Intervention by F.J. Corder
Before a representative was officially nominated, the Maltese in Australia had found a good friend in the person of Mr. F. J. Corder, an Australian lawyer who was also a Roman Catholic. Corder agreed to champion the cause of the Maltese in his country. In a speech recorded by "The Advocate", Corder appealed to Australians to make an effort to get to know the Maltese better.
The reasons put forward by Mr. C order why the Maltese deserved a fair deal were that Malta was an important British possession in the Mediterranean and that it was an island extremely rich in culture and history.
Corder reminded the Australians that the Maltese and the Australians were allies during the Great War and many Australians were nursed in Maltese hospitals. Others were resting for ever in Maltese cemeteries. Corder said that the Maltese saw themselves as thoroughly European and that they travelled a lot. Malta served as a bulwark for Christendom for many years and in 1565 the Maltese saved Europe and the Mediterranean from Turkish domination. The Island's history became intertwined with the history of the greatest among the Crusading Orders, the Knights of St. John. The Maltese freely joined the British Empire and were loyal to the Crown.
Corder felt that the Catholic Church in Australia was not doing enough for Maltese Catholics. He thought that the Maltese needed all the help Australian Catholics could offer. Maltese immigration would help increase the Catholic population of Australia. Eventually the name of Mr. Corder was to reappear in the history of the Maltese presence in Australia and his interest in the Maltese community would be greatly appreciated by the Maltese themselves.
When Mr. Corder delivered his speech in 1928, the rate of migrants returning from Australia was on the increase. Stories were circulated in some sections of the Maltese press that the economic situation in Australia was deteriorating. Anti-Imperialist newspapers like "Malta" and its companion published in Maltese under the title: "II-Haddiem Cattolicu Ruman" which when translated meant "The Roman Catholic Worker", referred to stories reported by the organ of the Australian Labour Party, "The Workers' Weekly".
One story concerned the Maltese in New Zealand who, it was rumoured, were asking to be repatriated because they said that the information given to them about the job prospects in that country did not tally with the actual situation. Work was very scarce and accommodation practically not available.
From Melbourne stories were being circulated about British immigrants who went to cat in restaurants and then declared that they had no money to pay with. "II-Haddiem" strongly urged Maltese emigrants intending to go to Australia to drop the idea and opt for North Africa or Argentina where work was abundant and where the Maltese were not subjected to racial injustice.
Yet, not everybody in Malta was prepared to accept such a condemnation of life in Australia. One Maltese observer wrote on January 3, 1928: "While so many English and Maltese are starving in Australia, how is it that so many thousands of Italians go and do not starve?" Perhaps the truth lay somewhere else. Mr. Paul Attard of Sydney made a comment to one of the major newspapers in that city: "It appears that some alarming statements are being published in connection with the ill-treatment of Maltese by Australians. These are made by inexperienced individuals. All Maltese in New South Wales, are in good health, and although there are a few unemployed, none is in distress, molested or ill-treated".
However, the Report for 1928-1929, published by the Department of Emigration, produced some statistics which showed that not all was going well with the Maltese in Australia. The number of emigrants for 1928-1928 was:
The numbers of emigrants who went to the U.S.A. surpassed those who went to Australia by 85 persons. This was a time when the economic slump in the U.S.A. was more severe than that in Australia and hardship in American cities was more pronounced. Why was it that more Maltese preferred to go to America rather than to Australia? What was the reason for a higher percentage of migrants returning from Australia?
The numbers of returnees from Australia for the same period was 233, leaving a net flow of migrants of only 19 persons. In spite of the removal of the quota, the Maltese not only were not flocking to Australia but the rate of returnees was unacceptably high.
While the rate of returnees from Australia was 92% that of returnees from the U.S.A. was 21%. Could the reason behind all this be the feeling that Maltese in Australia were sensing that they were not wanted?
The Acting Minister of Migration in Malta was at the time Mr. Robert Hamilton. The minister was a great admirer of Australia and he himself eventually went to live there. Hamilton knew that his department was sending emigrants who had undergone strict tests and he could not decry those who came back as misfits or mere adventurers. The conditions of entry into Australia in 1928 ensured a screening of candidates which only allowed in those who were judged as capable of making their permanent home in Australia. Therefore a wastage of about 92% did raise disturbing queries from the Maltese side.
Travelling conditions to Australia had made significant changes and these were for the better. In 1928 the Maltese Government had convinced British ship companies to make regular calls at Malta to provide direct links with Australia. Migrants were urged to travel on British ships even if fares were higher. The Emigration Department also advised intending emigrants that it was to their advantage to use British ships because they would arrive in Australian ports together with other British migrants.
Maltese migrants were also warned that if they failed to depart on their set date and if their delay continued for a period of four months or more, they had to present themselves again at the Emigration Office to have their papers revised.
Returns of all sailings were transmitted every month to the Director of Migration and Settlement in Australia House, London. Moreover, the Superintendent of Emigration retained the power to suspend the departure of a fully qualified migrant until he was satisfied that the migrant was likely to settle permanently in Australia.
Source: The Great Exodus by Fr Lawrence E. Attard. (C) P.E.G. Ltd - 1989.