 2 photographic exhibitions at the City of Canada Bay Library,  a theatre production of Miro Gavran’s The Doll, and our first Film Festival last year. Which we’re particularly proud of, as I know there’s never been a successful Croatian Film Festival in NSW. We aim to make the Croatian Film Festival an annual event and we’re definitely thinking of how to expand on this to other regions in NSW. We’re also looking at duplicating the successful “Croatian Connections” exhibition from South Australia, there is still a bit of work there, but keep your ears peeled for that in the new year.


Pictured L-R: (Cr Marian Parnaby, Former Councillor Tony Fasanella, Zvonimir Kurtović, Deputy Mayor of Osijek, Boris Piližota, Mayor Angelo Tsirekas, Mirjana Cestar, Romana Radić)


6. The 2020 Croatian Film Festival is scheduled for the weekend of 25-27 September in Randwick, Sydney. Can you provide a sneak peek of what we can expect at this year's film festival and which movie you are looking forward to the most?

We have 3 films lined up this year. The Friday night is opening night with the film Comic Sans, its about an advertising exec who gets dumped by his girlfriend, who he only really appreciates after she dumps him, he goes on a major bender and journey of self discovery-there some fun moments and a few serious ones.

Saturday is the movie F20, I was lucky enough to see this last year at the Pula Film Festival, it a thriller about a young guy who’s addicted to gaming and loses his sense of reality. He meets a girl who has no idea he is so troubled and they end up running away together only for her discover how troubled he is when its too late.

Sunday night, we screening Sve Najbolje, it’s light hearted Rom com, which reminds me of the film Love Actually. It’s a fun movie that can be enjoyed by all age groups.

I enjoyed watching all of these movies for different reasons. I think it depends on the mood you’re in to determine which one is the best.


7. Now for a bit of fun, tell us which is your favourite Croatian:

Food - all of the cakes!

Drink - Malvasia

Region or City - I’ll let you know once I’ve been to all of them 😊

Song - it changes all the time-right now I’m enjoying Opca Opasnost and Jednom Kad Noc

Memory from any of your trips to Croatia - First time swimming in the Adriatic in Dubrovnik - magical and every first dive into the sea when I’m there.

Tradition - Slavonijan weddings are the best - love the wraps around the collar that the bridal party wear, the band following the bridal party and singing, paying to dance with the bride, and of course “kume izgorila kesa’

Hidden gem - Mljet island and ilok


8. If people want to stay up-to-date with what Croatia House has planned, how do you suggest they do this?

I would suggest if people are interested to follow our activities and what we have planned for the community, they should check out our Facebook page or Instagram

Thank you for being part of this spotlight series and telling our readers more about you & Croatia House.

♡ Meagan & Michael


We hope you enjoyed our Croatian Diaspora interview in our Spotlight Series! If you would like to be interviewed or would like to recommend someone let us know at

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