Still proudly serving Canberra’s Polish community
The Polish White Eagle Club is a living link to Canberra’s multicultural past, present and future. Poles have a cherished connection to the region – Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, was christened by Polish explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki in 1840 in honour of Polish and American national hero and patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko.
Seeking new lives and opportunities in the post-WWII period, many Poles participated in nation-building projects, such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Many would later choose the nation’s capital as their future home.
The Polish community in the ACT began to grow significantly from the late 1940s; by the late 1950s, a pressing need had emerged for a venue where Poles and their friends could meet and commune. Over two years, they built a structure close to Civic, which was officially opened on the 3rd of December 1960 under the monicker House of the White Eagle.
In the late 1960s, the federal government donated a parcel of land in the Canberra suburb of Turner so that the Polish community could build a permanent club. Engaging renowned Italian-born modernist architect Dr Enrico Taglietti to design the building, construction commenced in 1970 and was officially opened on 16 February 1973. The Club was blessed in 1973 by His Eminence Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul II, and the world’s first non-Italian Pontiff.
The official opening of the building coincided with the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolas Copernicus (Polish: Mikolaj Kopernik) – the Polish astronomer who discovered that the earth orbited around the sun. Amongst other prominent Poles, the Club was founded in his honour, commissioning a wooden sculpture of Copernicus by the well-known Polish Canberra artist, Jadwiga (Jacqueline) Tupalska, which occupies pride of place in the entry foyer of the Club. The piece depicts the seminal moment of Copernicus’ celestial inspiration - that the earth revolves around the sun.
Nicholas Copernicus House today is the primary meeting place for numerous Polish organisations and hosts many Polish events throughout the year. Volunteer contributions, time and labour have kept the club in open since its incorporation in 1969.
The Club is a member of the Council of Polish Organisations in Canberra, the peak body for Polish organisations in the ACT. Beyond being a popular hospitality destination for the wider Canberra community, the Club helps to facilitate various events organised by Polish groups, as well as supporting them in fundraising efforts (such as the Polish stand at the National Multicultural Festival).