Today's Brisbane Lithuanian Sports Club “Baltija” is the fourth Lithuanian club that has functioned over the years in the Queensland capital.
The first commenced in 1950 or thereabouts. At that time only a few Lithuanians had settled in Brisbane, although there were a number passing through on their way to larger Lithuanian communities that were establishing in the southern states. Most of these were young men who had completed their two year contract of labouring in north Queensland’s cane fields in return for their assisted migration passage for displaced persons from Europe after they could not return to their homeland following the Second World War.
After a few years, in 1953 the club “Tauras” came into being. Funds raised from dances and picnics held for the Lithuanian community were used for the purchase of three table tennis tables, volleyball nets and the setting up of a complete basketball court at Kedron High School, plus balls and other equipment. Lithuanian youth used these facilities on weekends, however they only played amongst themselves and did not participate in any formal competitions, or attend any Lithuanian Sports Carnivals that were being held each year on a rotational basis in southern cities. Eventually these activities ceased, as more and more Brisbane Lithuanian youth moved to the larger communities that had established in the southern states.
The third Lithuanian sports club in Brisbane “Ausra” was established in 1969 under the leadership of Algis Malisauskas and Jonas Morkunas, who had transferred from Adelaide.
“Baltija” came into existence on October 6 1985 when Vaidas Stankunas was elected president, Regina Platkauskiene secretary and Anicetas Perminas treasurer. For a few years, a Lithuanian folk dancing group was also included in the combined youth organisation under this committee, however, since 1990 they have operated independently. The sports club was officially inducted into the Australian-Lithuanian Sports Federation (ALFAS) in December 1985.
“Baltija” made its first appearance at an Australian Lithuanian Sports Carnival in Sydney in 1986 with a boy’s basketball team and individual participants in other sports. Even though it is much smaller than those located in southern capitals, since 1986 the club has participated in all subsequent carnivals. We entered men’s basketball teams in 1987,1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 and every year since 2004. A women’s team participated in 2005, boys in 1986 and 1987 and a mixed volley ball team in 2005.
While basketball team competition is the backbone of Australian Lithuanian Sports Carnivals, individuals compete in sports, such as tennis, golf, table tennis, billiards and swimming. On various occasions we have had representatives in all of these, including a number of winners. “Baltija” volunteered to hold the 55th Carnival outside of south-east Australia in Brisbane in 2005, which was subsequently hailed as having been a great success by the visiting clubs and the 150 participants. The club hosted the games for the first ever time on the Gold Coast in 2013 which were deemed to be such a success that we were granted them once again in 2015 at the same location.
From its establishment in 1985 until 1997 the club president was Vaidas Stankunas. Other presidents were Raimondas Malisauskas (1997-2002 and 2007-2008), Rimas Vitkunas (2002-2004), Paulius Daugalis (2004-2007) and from 2007, John Kalnins. The longest-serving committee member, as well as player, coach and manager, has been Algimantas Milvydas (1987-present). The current committee consists of John Kalnins (president), Algimantas Milvydas (secretary), Karolis Hakas (treasurer), Vic Adomavicius (member) and Povilas Adomavicius (member). Vaidas Stankunas, the club founder and long-serving president, is the club’s sole honorary member, while Algimantas Milvydas is an honorary member of the Australian-Lithuanian Sports Federation.
BALTIJA COMMITTEE (left to right): Vic Adomavicius (member), Algis Milvydas (secretary), John Kalnins (president), aul Adomavicius (member) Absent (inset): Karolis Hakas (treasurer)