Co-op Board of Directors

  • Grahame Reinthal – President (CEO)
  • Giles Parker – Secretary
  • Aino Matwisyk – Treasurer
  • Taimi Nurm – Shares Administrator
  • Valdur Liira
  • Arne Rahnel
  • Hillar Ranniko

Co-op Enquiries

Email sydneycoop@eesti.org.au for all enquiries regarding the Sydney Estonian House Co-operative Society Limited, or contact us by completing the form on our Contact page.

You can visit the Co-op’s website here.

Sydney Estonian House, The Estonian Society of Sydney Incorporated and The Estonian House Co-operative Society Limited

On 9 October 1927 a number of Estonians then living in Sydney and surrounding districts came together and formed an unincorporated association known as Sydney Eesti Selts “Eesti Kodu Linda”, which in English translates to Estonian Society of Sydney “Estonian Home Linda.

In 1937 the members of the Estonian Society began raising funds for the purpose of acquiring land and building premises for use by the Society.

In March 1938 a member of the Estonian Society paid a deposit in respect of the proposed purchase of land at 141 Campbell Street and 22 Goodchap Street, Surry Hills.

On 2 April 1938, a General Meeting of the Estonian Society approved use of a total of ₤200-00-00 (two hundred pounds in Australian currency) of the Estonian Society’s funds for acquisition of this land. The meeting approved establishment of a Co-operative, of which the Estonian Society would be a member, as the preferred means for generating funds for construction of premises for the Estonian Society, and the use of the Estonian Society’s funds to purchase the land in the name of the Co-operative.

A meeting for establishment of the Co-operative was held subsequently on 2 April 1938, at which the Constitution that had been drafted was approved. The Estonian House Co-operative Society Limited was registered on 8 April 1938, held its first meeting on 13 April 1938 and shortly thereafter the Co-operative became the contracting party for the purchase of the land at 141 Campbell Street and 22 Goodchap Street, Surry Hills.

Subsequently, the Estonian Society (through some of its members acting as trustees or custodians for the Society) acquired shares in the Co-operative and by July 1938 the Estonian Society held about 20% of the issued shares in the Co-operative, while individual members of the Estonian Society held almost all (more than 96%) of the balance of the issued shares in the Co-operative.

On 18 March 1940 a public ceremony was held jointly by the Estonian Society and the Co-operative to mark the commencement of building works on the land at 141 Campbell Street and 22 Goodchap Street, Surry Hills.

On 13 April 1940 a public ceremony organised by the Co-operative was held on site to mark the laying of the foundation stone of the building which was to become known as “Eesti Maja”. This was followed by a Foundation Stone reception and concert organised by the Estonian Society held at the Australian Salon (Liverpool Street, Sydney).

Building of the front half of the “Eesti Maja” was completed on 6 July 1940. The Estonian Society moved from rented premises to “Eesti Maja” on 6 July 1940, held its first Committee meeting in “Eesti Maja” on 8 July 1940 and held five subsequent Committee meetings, 

on 15 July 1940, 22 July 1940, 29 July 1940, 5 August 1940 and 12 August 1940, prior to the official opening of “Eesti Maja” on 17 August 1940.

At a public reception on 17 August 1940 organised by the Estonian Society the keys to “Eesti Maja” were ceremoniously handed by the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Co-operative to the Estonian Society, which was to occupy, use and manage “Eesti Maja”.

Sydney Estonian House was the first house built by Estonians outside of Estonia and the only Estonian House built during the first period of independence of the Republic of Estonia.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Co-operative held on 7 April 1945, the Board of the Co-operative acknowledged:

  • that the Co-operative had been brought into being for the specific purpose of enabling the Estonian Society to pursue its social and educational activities on the widest possible scale and to do so from its own premises; and
  • that the Estonian Society is entitled to use “Eesti Maja” without payment of any rent to the Co-operative, but that the Estonian Society is to pay the expenses of running “Eesti Maja”.

In 1945 and 1946 the Estonian Society successfully took steps to provide all the funds which were required for the purpose of enabling the Co-operative to complete, in 1946, the purchase of additional land at 24-26 Goodchap Street and 143 Campbell Street, Surry Hills (i.e. adjoining 141 Campbell Street, Surry Hills) with a view to expanding the existing “Eesti Maja”.

For the purchase price, the Estonian Society was allocated shares in the Co-operative to the value of £ 1000-00-00 (one thousand pounds in Australian currency), which were held for the Estonian Society by designated Trustees.

Extension of the house commenced in 1957. Until then, the houses on these blocks of land were used by the Estonian Society for its activities, including, for example, meetings of the Cubs and Scouts in the 1950s.

The Foundation Stone for the new part of the building was laid on 24 August 1957. The Estonian Society invited all users of Sydney Estonian House to provide an item of historical significance to be placed in a time capsule that was encased next to the Foundation Stone. The extension to Estonian House was officially opened on 6 April 1958.

The Estonian Society and the Co-operative share the expenses associated with maintaining and running “Eesti Maja” and continue to work together in their commitment to provide a home for Estonian activity in Sydney.