Goran "Tiny" Srejic has three goals. Well, he has a lot of them, but these are the big ones at the moment.
Build an amusement park in his home country of Serbia. Win an Academy Award within 15 years. Raise $2.5 million for local Canberra charities.
That might all seem pie in the sky. Until you realise, the amusement park is already built, it's just waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to pass so it can open. Tiny also has form when it comes to fundraising. He and his former partners in The Green Shed earlier this year racked up more than $1 million in donations to local charities. And he's already written the script for his first feature film, an Aussie battler story with a twist that he intends to shoot in Canberra later this year.
His wife Elaine sums it up when she says: "My life is never boring".
Life with Tiny could never be boring. He's self-made in every sense of the word, making his way from an uneducated teen in Serbia to one of Canberra's most original characters.
Always a ball of energy, Tiny is enjoying a rare moment of rest, curled up on the couch at his home in Melba, discussing what comes next.
He calls the house The Tardis, and it does go on and on, extended over the years to include a huge movie theatrette downstairs. And there are walls and walls and cabinets and cabinets filled with items from a lifetime of collecting.
Tiny and Elaine left The Green Shed earlier this year after 10 years putting it on the map as an iconic Canberra business.
With partners Charlie and Sandie Bigg-Wither, the couple took people's unwanted items and re-sold them, creating funding for charity and saving tonnes and tonnes of rubbish from landfill. (At last count, The Green Shed had sold more than 72 million items, saving almost 70,000 tonnes of stuff going to landfill.)
Tiny, 55, was going to focus on some passion projects with Elaine, his long-time support. The couple have been married for 36 years after first meeting on the dancefloor of the Copacabana nightclub in Dickson.
"We were supposed to semi-retire and I was going to spend 50 per cent of my time on movies and documentaries and 40 per cent of time raising money for charities and 10 per cent just having a couple of minor businesses and all of a sudden COVID-19 hit," Tiny said.
"I think I had 12 projects on the go and I'm used to going 150 miles an hour with everything and all of sudden, in one day, everything went. Sales dropped 95 per cent. I couldn't do anything for films or documentaries. People couldn't gather. Nothing."
It took something big to rattle Tiny. And the coronavirus pandemic was it. But what is quickly apparent is that Tiny doesn't let things get to him for too long. He gave the virus 24 hours and then he was back to it.
"The next day, I thought, 'Let's just do one thing at a time'," he said.
One of the most out-there projects the couple has been working on is an amusement park back in his home country of Serbia. After nine years of construction, the park was meant to open in April. "I've got a banner which is on a 15-storey building that I've been waiting eight-and-a-half years to put up. And it's up there now with a big fat date of April 11 and you're just going, 'Whoa'," he said.
Tiny says the park now probably won't be able to open for another three years. Serbia, a country of just 7 million, has had almost 29,000 cases of coronavirus and 658 deaths. Its death rate of 2.3 per cent compares with Australia's 1.6 per cent.
Even coming out of the pandemic and the possibility of a vaccine being developed, Tiny believes the corruption and bribery still systemic in Serbia will make a recovery more difficult for them.
The park, called Bora's, after a much-loved uncle, was meant to be his gift to Serbia. Located in a speck of a village called Batocina, an hour south of the capital Belgrade, the park was hoped to turn around the fortunes of its 7000 residents who suffer an employment rate of 60 per cent.
Elaine and Tiny built a house in the village a decade ago and were astounded by the cost of living for the average person and how it was affecting the children, in particular.
"We went to the movies a few times and each time there were only three or four kids there and I'm just going, 'What the hell?' And I looked at the price of a ticket - the average person would have to work two days to send two kids," he said.
"I just said to Elaine, 'I'm going to build an amusement park where it's only five bucks to get in all day long'."
The park features a 3.5-kilometre hedge maze, skate park, trampoline park, jumping castles, mini-golf and a huge robot. It's designed to be low-maintenance and managed by the staff themselves. Keeping the park operational until Serbia returns to normal life is part of the reason Tiny hasn't retired, re-mortgaging his Melba home to keep the dream alive.
