SOYA National Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM)

On the 20th and 21st October 2012, the New South Wales state Board of the Serbian Orthodox Youth Association (SOYA) hosted a national conference and annual general meeting (AGM). Approximately forty people attended the conference, hosted at St Lazarus Cathedral in Alexandria, NSW.

The conference centred on broad themes of strategic planning, organisational challenges, opportunities for improvement and spiritual engagement with churches on a state and parish level.

A panel of six chaired the meeting on Saturday, 20th October 2012. The panel included Her Excellency Ambassador of Serbia Ms Neda Maletić, His Grace Bishop Irinej of Australia and New Zealand, Fr George Veselinović, Fr Miodrag Perić, current national President Mr Janko Nikolić (SOYA Victoria) and current national Vice-President Mr Predrag Srebro (SOYA NSW).

SOYA NSW Secretary Mr Nikola Popović chaired a Question & Answer discussion on the present structure of SOYA and its future direction as a national organisation. Each state coordinator also presented a report on the activities of their respective state Boards and what events are planned by each state in the next six to twelve months.

The SOYA members present agreed that more frequent communication between the various states and territories of Australia and New Zealand was required for greater transparency between states and for keeping all members informed of state activities. To facilitate interstate communication and also communication between the respective SOYA Boards and its members, it was decided that SOYA will publish an informational newsletter every quarter. The communique would serve as a platform for SOYA Board members to advise nationally of its activities and also to remain accessible to its members and the public at large.

His Grace Bishop Irinej proposed the formation of a SOYA Legal Committee to further refine the by-laws of our Constitution. The by-laws committee will comprise legally trained professionals who will decide on issues of national financial accounting, definition of membership and annual membership renewal and SOYA’s legal incorporation status. At present, Nada Martinović from Victoria has been elected to the legal committee. Other state branches of SOYA will source appropriately qualified practitioners to join the Legal Committee in the coming month.

SOYA members also felt that the organisation needed to form a Crisis Management and Public Relations Committee. Such a committee would comprise two distinct entities – a Crisis Management sub-branch assigned with the task of formulating appropriate responses to critical community issues and a Public Relations sub-branch assigned with communicating said responses to the Australian public. It was decided at the AGM held on Sunday that Mirko Pavlović will head the Crisis Management and Public Relations Committee. The rest of the committee will comprise: Mr Predrag Srebro, Ms Nina Marković, Mr Janko Nikolić, Jovan Jeremić and Nada Martinović. Such a committee will ensure that the Serbian community delivers prudent and professional responses to any behaviour that has the potential to tarnish the reputation of the Serbian people in Australia and New Zealand. If an event occurs involving the Serbian community and a media source needs to contact someone for comment, clearly the media needs to know who to turn to. A structured and objective committee is required to ensure that public relations messages are carefully tailored, well-considered and representative of diverse opinions.

Community engagement was a key theme of the National Conference and AGM. Any successful ethnic group needs to utilise social capital within their own community in the form of educational, professional and spiritual outlets available within their ethnic group. However, to truly be progressive and have a voice in modern Australia, ethnic groups also need to consider integration into the wider Australian society. Conference attendees expressed that SOYA should forge closer ties with other organisations, such as the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox diaspora. Further to that, each SOYA state coordinator will focus on relationship building with the Minister of Multiculture in each state and territory of Australia. Similarly, organisations such as the Sydney Alliance bring together diverse community organisations, unions and religious groups and give such groups a voice in decisions that affect them. SOYA is not seeking to become a political lobby group but recognises the need of the Serbian community to have an outlet such as SOYA through which to present our community’s concerns through legitimate and diplomatic mediums.

A fantastic idea was put forward at the AGM to hold a retreat for Serbian youth sometime in 2014. Such a retreat would target young persons, primarily teenagers and those in the 20 to 30 age bracket. The SOYA retreat would aim to bring together diaspora in Australia and from New Zealand and encourage our youth to forge strong friendships with one another. The retreat would consist of activities that foster the development of personal strengths and talents, as well as encouraging youth to work together through various lateral thinking and leadership exercises. Promotion of spirituality will be a central feature of this retreat and in particular, educating our youth on aspects of Serbian culture and simply ‘why we do the things we do’.

For the first time in SOYA’s three year history, SOYA will set up a SOYA Advisory Council comprising business leaders, spiritual guides and past members of SOYA. It is envisaged that such a Council will contribute commercial acumen and insightful operational knowledge to help SOYA navigate future challenges and respond to the needs of our community.

Following the national conference on Saturday, an evening liturgy was held at St Lazarus Cathedral and SOYA Board and general members attended for a spiritual conclusion to the evening.

On Sunday, 21st October 2012 SOYA elected its National Executive Board for 2013:

  • President – Mr Predrag Srebro (NSW)
  • Vice-President – Ms Nada Martinović (VIC)
  • National Secretary – Ms Tanja Josifovski (VIC)
  • Treasurer – Mr Jovan Jeremić (VIC)

State Coordinators:

  • New South Wales – Mr Predrag Srebro
  • Australian Capital Territory – Ms Nada Stanković
  • Queensland – Ms Aleksandra Cvitanović
  • New Zealand – Ms Ana Draca
  • Victoria – Ms Radmila Savić
  • South Australia – Mr Goran Rekić
  • Western Australia – Mr Djordje Balorda

We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the SOYA NSW Board who hosted such a well-organised and informative national conference. In addition, we thank Mr Petar Kozlina and his wife Milica for hosting three of the SOYA Victoria Board members and thank you to all persons who provided accommodation for interstate visitors - your hospitality is much appreciated.

SOYA looks forward to your continued support in 2013.

Predrag Srebro (SOYA National President)
and Nada Martinović (SOYA National Vice-President),
Serbian Orthodox Youth Association (SOYA)