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The Nordin family arrived in Canberra in March 1962, after leaving their home in Trondheim Norway. Shortly after arriving, Arnold picked up catering work at Noah’s Restaurant and the Canberra Rex Hotel and quickly met a small group of other Norwegians who lived in the area.
For several months the friends discussed creating a Norwegian Club which would be a platform for networking and social events in Canberra, and talk of this idea travelled quickly through the small town that Canberra was. One evening, 2 men – Peder Andersen who was Danish and Eric Kassmen who was Swedish, arrived at the restaurant and said they had heard talk of this Norwegian Club and wanted to join. The group started to have some regular meetings where they discussed what the club would be, who would be able to join and what kind of events should be held. It was during one of these meetings that a member of the Finnish community turned up as he had also heard about the new club, and on that night it was decided that it should be a club open to all the Nordic countries.
Arnold began to design a logo and submitted 4 different ideas, with the ‘Hands across the Ocean’ picked as the favourite. This logo was used in an advertisement in the Canberra Times, inviting all those interested in joining a Scandinavian Club to an open meeting at Albert Hall. “About 60 people turned up” said Arnold. “It was a big surprise. I didn’t think there would be that many people interested. 29 people even signed up to become members at that meeting.”
After such a positive response from their open meeting, Arnold began discussing the formal establishment of a social club with a couple of politicians who were lunchtime regulars at the popular Noah’s Restaurant. Arnold told them that “the club would be a place where members can read Scandinavian newspapers and magazines, play cards together and host traditional events throughout the year.” The Scandinavian Australian Club Incorporated was certified on the 10th of December 1963.
33 people attended the first official meeting which was held at the Nordin home, and an election took place to pick the committee. Peder Andersen was elected as President, Eric Kassmen as Vice-President and Ingrid Nordin as Secretary & Treasurer. Arnold was elected to be the Party & Events Coordinator.
In the early days of the club, the committee held regular meetings and would write to the members when an event was coming up. Membership was about 10 Shillings for the family and this was really just to cover paper, envelopes and stamps for the coming years’ correspondence.
There were many events held with dinner dances, 17th of May and other Scandinavian national days and of course Lucia which everyone missed from home. “From the very first time we organised a Lucia, it was by far the largest event every year.” Unfortunately, as the club has no real financial backing it was difficult to continue in the same way. Memberships dwindled and eventually the large club activities came to a stop. “There was a small group of women, my wife included, that could not let go of the traditions we had started. They were determined to keep going and in the 1970’s the club was revived and became active once again.”
In the early 1980’s The Scandinavian Club was taken over by a new committee and not long after that it joined together with the Scandinavian Association (which was a group of mostly university students) to become the Scandinavian Australian Association (SAA) that it is today.
The SAA has now grown to over 600 people, and we are proud to continue many of the tradtions started over 50 years ago, as well as continue to host new events for the Scandinavian community in Canberra.