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After the Soviet invasion in 1940-41, 10 000 Lithuanians came to Australia as displaced persons, the majority arriving in 1949. Together with their Baltic neighbours, the Latvians and Estonians, Lithuanians were the first non-British people to be accepted as immigrants. Melbourne's Lithuanian community, the largest and oldest in Australia, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999.

Conscious of maintaining community identity, the Catholic clergy set up weekly masses in Lithuanian. Father Dr Pranas Daukneys played a major role in establishing the local church, St Mary Star of the Sea, in West Melbourne, and in the publication of a weekly newspaper Teviskes Aidai. The church's activities spill over to Lithuanian House, a community centre first established in Thornbury in 1953, and from 1965 located in Errol Street, North Melbourne.

With new arrivals following Lithuania's independence in 1990, the community's links with the homeland were bolstered. Despite its relatively small size, the community boasts many organisations: the Baltic Chamber of Commerce; an honorary consulate; the Australian Lithuanian Foundation; Gintaras, a dance group founded in 1956; and the Australian Lithuanian Community. Prominent members have included Victor Perton, MLA for Doncaster; Dr Aldona Butkus at the Howard Florey Institute; Dr Paul Kabaila at La Trobe University; and sculptors Teisutis (Joe) Zikaras and Vincas Jomantas.

Abe W. Ata