The Preservation of Maltese Culture and Language in N.S.W., Australia
Author: Charles N. Mifsud, J.P. (President of The Maltese Community Council of N.S.W., Australia)
It is important to maintain the Maltese Culture and the Maltese Language in Australia, as they provide a continuing link with Malta, which benefits both Malta and the Maltese Community in Australia. For Malta, a Maltese-Australian population proud of its heritage should assist in the economic, social and cultural development of Malta. For the Maltese-Australian population it means among others a cultural and linguistic enrichment.
Use of Language
Amongst the Maltese-Australians, specifically in New South Wales, the Maltese Culture and Language are still reasonably alive and well. When we, the first generation Maltese meet, we normally speak in Maltese, amongst ourselves, e.g. Maltese Association Committee meetings, social functions etc.
The Maltese we speak is perhaps Australian-Maltese and that’s because its probably a little different to the Maltese spoken in Malta.
However, when we come to the Second-Generation Maltese, (the children born in Australia) the story is different, they speak to each other, and to us, usually in English since when they were growing up we spoke to them in English. Although there are a few parents who would speak to their children in Maltese, even if its just one parent talking to them in Maltese.
There is no doubt that those who can speak Maltese have an advantage over the rest because apart from the preservation of the Maltese Language, this also opens for them windows of opportunities, such as in employment.
Therefore one should understand that Maltese Culture and Language are alive, and, will stay alive while we, the first generation Maltese are alive. But, what is going to happen when we are gone? You tell me what is to happen to our Culture and Language? My fear is for the future, unless we act decisively now and continue to do so.
Maltese Language in Radio and Press
The Maltese Associations, the Maltese Community Councils, are doing their utmost to keep alive our Traditions our Culture and our Language. They are constantly financing, supporting and presenting Maltese programs – Radio programs in an effort to reach the Maltese Community members in the Maltese language.
Often the Program Presenters, who work voluntarily, present programs at an expense to themselves. The Associations and the Councils support and assist the only Maltese Newspaper, The Maltese Herald published and distributed Australia-wide.
Our Associations are across, and cover all facets of the Maltese Culture. We have Associations who celebrate religious festas, others for sport, for music, bands, welfare, cultural and more.
In New South Wales, primarily in Sydney, we have 25 associations. We have Centres and Clubs, we have Business Associations, and we even have two Knights of Malta Associations and an Australian-Maltese Chamber of Commerce.
Books/Resources from Malta
Nearly all of the Associations do their best to secure the resources, which are so badly needed to preserve, foster and maintain the Maltese Culture and Traditions.
The help or assistance in the form of resources that comes from Malta is almost nil. Books, newspapers, tapes, CDs, Maltese Films etc. are hardly ever received. A prime examples is The Maltese Cultural Association of N.S.W. which has a 26 person strong choir and a group of about 30 young people who sing and dance. When new lyrics or music are required from Malta these have to be bought at commercial rate prices and sometimes even that is not possible.
The Maltese Language School (Sydney)
The Maltese Community Language School of N.S.W. is a division of The Maltese Community Council of N.S.W. This school was established in January of 1999, and the classes commenced in March at three locations at Greystanes, Horsley Park and Richmond. Mid-year another campus was started at Seven Hills.
An Organising Committee runs the School, as is required by charter and under the N.S.W. Department of Education and Training. This Committee is made up of two members from the Maltese Community Council of N.S.W. and from Teachers and Parents. The School uses classes at N.S.W. Public Schools except at Richmond where classes at a Catholic School are used.
We started the School with a modest budget allowing for 40 students and four teachers operating from one school. Within two months we had over 100 students and eight teachers operating from four campuses. We are presently starting another class because of the high demand.
The different classes cater for students of various ages from Kindergarten to Adults. We employ Professional Teachers with credentials in Maltese who have been trained in different methods of teaching, from Primary to Secondary to Adults. Four of these teachers have just completed comprehensive courses in Methodology of Communicative Language and Linguistics, sponsored by the N.S.W. Department of Education and Training and run by the University of N.S.W. All four teachers passed with distinction. This I believe is clear evidence of their dedication and commitment.
The times of the classes were designed to suit the students; some classes start at the end of normal school hours, others in the evenings and others on Saturdays.
Assistance from Malta
The lack of resources, is the biggest problem the school faces continuously. We have the teachers, we have the students, we have the commitment, but our resources are very modest and lacking. Our appeal to the Maltese Government, Media, Business Houses, Companies and Unions is for ongoing financial assistance. The financial assistance provided by the Government of Malta should be guaranteed and proportional, on the lines of the Italian Government’s for the Circolo Dante Alighieri, for the teaching of Italian or of the French Government’s to the Alliance Francaise in the teaching of French.
Other assistance such as Maltese books for different classes of different ages, dictionaries, as well as reviews from the University of Malta, Department of Maltese and Linguistics. Audio-Visual material, tourist promotional material and Maltese newspapers all help to make the teaching of the Maltese language more vivid and interesting. It is important also that we are kept informed on the socio-linguistic changes in the language and the contemporary Maltese culture. Thus the students of the Higher Level Maltese would be adequately prepared for the Contemporary Maltese Culture and Language.
We sincerely feel that the Maltese Government and various Maltese Industries are obliged to ensure that the Socio-Linguistic needs of the Maltese who emigrated are recognised. The teaching of the Maltese culture and language can be carried out with tangible resources. These resources are needed on an on going (not a one-of) basis.
Advantages in Cultivating Maltese
The benefits of the ongoing teaching of the Maltese Culture and language are many.
Firstly the Maltese Government would be ensuring the enhancement of the Maltese language to the new generation of Maltese, continuing the cultural and linguistic link between generations.
Secondly, this would expose Malta and the Maltese language much more in Australia, promoting Malta even more to the Australian-Maltese, their friends and relatives. The non-Maltese would be enticed to holiday and visit Malta.
Thirdly, there is the buying of the Maltese resources from Malta by Australian Institutions such as libraries who would be satisfying the needs of the "new market" the "new" readers of the Maltese language.
Then there is the identity of the Maltese, a unique identity. We are not Arabs or Italian or English – we are Maltese and we are proud of our identity. We together with our children and grandchildren, and our friends (other nationalities) would be able to recognise that because of the sustaining existence of our language and culture (made possible by the assistance of the Maltese Government and Maltese Industries), would be able to celebrate, as other nationalities do, the link that unites us all together.
We do need assistance from Malta if we do sincerely want to preserve the Maltese Culture and Language. The granting of Citizenship by Malta to the second generation Maltese is of utmost importance in maintaining the link between Malta and its people abroad.
What we are saying is that if we are genuine in our wish to preserve our Maltese Culture and Language for the future generations, we in Australia, we in New South Wales, need a commitment from the authorities (Government and Industry) in Malta so that together we will succeed!
We are committed to the preservation; we invite you the Maltese Government and Industries to join us with your commitment.
The future belongs to all of us!
The decision is yours to make!