Information about the IAA
When and how was the IAA established?
There had been lot’s of talk about founding an Icelandic Australian association through the years. Especially after 1967 and 1968 when the majority of the Icelandic immigrants came to Australia. When the Icelanders first came here they soon discovered that a lot of other ethnic groups had already founded ethnic associations. These associations were active in keeping up old traditions and organizing national festivities. Therefore it seemed to many Icelanders that it was right and proper to do the same thing. In those first years people often changed jobs and locations so it was probably difficult for them to start up an association. At least one serious attempt was made in 1972. Then there was a meeting and people urged to become members. As it turned out only one Icelander paid the membership fees!
It wasn’t until 1981 when another serious attempt was made. This time it was successful. At a christening and marriage venue held on the 7 of March 1981, Gudrun Jonsdottir aired the idea of founding an Icelandic Australian Association. Not satisfied with talking about it she wrote a letter dated 3 of April to as many Icelanders as she knew of and asked for their response in writing. She put forward in her letter many thoughts about how the association would function and conduct its business. Luckily she received the response needed to call for a general meeting. This meeting was held on the 29 of November 1981 in the Bobbin Head National Park. On that date a gathering of about 20 Icelanders founded the Icelandic Australian Association of NSW. The first people to be on the IAA committee were the following:
- President: Sigrun Baldvinsdottir
- Vice President: Gissur Jonsson
- Secretary: Gardar Bergman
- Treasurer: Hans R. Linnet
- Committee member: Vilhjalmur Waage
The first formal committee meeting was held at the presidents home on the 30 of January 1982. There were a lot of things to discuss and organize in that meeting. The rules of the association had to be formulated. Also the activities the Association would organize had to be chosen. After several meetings the committee selected two main events in Iceland’s history to be celebrated. The first day selected was the 1 of December, because on that date in 1918 Iceland became a recognized state under the Danish crown. Also the 17 of June which is the birth day of Jon Sigurdsson, which was one of Iceland’s strongest independence advocate. This day in 1944 Icelanders severed all bonds with the Danish crown and declared their independence. From then on it has been the main concern of the IAA to organize these two functions. On the 17 of June the Association hires a hall and provides entertainment and food for the members. In the early days some of the members worked hard in providing Icelandic food for these events, but later on it was decided to use the Aussie spit on roast, because of the difficulties and work involved in preparing the Icelandic food. The 1st of December activities have been held outside in parks in various places. There it’s the traditional BBQ and games for the grown-ups and children.
Whereas these two days invariably don’t fall upon official public holidays in NSW, they have been moved to the closest Saturday. For the past nineteen years these events have become the cornerstone of the get together of the Icelandic community in NSW. Shortly after the founding of the IAA, the Association started to receive letters from people in Iceland and Australia requesting information and assistance. It was obvious that the need for the IAA had existed in both countries.
Due to the low numbers of Icelanders in general here in Australia the financial stature of the association is not strong. It follows that it is difficult for the association to expand their activities. Some attempts have been made through the years with evenings playing cards, informal BBQ’s and cultural affairs. These have mostly been isolated affairs and have not been repeated. The main pillars of the associations through the years have been the early immigrants them selves. Their children in general have not been highly active in the associations affairs, with a few exceptions. It will be the task of the younger generation to take over the flag which their parents have carried through the years. Hopefully there is enough of the good Icelandic pride and nationalism in this newer generation to pull this off.
Today, the association doesn’t operate as a paid membership. Anyone is free to join us in celebrating the only event in the calendar year, which is the 17th of June independence day. We gather at a pre-defined location on the first weekend after the queens birthday long weekend in June. A caravan park is chosen as the venue and everyone books their own accommodation, or comes for the Saturday when the main activities occur. They only cost the association incurs are the web hosting fees. So at the 17th of June celebrations, we have a raffle to collect some funds to pay for the hosting.
Why do Icelanders celebrate the 1st of December?
“Denmark and Iceland are free and autonomous nations, united under the same King….” so proclaimed the Icelandic and Danish parliaments in a joint bill produced in 1918 in a move that would effectively end centuries of colonial rule by Denmark. The Act was passed and confirmed by referendum on October 19 of the same year and on 1 December, 1918 Iceland was declared an independent nation on the steps of Government House in Reykjavík. The present red and white cross on a blue background flag, which Iceland received in 1915 for domestic purposes, was raised as the flag of the new nation. However, June 17th, when Iceland severed ties with the Danish crown in 1944 to become a modern republic, is now regarded as the National Day superseding December 1st.
Why do Icelanders celebrate the 17th of June?
Since it’s settlement in 874, Iceland was either independent or under the Norwegian or Danish Crown. In 1874, when Iceland celebrated the millennium of it’s settlement, it received a constitution from the Danish king and control of its own finances. In 1904 Iceland got home rule and in 1918 some independence. Finally, on 17 June 1944, the Republic of Iceland was formally proclaimed at Thingvellir. The, Iceland became a fully independent nation severing all ties with the Danish crown..