Maltese Identity in Australia - What Future?

Author: Dr. Barry York

Primarily Australian

In my own case, I think of myself as primarily Australian, but I am proud of my Maltese background on my father's side (and, for that matter, proud of my mother's English side, too). The Maltese side is foremost in my outlook, however, for a number of reasons. Firstly, English culture was so pervasive in Australia when I was growing up that it was difficult to regard it as a separate culture, let alone an ethnicity. It was natural, therefore, that my father's Maltese ways - and particularly those of his brothers, Joe and Michael, who had settled in Melbourne, and other relatives - would attract my interest and curiosity.

In those days, there was no official multiculturalism. I believe that many of my school-mates from non-Anglo origins were made to feel ashamed of their backgrounds. Today, it is different, by and large, and even fashionable in some quarters to have a non-English ethnic ancestry. This, I suppose, is the hopeful news: in an officially-supported multicultural milieu, the second and third generation have the opportunity to continue aspects of their Maltese heritage, if they wish to do so.

When I received the invitation from the National Council of Maltese Community Councils I thought it strange that I - with my greying beard and bald head - should be asked to speak on the subject of "youth". But it does raise an interesting point. The Australian-born children of the Maltese are no longer really "youth". We are more likely to be middle-aged and parents. So, perhaps, the question really is: how will the Maltese-Australian second generation bring up their children in terms of their parents' ethnic heritages?

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