Vella Bonavita, Roger (17.8.1940-)


Born in St Julians, Vella Bonavita studied at St Edward's College and Manchester University from where he graduated BA 1 (1962) and MA (1972).

Vella Bonavita was lecturer in history at the RUM (1965-82) and member of various uni­versity bodies and committees. He delivered a number of public lectures on the fortifications of Malta and Gozo and pioneered research work into parish records and Maltese social history in modem times. He also introduced the study of Maltese history from 1814 onwards into the university curriculum. He also supported the introduction of general his­torical and cultural teaching (Mediterranean studies) into the curriculum, organized a con­ference on the future of Maltese history in the school and university curricula, and cam­paigned for the establishment for a Public Records Office for Malta. As acting-director of the University's International Ocean Institute, he promoted Malta's interest in the Law of the Sea discussions at the UN.

As president of the University Staff Association, Vella Bonavita vigorously opposed the Labour govemment's student ­worker scheme and the university reforms. He was knocked unconscious at the university by Labour thugs during a fracas on graduation day 1978 while attempting to restore calm. He assisted in the peaceful resolution of a con­frontation between students and police during a sit-in by students protesting against govem­ment policy. Vella Bonavita was suspended from the University for refusing to renounce his rights to freedom of speech and action fol­lowing his participation in the so-called National Day of Protest on 29 June 1982 (the Mnarja protest). He was subsequently trans­ferred to minor duties at the National Library on half pay with full deductions. He initiated legal proceedings against the UM for unlawful and inhuman treatment and was dismissed from his post on migrating to Australia in 1982. The case was eventually decided in his favour.

Vella Bonavita, who was vice-president of the Junior Section of Din L-Art Helwa and trustee of the Hal Millieri - Bir Miftuh Trust, promoted the participation of Maltese youth in the conservation, preservation, and apprecia­tion of the nation's heritage. He worked actively on the preservation of medieval chapels and the wall paintings at Hal Millieri and Bir Miftuh and on the 100-ton gun at the Rinella Battery.

In Australia, Vella Bonavita was at various times export manager of Osbome Metal Industries; project manager, the Western Australian Exiin Corporation; senior consul­tant, Management Advisory Services Division of the Western Australia Government Public Service Commission; managing director, Curtin Consultancy Services at Curtim University; managing director, Eperon Pry Ltd.; and executive director, SASTEC, faculty of science, technology, and engineering at Edith Cowan University. In 1988 he returned briefly to Malta where he was reinstated as lecturer and became foundation managing director of the Malta University Services.

Vella Bonavita co-edited Maltese history, What Future? with Ann Williams (1974) and his published papers include 'Calendar of MSS. relating to Maltese History' and 'The Bonavita papers: One Method of Preservation' in Maltese History, What Future? (1974), 'A Sixteenth-century Proposal for a Fort on Manoel Island' in Melita Historica (1973), 'Four Anonymous Old Maltese Poems' in Journal of Maltese Studies (1975), 'Great Britain and Malta 1788-1798' in Hyphen (1977), and 'The 100-Ton 17.72 R.M.I Armstrong Gun at Rinella Battery, Malta' in Malta Year Book (1978).

Vella Bonavita married Judith Wood in 1976 and they have one daughter, Louise.

Source: Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century (1997), editors Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri

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