Cultural Foundation to Support Sydney Estonian House renovations


The Estonian Cultural Foundation in Australia (ECFA) uses its funds every year to support various groups or projects which aim to further Estonian culture and language across Australia, and bring together people with Estonian heritage or interests. This includes any activities held anywhere in Australia, and we look at these as partnerships where we support these activities. Donations and bequests are most welcome, to keep on supporting Estonian culture and heritage across Australia.

To date, the ECFA has been allocating grants within the limits of profits generated from it’s investments. Accordingly, this year the Board of the ECFA announced it was able to award grants totalling $15,550 to various worthy Estonian cultural projects.

However, following further discussions and considerations, the ECFA has made an exceptional decision to access it’s investments and provide additional financial support this year to what it considers a very important project – the urgent upgrade of Sydney Estonian House.

The Estonian Cultural Foundation of Australia (ECFA) has decided to underwrite the costs of the recently announced Stage One renovation of the Sydney Estonian House, to a maximum of $100,000.

The Foundation (ECFA) was approached by the Sydney Estonian House Co-operative with a request to provide seed funding for the community to be able to undertake the project. The Sydney Estonian House Co-Op needs to generate an income to maintain services and cover operating costs. However the current house is not in an optimal form. To be able to generate an income through renting out the front spaces, some key internal alterations are necessary.

Stage One of this work includes creating easily accessible and handicapped toilets at ground floor level; moving the Estonian Archives in Australia from the upstairs front space to the previous cafeteria (which necessitates strengthening the floor), and upgrading the front of house access.

The estimated cost of this Stage One work is estimated at just under $300,000. More than half of this work will be funded by professionals donating their services and time, and by using Estonian labour to carry out the work where possible.

As well as this, the Estonian House Co-Op will be seeking available government funding for support.

The Cultural Foundation considers this as a serious cause worth supporting. The basics came down to – as we have recently seen with other cultural groups, that without an Estonian House as a central hub and meeting place, the culture will fade away and die.

“To make the house feasible and keep it going, the work needs to be done, and the sooner it starts, the better. Someone needed to kick-start this project, and we feel that this will be a most purposeful use of our strategic funds, to maintain the presence of the Estonian community in Australia.”

ECFA President Dr Juho Looveer

One way of looking at this is that the money originally received by ECFA from the sale of Thirlmere Estonian House is now paying for this important work on the Sydney Eesti Maja. If any government funding is also received, then the ECFA funding will be reduced accordingly.

“Estonian House is a key focus for the broader Estonian community in Australia, being home for many and various Estonian community clubs, societies, organisations and groups and is the home for Estonian Archives. The House is where all things Estonian can and are supported and promoted, such as Estonian culture, history, language, crafts, music, dancing, the arts, and of course, community and friendships. Overall, Sydney Estonian House provides a profound connection for Estonians and Estonian descendants back to their roots in Estonia.

The Masterplan has been developed via extensive and iterative consultations with all the organisations that use Estonian House as well as the broader Sydney Estonian community.  It has achieved strong, broad-based community support, and achieving this support has been a fundamental goal in the Masterplan process.  This comprehensive, strongly supported plan for rejuvenation and enhancements of Eesti Maja will be self-funding over time, and we are extremely excited that this wonderful ECFA grant provides the seed funding to kick-start the whole process. We plan for Stage One to be completed within one year, and the income from rental of the front office spaces should then help provide funds for future work”

Chairman of the Estonian House Co-Operative, Grahame Reinthal
Sydney Estonian Society

The Estonian Society of Sydney has served the local community since 1927 and the community centre was the first outside Estonia established entirely from locally raised funds, with the work all carried out by Estonian volunteers. Sydney has more Estonians than any other city in Australia (residents as well as backpackers and tourists).

In 1937 the members of the Estonian Society began raising funds for the purpose of acquiring land and building premises for use by the Society. In March 1938 a member of the Estonian Society paid a deposit in respect of the proposed purchase of land at 141 Campbell Street and 22 Goodchap Street, Surry Hills. On 2 April 1938, a General Meeting of the Estonian Society approved use of a total of ₤200-00-00 (two hundred pounds in Australian currency) of the Estonian Society’s funds for acquisition of this land. Building of the original “Eesti Maja” was completed on 6 July 1940. Extension of the house commenced in 1957. The Foundation Stone for the new part of the building was laid on 24 August 1957.

Further details are available at Co-Op Sydney Eesti Selts

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