An Interview for The Bridge 2016
EXCERPT from the 2016 Christmas Issue of “MOST” (T H E B R I D G E).
Franko Cetinić is a successful entrepreneur in Australia and Asia; who has an English address but often resides in Croatia as well. We met up with him in London where he is an active member of the Croatian community. Conversation with Franko is very pleasant, he is rich in experiences and radiates with enthusiasm and innovative reasoning.
CROATIA IS MY SPIRITUAL FULFILMENT
Korčula-born entrepreneur, Franko Cetinić, transformed his fitting turning skills into a prosperous business in the gas industry, launching products in the Australian, Asian, and European markets. Until recently, he worked up to 16 hours a day, and aeroplanes were often his second home. Franko shared his life-story with us.
Franko Cetinić was born on the Island of Korčula, from where he left for Sydney in 1970 as an 18-year-old. Franko is the third generation of Cetinić’s to live in Australia. His grandfather, Antun, was the first from the family to leave for Australia in 1927, where he worked laboriously in the mines. Franko’s father went to join Antun in the mines and became an Australian soldier in World War II. They both returned to Korčula in 1948.
Franko speaks of his Australian beginnings: “I always tried to be a responsible worker, and I changed jobs a lot in order to learn as much as possible – from turner, to machinist, tool-maker, welder, locksmith… I performed all these trades conscientious and diligence. It was nine long years of hard work in preparation for my independence.”
Incisive, hardworking, and innovative, Franko quickly realised that working for others would not give him enough space to move forward. A severe injury to his right hand resulted in the idea to start his own business. He became a successful sub-contractor in the metal industry, and realised quickly that the energy industry brought the most profit. Franko began manufacturing gas equipment, his talent for innovation and perseverance helped him rise to become a global leader in the industry. “The gas business was a coincidence. At first I managed a labour-hire service, which was a great challenge. After that I was involved in various projects which included the relocation of whole factories, overhauling of machines, and other related activities. My beginnings in the gas business started with maintenance services. I saw room for improvement and for profit. We were among the top in this industry, and managed to tackle a demanding market. A particular challenge was manufacturing a safe, high quality product designed to prevent human error. Over time, prospects in China began to emerge, and through China the door to Europe was open. In China I encountered an entirely new way of thinking. Being both good and affordable isn’t always the easiest, but it is possible. Our administration is currently handled out of London, while technical and production facilities are in China. Our products are sold in Australia, America, Africa…”
A LIGHTHOUSE OF COURAGE AND FREEDOM
When asked what Australia gave to him, Mr. Cetinić replies: “The same as I gave her. It was a partnership. I arrived young, full of energy and enthusiasm, ready to build a home and help build my new country. I came for Christmas as a Christmas gift to Australia.
Australia is a gold mine, not only in terms of the valuable metal, but also in terms of the Croatian people on that continent. Religion and sports proved to be quite useful in connecting the Croatian diaspora. The Croatian émigrés, as much as they are physically there, are still connected in spirit with the Homeland. We have a heritage, and it cannot be altered. We need to provide opportunities for second and third generation immigrants – and this is something that a strong and healthy Croatian government could provide.
Besides tourism, Croatia needs production. Croatia needs to develop production and make use of its workforce, which is of an excellent standard, instead of having Croats disperse and work as “servants” around the world. I learned through my own experience why many Croats prosper in the world, while they cannot make it at home. This needs to change, and it can only be done by having the Croatian diaspora invest their capital in the Homeland.”
Franko Cetinić is active in the World Peace Committee Gong, and is Vice-President for Europe. He is friends with people of various profiles and outlooks on life, and always seeks to support artists and artistic events: “I met Charles Bilich in Australia. He creates a unique kind of art. I am also proud to have Meri Cetinić as my cousin. I am good friends with Anton Sardelić – a great artist who is currently engaged in conveying the stories of the suffering that took place in Vukovar. I am honoured that I was able to help with the cultural event Sentimento by Stijepo Gleđ Markos in Dubrovnik.”
BACK TO MY ROOTS
Mr. Cetinić regularly resides in Croatia. We note that there are insufficient investments in Croatia and we asked how the country could improve in this area. He responds: “For me it is most important that Croatia starts protecting investors and their money, and that it respects the rules of the game – from top to bottom. This is something so simple that it is surprising it isn’t done already.
In Croatia there is a systematic destruction of production, and the repercussions of this are the loss of independence and a pattern of dependency on everyone. I believe this will change. I have changed over time as well. I had to adapt. The one who works hard needs to be rewarded, while the one who doesn’t ought to be sent home. Croats are a hardworking people, and we have proven this many times.
Croatia is undergoing a necessary schooling. Croatians are intelligent and this too will be acknowledged very soon. Unfortunately though, Croatia was not built on a sound foundation, and so it is understandable that not enough has been done in 25 years. We were inflicted with a war that was dreadful and dissipating. The world did not understand and called us criminals for protecting our homes. Why should we be ashamed of defending our Homeland? I am optimistic regarding Croatia’s future, and when the Croatian people see this, there will be no end to us.”
On what the Croatian diaspora can do for their Homeland, Mr. Cetinić says: “We Croatian expats must adjust to Croatia. Just as we adjusted to Australia once upon a time, so too must we now adapt to Croatia. An emigrant like me who has lived abroad for many years, must bend to the Croatian environment and help instruct and educate our people, sharing our experiences as much as possible. One works best in one’s own milieu. If we want the best for Croatia, we Croatians abroad must try and understand our people; we must not patronise, underestimate, or blackmail them.”
Franko often travels to Croatia. The reason for this lies in going back to the beginning. “I’m going back to my roots. Going to Croatia gives me spiritual fulfilment.”