Author: Dr. Barry York, Europe-Australia Institute, [email protected]
In 1983 the Maltese communities around Australia celebrated the centenary of the first organised and subsidised large-group migration from Malta to Australia. At that time, there were no books available that offered an Australian perspective on Maltese migration. All that was available was Charles Price's 1954 book, Malta and the Maltese: a study in nineteenth century migration, which contained only a few pages on Maltese settlement in Australia. Those few pages, however, fuelled some enthusiastic research in the 1980s. Individuals within the Maltese communities in Melbourne and Sydney, mainly retired persons or persons approaching retirement and professionals with backgrounds in education and literature, found vital support for their work in the pages of Australia's principal Maltese newspaper, The Maltese Herald, which continues to publish feature articles with historical and sociological bents. Also, in 1983, Hugh Azzopardi's book, The Maltese, was published for use in schools. It was the first published attempt at a comprehensive promotion of Maltese history and cultural life in our schools.
It was no coincidence, in my opinion, that the upsurge in active interest in Maltese-Australian history occured in the 1980s. It wasn't until the 1980s that the Maltese settlers, who mainly migrated to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, were in a position to afford the luxury of research. Most who had come here in the '50s and '60s found employment as manual workers and, like other ethnic groups who provided factory labour, their priorities were with buying a house and creating economic security for their families. For many, this was achieved in a rudimentary way by the 1970s. Whatever spare time they had, they devoted to the greatest of Maltese passions: family life and soccer!