5.7 Our Past and Our Future

It has become traditional celebrate the 8 of September, a day in our history which will never be forgotten by the Maltese people because it reminds us of our distant past when we emerged triumphant from a siege that should by all accounts have annihilated us. When we remember our past we celebrate not war, but survival; not hate, but values that have been rescued and maintained.

But it is also crucial for a vital society to look into the future, to gaze into a crystal ball and see where we are going. Our most important investment is our children, our descendants who will carry not only our biological genes, but also our cultural heritage.

One often hears heated discussion about what is our Maltese heritage which we are so anxious to preserve. What is wrong in bringing up good dinkum Aussie kids who play Aussie rules rather than soccer, and prefer pies to pastizzi? One can trivialise the argument in this manner. One can be more damning and criticise all aspects of multiculturalism as a sinister plot to subvert the Australian ethos. They argue that to encourage self?expression and ethno?specificity is to splinter the whole nation into ghettos that are un?Australian. One hears that the cost of maintaining a multicultural tradition is so costly as to be prohibitive.

We maintain that the reverse is closer to the truth. We believe that the best Australian kids are those who are born and bred surrounded by the sort of extended family love and care such as we have known in our own childhood. As Maltese, we believe that we can instil into our kids morals and ideals with which we ourselves are familiar, in a language that we totally understand, with a choice of words that will allow us to express nuances of meaning not available to us in a foreign language, however well we believe we can speak it. We are not saying that our Maltese culture is superior to any other, merely that it is the only one we know how to pass on effectively to the next generation. We are also saying that if we do not do so, our children are likely to be left in a cultural limbo with no affiliations, no empathy with any culture, and no loyalties to any group.

We are also very mindful of those of us first generation Australians who know no better. It is far too difficult for us to change our skin and our habits. Many of us need no reminding of these facts and are convinced that our link with Maltese culture is a living one and needs to be maintained. Thousands others out there cry for our help at various levels, expecting of us far more than we can give. The needs of our ageing men and women are bound to increase in the next 10 to 20 years, and the calls for ethno-specific services are likely to be more desperate particularly for those who have felt the economic pinch. For these there is no choice but to fall back on the only culture they know ? for support, entertainment and companionship.

Hence the idiocy of those who believe that the needs of migrants disappear after a few years, that they do not need help anymore, that they should be encouraged to assimilate and disappear as an entity. I look forward to the day when Maltese community centres in Australia would have become redundant and ethno-specific services would not be required any more, but I have a sneaking suspicion that is a long way off.

[From: Il-Maltija September 1991]

Source: Maurice N.Cauchi - The Maltese Migrant Experience, Malta 1999

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