Bratska sloga (Brotherly Unity)

Brotherly Unity (Bratska sloga) was the first newspaper in Croatian, published in Auckland, New Zealand, bi-monthly from May 15, 1899 until June 26, 1899. Only four issues were published, each consisting of four pages. In the first issue, Antun Bulat is mentioned as the editor, and Matthew Ferri as co-editor.

Croatian immigrants in New Zealand were mainly from Dalmatia (the surrounding area of Makarska and from the islands of Korčula, Hvar and Brač). The first recorded arrival of Croats in New Zealand happened in 1858 when the Austrian frigate Novara arrived in Auckland. Of the ship’s complement, 175 were Croats.  More Croatian immigrants started arriving after 1880 and they settled mostly in the northern part of the Northern Island. They mostly worked as kauri gum diggers, living in bad conditions, in small communities. They communicated only in Croatian and  did not understand English. That was the reason why they did not know the exact price of the kauri gum. Gum buyers used to take advantage of that by not paying the full price. Another problem at the end of the 19th century was very restrictive Kauri gum Industry Act that was unfavorable to immigrants. Therefore, newspapers in Croatian were very important at that time.  In no. 4 of Brotherly Unity one reader writes in his letter to the editor:

“Dear Editor, today we wanted to sell kauri gum to a gum buyer…  The gentleman saw our gum and offered an unacceptable price… We gave him the latest issue of Bratska sloga showing the current price of gum in Auckland… he did not know what to do so he agreed to pay our price. Afterwards, he returned to his fellow gum buyers telling them that it is not easy to buy cheap gum from our people as we have our own newspapers and we know the price of gum in Auckland.”

In time, some Croatian immigrants started inhabiting urban areas, working in trades and the catering industry. Newspapers in Croatian were a valuable source of information and a good advertising platform.

Brotherly Unity had financial problems from the very beginning. The number of subscribers was too small so in each issue editors called for new subscribers. At the same time a serious rival newspaper, Morning Star (Danica), was published. Editors of   the Morning Star were Ivan Šegetin, Baldo Marušić and Ivan Pavlinović. As far as we know, there are no copies of the Morning Star, but thanks to  Brotherly Unity we know that the newspaper was published. The editors of Brotherly Unity decided to publish a lot of criticism about the Morning Star as they were a serious rival on a small market. In New Zealand newspaper New Zealand Herald (June, 29, 1899) a text on libel case at the Auckland Police Court was published. Ivan Segetin, the editor of Danica, charged Antun Bulat, the editor of Bratska sloga for calling him “a donkey” (tovar in Croatian) and questioned his intellectual abilities.

Because of the extremely complicated situation, only four issues of Brotherly Unity were published. The lifetime of the Morning Star was probably not much longer.

Here are links to all four issue of Brotherly Unity. Copies are held in Alexander Turnbull Library Collections at the National Library of New Zealand.

Brotherly Unity, no. 1

Brotherly Unity, no. 2

Brotherly Unitiy, no. 3

Brotherly Unity, no. 4