John J. Cole (1915-2000)

John Cole was Malta's first Minister of Emigration, and later a migrant himself.

He worked originally as a teacher and later as a clerk at the Malta dockyard. Supported by Mr Reggie Miller he became interested in politics. He was active through the "Malta Prospective Emigrants Organisation" (MPEO). Under a Labour Government in 1947 he was given the portfolio of labour, social services and emigration. In the Emigration Budget for 1954-1955 more than half a million pounds were earmarked to subsidise prospective emigrants.

The Malta-Australia Passage Assistance Agreement signed in Melbourne in May 1948 was an important highlight of his career, enabling thousands of Maltese to emigrate to Australia. One of the major problems to be faced by the Minister was the provision of ships to take all those who wished to emigrate. By November 1949, more than one thousand Maltese were onboard the migrant ship Columbia which left Malta for Australia.

Mr Cole was Minister for about five years. During his period in office he visited all the major migrant receiving countries. He was instrumental in achieving organised migration to Australia, Canada and other countries.

One of the more controversial schemes was that involving child migration to Australia. The Child Settlement Agreement was signed in Malta in February 1950, with the aim of help orphans to start a new life in Australia. The first group left on March 1950. By 1962 there were some 310 child migrants mainly in West Australia. Unfortunately, it was eventually shown that some of these children were treated less than well by the Christian Brothers who were looking after them., and the experiment was terminated.

In 1958, when Mr Cole was 43 years of age, he and his family decided to emigrate to Australia, and settled in Melbourne where he stayed for the rest of his life.

[For further information see: Profiles in Maltese Migration by Fr Lawrence E. Attard, 2003, PEG, Malta]

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