Travel diary from Australia: Discovering the Danish community in Melbourne

February 2016. In Melbourne, Australia it is summer still and mid-city is a busy, vibrant buzzling of trams, cars, buses and all kinds of people; some quietly enjoying their lunch on a street café, some with purposeful looking attitudes, hectically going to the next business meeting somewhere in the city.

In between Melbourne’s ethnically diverse shops, cafés and restaurants and in one of the city’s most central and fashionable areas, I find DenmarkHouse; a Danish club and restaurant much visited by the districts’ many lawyers. The restaurant serves a variety of Danish open-faced sandwiches; traditional and yet with a slightly modern twist. The rooms are light and decorated with Danish design furniture and a display of Danish brandy holds a central place.    

As I do my first interview in these rooms, I learn that they are also the central meeting spot of members of The Danish Club in Melbourne; a club which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Moreover, the rooms are also used by the Danish school to teach children here how to speak the language of their ancestors. As ‘the club’ is thus central to the Danish community in Melbourne, so is the Danish Australian Cultural Society (DACS), which has a history of organizing and hosting special cultural events like music events, lectures about prominent Danes etc. for the Danish people in Melbourne.

Another day I visit the Swedish church in Melbourne. Once a month the Danish minister in Australia flies in from Sydney to perform a Danish ceremony here. This day, the church building hosts both Danish ceremony, a Danish lunch with open-faced sandwiches made by the Danish baker in the city, and a traditional Danish ‘fastelavnsfest’ (where children dress up). The organizer is, of course, dressed as a viking!