"That's been the whole goal. As soon as the park is opened, you've got a lot of people employed and basically that whole town can live off that one park," he said.
"To me, if I didn't immigrate to Australia, and I'm a hard-working dad living in that village, I'd be ashamed if I couldn't send my kids to that picture theatre."
Serbia is still close to Tiny,'s even though he is happily ensconced in Australia. He first migrated with his family at five and returned to Serbia at 15. Nine months later, he returned to Australia, by himself.
"You know when the Pope kisses the ground? I was pashing the ground. They couldn't get me off the ground and I wasn't leaving again," he said, laughing.
He was alone. His mother and father offering no support. "My old man was basically a criminal," he said.
Tiny first lodged in the old Barton House hotel on Brisbane Avenue, paying $11 a week rent. He earned $20 a week as an usher at the Starlight drive-in at Watson.
"No matter where you are, $9 isn't very much and you kind of run out after four days. But it is what it is," he said, of those difficult early days. "I can whinge and bitch about it, or I can think 'shit happens' and move on. Some people use their background as an excuse for the rest of their life, others get on with it and think, 'Well, it wasn't my fault'. I was put in that situation and I survived."
As a teenager, he worked at Waltons department store and later for Reg Daly real estate (later Independent). Mentors in real estate advised him to write down his goals for the next 20 years and read them every day.
That's all it is, if you can, you should. We all have it in us to do unbelievable things. But it's always tomorrow.- Tiny Srejic on his life motivation
"So, I wrote my goals out, showed them to Elaine and she pissed herself laughing and so did all my friends. I thought, 'Who do I listen to? The guys who've done it, who say read your goals every day, or the guys who haven't'. It took quite a while to start achieving stuff, but I read them every day," he said.
"The first ones were to have a house with a picture theatre in it. To have a library. To have a gym. To give away a million dollars to charity. Some travel. Obviously, be a good person. Be a supportive friend, dad, grand-dad. And I keep writing them.
"I have a list of goals in the shower, in the toilet. When I travel, they come with me. It's just a way to stay focused on doing a bit on everything all the time."
He and Elaine started creating businesses buying and selling items. They still do 100 estate sales a year. He even has a diamond and gold business.
Now that former uneducated teenager sits before a bank of computer screens in his home theatrette, putting together ideas for TV shows and documentaries.
Tiny has made a one-hour pilot called Scammers, which he is now shopping around to the networks. It features well-known comedians such as Jimeon and Akmal Saleh discussing how they have been scammed, telling their stories in a humorous way but also informing the viewer.
And then there is his feature film, which he plans to shoot in Canberra in 12 days for less than $100,000. It's called The Choice and is about a hard-working young dad who is diagnosed with a rare brain tumour. The doctors have discovered, however, it gets smaller at night. He's given a choice: be put in an induced coma for 25 years and live out the rest of his life peacefully, or die, untreated, within a decade. What would you do?
"The goal of the film is to have you go home and cuddle your kids. You're up and down through the whole film and bawling for a lot of it because it's just basically about the love of the family," Tiny said.
The actors have already done a reading of the script in Canberra, with Shane Emmett on board to play the lead. "I've written it, I've read it back to front, I know the back story of everyone and then all of a sudden you have these actors and they're saying what I've written," he said.
The charity work also continues. Tiny bought a luxury 2020 VW Polo car to give away to anyone who can leave their hand on it the longest. Only 20 people who have raised the most money for their favourite charity will be able to participate. That will take place at the Canberra Outlet Centre starting September 3. There are other equally unique fundraisers in the works. He says he has everything he needs. He just wants to give back.
It's no accident, then, that Tiny's motto is "If you can, you should" and that he even has it written across a wall at his home.
"That's all it is, if you can, you should. We all have it in us to do unbelievable things. But it's always tomorrow. I'm going to fail more times than I succeed. If the Scammers show doesn't go anywhere, should I say, 'That's my career over'? Or should I say, 'What did I learn out of it?'."
"The average person has five goals. For a male, it's to find a car, next is to find a partner, next is to find a house, next is to educate their kids and their last one is retirement. So that's five goals over 50 years. So that's one goal every 10 years.
"Come on. You can do better than that."
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