Jandura Park is named after Mr Jan Jandura Pucek. Jan Pucek was the first ‘non-British subject’ or ‘alien’ to gain Australian Citizenship, taking the oath at the first Australian citizenship ceremony at Canberra’s Albert Hall on 3 February 1949 – the ceremony included one man from each State and Jan from the ACT (see Images 1-5).
The new Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 had come into effect as part of the post-war immigration drive, which actively sought immigrants from non-British backgrounds.
Prior to this, there was no concept of ‘Australian citizenship’ – people were simply British subjects if they were born in Australia or the Commonwealth, or they were foreigners or aliens.
Jan Pucek was a Slovak man born in the village of Habovka in 1914. He migrated to Australia in 1939 and settled at Tidbinbilla where he worked for a eucalyptus distillery harvesting timber in the bush. He had intended to earn money and return to his family in the then Czechoslovakia, but the outbreak of the Second World War prevented that. He was only reunited with his wife and first child after they were able to travel to Australia in 1948. There is a Canberra Tracks sign in Tidbinbilla about the Eucalyptus Distillery (see Image 6)
Jandura Park was named in Mr Pucek’s honour in 1999, 50 years after the first citizenship ceremony, though Mr Pucek had no known connections to O’Connor, having moved from Tidbinbilla to Sydney with his family in 1953.
A Canberra Weekly article in October 2021 highlighted the work of the Slovak Embassy in bringing the story of Mr Pucek and his place in Australia’s history to light.6. Tidbinbilla Eucalyptus Distillery Canberra Tracks sign - Black Flats
Canberra Tracks sign text: Story of a foreigner who became the first naturalised Australian (Source: Embassy of the Slovak Republic, 2022)
Ján Jandura Puček was born in 1914 in the heart of Europe, in a Slovak village named Habovka. In 1939, aged 25 and at the suggestion of his father-in-law Martin Tekel, Jan travelled to Australia with a plan to earn money for his family working at the eucalyptus oil distillery in Tidbinbilla and to eventually return to his family. Nowadays, one can still find the remains of the distillery in Tidbinbilla, together with a Canberra Tracks sign describing the hard work of the local migrant community, mostly from then Czechoslovakia.
The situation in Czechoslovakia worsened shortly after Jan arrived in Australia when World War II broke out and so he was unable to return to his wife and family as originally planned. During the war, due to limited possibilities, they exchanged only a few letters, but finally after 10 years, just after the Communists’ victory in the 1948 elections in Czechoslovakia, Jan´s wife Cecilia and first-born son Vic set out to Australia. In an astonishing coincidence, she recognised her husband’s photograph in a newspaper aboard the ship to Sydney picturing Ján at the Citizenship ceremony in Canberra becoming the first naturalised foreigner in Australia.
The Australian Nationality Citizenship Act came into effect a week prior to Australia Day, and the first Citizenship Ceremony was held at the Albert Hall on February 3, 1949 – in the words of Arthur Calwell, the then Minister for Immigration, “an important milestone in Australian history”. Seven men, one from each state and one from the Australian Capital Territory were the first foreigners admitted to Australian Citizenship under the new Act. The first man to take the oath was a Slovak, Ján Jandura Puček from the ACT, followed by a Norwegian from Tasmania, a Spaniard from Queensland, a Dane from New South Wales, a Greek from Victoria, a Frenchman from South Australia and a Yugoslav from Western Australia.
In 1953, after many years of hard, strenuous work in Tidbinbilla, Jan moved to Sydney with his family where he lived until passing away in 1978. On 22 August 1999, 50 years after the establishment of the Citizenship Act, an area of reserve off Macarthur Avenue in O´Connor was officially named Jandura Park in his honour in a naming ceremony, while members of Jan´s family stood proudly among a gathering of Slovak diplomats, local politicians and community supporters.