1.4 Post-war Migration
With the cessation of hostilities in the Mediterranean region, the economic conditions soon began to take a down-turn. The Dockyard which used to employ about 11,000 was gradually wound down.
Moreover, the baby boom in the immediate post-war period, resulted in a net population growth of about 8000/year, and led to a density of 3000 people per square mile, and a total population of nearly 350,000.
Thus started the great exodus of migrants in the late '40s and early '50s which lasted for 20 years. This was a period of massive and rapid migration, so that some villages in Malta and Gozo were depopulated of young able-bodied men. Moreover, Maltese migrants after the War found Australia more attractive. Pre-war, most Maltese migrated to USA or UK, whereas after the War, Australia and Canada were the main places to take migrants.
Following 1970 there was a change in the pattern of migration: from economic migration to socio-political. As a result of perceived reduced political freedom and democracy, "a far larger proportion of those coming to Australia than before have been from the middle and professional classes" (Frendo, 1988).
Independence was a very important watershed in Maltese political, historical, and perhaps from our point of view, socio-psychological development. Few migrants coming from Malta before this time had any real knowledge or interest in Maltese history, language or literature. After Independence, there was a 'risorgimento'.
"Artistic endeavours flourished: subjects and styles changed. Composers orchestrated melody complementing the traditional singing. Painters experimented with collages of native flora and fauna. Architects designed modernized versions of rustic dwellings and farmhouses. Literary criticism developed as new poets suddenly emerged. There was a flair for soul-searching, a rediscovering and questioning of the past and present ... Malta assumed its place in the international community of nations sur le pied de I'egalite ' ... It was an emancipaton. So this cultural revolution spontaneously influencing Maltese nationality and self- pride, transforming identity or at least the appreciation of it, made little or no practical impact on Maltese overseas who simply could not experience it, except perhaps remotely." (Frendo,1988).
These transforming influences did not reach the migrant, partly through lack of contact with the printed and electronic media, and partly through disinterest from politicians in Malta. At no stage was any attempt made to organize and fund cultural contacts between Malta and Australian migrants. This therefore led to cultural and socio-psychological stagnation. Most migrants left Malta before independence, and therefore had a pre-independence mentality. "Their standards and aspirations, their loves and hates were fixed at the moment of impact [when they left Malta to a very large extent turning into a fossilized patriotic nostalgia." (Frendo, ibid).
The details of this emerging kaleidoscope their pattern of settlement, their way of life, their interaction with Australian society, is the subject of this monograph.
Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990