AESL General News

AESL Conversation #3 – April Wrap Up

The AESL‘s informal chat sessions continued in April, on the first Wednesday of the month, and again had people from most states and territories. See last month’s wrap up here: AESL Conversation #2 – March.

This month, the Conversation touched on many topics, including the current state and future of Estonian events, organisations, and projects in Australia, and ESTO 2025. Read below to learn more about what we discussed.

Join AESL’s next session, already this Wednesday 1st May 2024 (click) →

National Folk Festival

Singers from the Kooskõlas choir and the Virmalised dancers had performed at the National Folk Festival in Canberra over
easter. This is a national event, quite expensive, so mainly for Canberrans. They have few acts coming every year, but the pop-up shows seemed to take us to different audiences.


Folks in Perth are really getting into the newly-formed EstWest. Their first Sunday Sesh pulled in a solid 200 people, and the next one doubled that to 400! Now, they’re gearing up for round three, set to go down at a local rugby club. 

EstWest also investigated gaining licensing rights to do movie screenings. They want to support Estonian culture in the right way (ie. getting the licence), but have been quoted $500 flat rate per film, no matter how big the audience – quite steep price for a “small” community event. Communities in other cities have bought DVDs etc and hosted movie nights that way. While this has enabled Australian Estonians to watch Estonian movies, it would be ideal to find a middle-way to both support Estonian art/products while being realistic about affordability. 

As EstWest grows, they’re going to need more people on board, no matter how small the job. One challenge they’ve faced is communicating the realities of a volunteer-run association to the public. They’re thinking about opening up their meetings so folks can see what goes on behind the scenes and understand how much volunteers really make things happen, in the after-hours of their everyday life. This sentiment is echoed among other Estonian organisations in Australia – it is often challenging to find people to help. 

Cultural Events

Discussions broadened, turning to the future of Estonian cultural events in Australia. A key issue raised was the gap between the different generations as well as backgrounds – that is, differences between new arrivals from Estonia and multi-generational Estonian Australians.

New arrivals from Estonia may not show much interest in cultural events initially, preferring to connect with home through platforms like YouTube and Skype. The discussion raised questions about tailoring events to different segments of the Estonian community. For example, more casual food-based gatherings in Estonian language for new arrivals, while maintaining formal events in English for Australian Estonians. 

Another comment was about rethinking event strategies overall, such as offering free vodka shots on Independence Day like Canadian Estonians do. EstWest has had success offering the first drink for free on the house. Perhaps we should also develop stronger ties with other Baltic communities in Australia, such as how Jaanituli 2023 in Melbourne was hosted by the Latvians. 

The Kalev Bar in Adelaide also hosts successful bi-weekly events, but interestingly, most attendees are not Estonians. Most patrons learned about the bar and events through their Estonian friends, and regularly attend on their own or with their own friends. Maybe an open-door approach to the broader Australian public is worth pursuing elsewhere too. 

Estonian Houses

Concerns were voiced about the future of Estonian houses, with Melbourne selling soon and Adelaide monitoring the situation. Suggestions included repurposing spaces for backpacker accommodations, although tax issues need addressing.

Australian Estonian Media Project (AEMP)

Recruitment efforts are underway, with plans for the first team meeting to outline specific tasks around mid April. Funding applications have been submitted and are awaiting feedback. Anyone who wants to contribute to the AEMP goals are invited to contact:

ESTO 2025

Preparations are in progress for ESTO 2025, scheduled to precede Laulupidu in Stockholm, Narva, and Tallinn at end of June 2025. Two people were elected to head the organisation of this event and committee applications are open. Challenges remain in encouraging attendance due to time constraints – it is difficult for many to get enough time off. The meaning and future of ESTO 2025 was also discussed: will Australia ever host one again? What is its purpose in the modern day? 

Eesti Päevad 2024 – Adelaide

Advertising is pending, awaiting further details on performances and volunteer engagement. As discussed earlier, volunteers are few, making progress slower than hoped, but the EP2024 Committee are working the best they can.

Several artists have been contacted and discussions are underway, but it has been challenging to balance desires with financial and practical concerns. The Committee is waiting on details from the hearing impaired folk group from Eesti, and are weighing whether the Estonian Theatre group would garner a large enough audience in Australia. 


Next Session

That wrapped up April’s Conversation session! Join AESL for their next meet up on May 1st at 7:30pm AEST.

Next session – Join Zoom Meeting