Speech - Alfred Flask (Australia)
Mr Alfred Flask Is the President of Maltese-Australian Association in Canberra and Queensland, Australia. He relayed the information about his area as supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, The numbers of first generation Maltese migrants were 3000 in Queensland, 2000 in South Australia, one thousand in Western Australia and around 400 in the Australian Capital Territory. In all these areas the elderly population exceeds one third of the whole number of migrants.
The services offered to the elderly are aimed at allowing the ageing people to continue living independently for as long as possible. It is quite normal that they do not reside with their children or extended families. Both the Govemment and privately run venues make centres, nursing homes and hostels available. The elderly, however, have to contribute towards the costs from their own pension. They can also 'buy' their place in the hostel, then the money is refunded to the family after their death. Some private hostels or homes negotiate sections specifically for the Maltese elderly. There they can live together as a small community and have special functions organised for them including group outings. The elderly also enjoy the facilities of newsletters and radio programmes to keep them occupied and informed of their surroundings. Cultural and religious events are celebrated as a national food day with access to services and personnel (priests and social/welfare workers) with whom they can talk and share their needs. The Maltese participate in all the Government provisions for all the elderly both collectively and individually as the necessity arises.
The main difficulties of the ethnic migrants are expressed in the fact that they lose their identity as they age. Often they want to return to their country of birth. They want to hear and talk about Malta as though the memories of their homeland are still very fresh in their minds. The result of various surveys generally concludes that the main issues to be dealt with are:
- The need for a Maltese-speaking Community Worker
- Help with home maintenance
- The need for a Maltese residential facility.
Mr Flask urged the Maltese Government to be more conscious of the needs of the elderly Maltese citizens abroad. Since they miss Malta badly in their old age, they should be provided with whatever they need in order to make their final years as comfortable and pleasant as possible. One good suggestion is to erect a retirement village in Malta for all those who wish to return to their homeland. They would be willing to surrender a part of their pension for their own upkeep in Malta rather than giving it to a home where they now reside. Also, many are those who can afford to contribute from their own savings. The speech ended with these words: "The Maltese in Australia are still Maltese and we all love Malta."
Source: 'Malta' - Maltese Culture Movement, Issues 4,5,6, 2000.