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Kosovich, Ivan (1913–1975)

by James Jupp

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Ivan Kosovich (1913-1975), journalist and political organizer, was born on 31 January 1913 at Zaostrog, Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary (Croatia), son of Jure Kosovich, peasant farmer, and his wife Iva, née Banovich. Many immigrants came to Australia from this region before and after its inclusion in the kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918. The Kosovichs reached Western Australia in 1926 and Jure later bought a vineyard at Millendon in the Swan Valley. Ivan had various jobs in Perth, in addition to helping in the vineyard. Studious and serious in appearance and manner, he was largely self-educated.

Kosovich moved to Sydney in 1935 when elected secretary of the Savez Jugoslavenskih Iseljenika Australije (Union of Yugoslav Immigrants in Australia). He was also the first editor of its newspaper, Napredak (Progress), published in Serbo-Croatian. Because of its pro-communist origins, Napredak did not obtain the attorney-general's licence necessary for foreign language newspapers until 1937. The paper was forced to suspend publication in 1940 but allowed to resume in 1942. Following the German and Italian occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Kosovich actively supported the resistance movement. He led the Liberate Yugoslavia Aid Committee which promoted the communist-led partisans under Tito, collected aid for postwar reconstruction in Yugoslavia and funded an orphanage at Bihać.

In May 1945 Tito's government appointed Kosovich consul in Sydney for Yugoslavia. On 10 November that year at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney, he married Frances (Frana) Elizabeth Tomasich, a typist from Dalmatia. As consul, Kosovich facilitated the repatriation of Yugoslavs: over one thousand left early in 1948, yet many returned in the 1950s. By then the Yugoslav communities in Australia had expanded due to the number of anti-Tito refugees. Kosovich's increasingly difficult position was exacerbated by the split between Tito and Stalin in 1948. In the Soviet-Yugoslav dispute the Savez sided with Moscow while Kosovich as consul remained loyal to Belgrade.

Recalled to Yugoslavia in late 1950, Kosovich came back to Sydney with his family in 1953 and was naturalized in 1964. He operated a small grocery with his brother at Bass Hill and in 1960 launched another newspaper, the Yugoslav-Australian Journal (Novo Doba from 1970), which he edited at night. His son Steven later co-edited the paper. Ivan suffered from chronic asthma, but remained involved in community affairs as president of the Yugoslav-Australian Club at St Johns Park, State chairman of the co-ordinating committee of National Communities from Yugoslavia and chairman of the Yugoslav languages group at Special Broadcasting Service's radio 2EA. Disillusioned with communism, he was a member of the Australian Labor Party's State migrant advisory committee and secretary (later president) of the party's Bass Hill branch.

Although he disdained all sport except the traditional Dalmatian game, bocce, Kosovich enjoyed reading, chess and films. He was neat in his habits and frugal in his tastes. Survived by his wife and two sons, he died of heart disease on 15 October 1975 at his Chester Hill home and was buried in the Catholic section of Rookwood cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Price, Southern Europeans in Australia (Melb, 1963)
  • M. Gilson and J. Zubrzycki, The Foreign Language Press in Australia, 1848-1964 (Canb, 1967)
  • J. Jupp (ed), The Australian People (Syd, 1988)
  • M. Tkalcevic, Croats in Australia (Melb, 1989)
  • A1068/1, item IC47/15/1/13/1 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

James Jupp, 'Kosovich, Ivan (1913–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kosovich-ivan-10761/text19079, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 27 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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