2.2 Migration in 1940s

The Maltese were the first non-Anglo/Celtic group to be selected for assisted passage, a scheme which started during Calwell's term of office for British subjects and former allies. The first wave occurred between 1948 and 1956 when between 1500 and 5000 assisted migrants made their way to Australia. Following this there was a wane and then another increase in mid-60's with a yearly intake reaching 3000, making a total of 43,000 assisted migrants by 1972 (Kunz, 1988, p 104).

The following illustrate some aspects of life in different parts of Australia.

Settlement in Melboune

In Melbourne,

"...the Maltese settled on new blocks on the western basalt plain, especially in St Albans, Keilor and Sunshine. Many built their own homes, living initially in a shed or garage. Public services such as sewerage and transport were almost completely absent, but, consequently, land was very cheap and industry on 'green field' sites was growing rapidly. Most housing was built for sale and was on individual blocks. A new kind of-'ghetto', namely the high-income, home-owning, suburban concentration, grew up, to the extent that St Albans now has the heaviest concentration of first- and second-generation European Australians of any area in Melbourne or, possibly, in Australia. While most inhabitants of the western suburbs are employed in industry, household incomes are high, although threatened by youth unemployment. Melbourne's largest industrial belt, stretching from Footscray and Altona to Deer Park and Maribyrnong, has developed since the 1950s as a major ethnic concentration which is almost unknown to the great majority of Melbournians who live to the east of the city. It is an area of educational, cultural and social deprivation but certainly not a ,ghetto' in the disparaging sense that has been applied to immigrant concentrations in the inner suburbs." (Jupp, 1988 p 944).

By 1981, the suburbs most popular for the Maltese in Melbourne were: Sunshine, Keilor, Broadmeadows, Altona, Whittlesea, Preston, Springvale, Coburg, Melbourne, Footscray with concentrations ranging from 505 to 6895. In some local government areas Maltese make up to 7.3% of the total population. Keilor has 30.2% of its population born overseas with Italy, Malta and Yugoslavia being the main ethnic groups. In Sunshine, 33.3% of the population was born overseas of which the main ethnic groups are Maltese, Yugoslavs and Italian.

Maltese settlers, unlike Italians and Greeks, did not move to more prestigious areas like Doncaster, Mount Waverley and Box Hill. In fact, the latest (1986) census shows movement of Maltese to further Western suburbs like Bulla, Melton and Werribee.

Settlement in New South Wales

The areas most popular with the Maltese were Holroyd, Merrylands and surrounding areas where about 12,000 had settled. Their main activities included market- gardening, orcharding and poultry farming. However, in Sydney the Maltese do not concentrate in any one locality quite to the extent that they do in Melbourne. (Burnley, 1988, p 952)

By 1981, there was a definite trend towards a decline in the number of residents in the City of Sydney, and the eastern suburbs (Woollahra, Waverly and Randwick), and the inner west suburbs (Drummoyne, Leichhardt, Marrickville), and an increase in numbers in the outerwestern areas of Sydney (Blacktown, Penrith, Hawksebury) as well as the outher South West region (Liverpool, Camden, Campbelltown. (Caruana,1984)

In Wollongong, there was a similar dispersal from the city centre to the outer suburbs of Shellharbour, Shoalhaven and Kiama. There was also some increase in the number of Maltese in country towns like Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, and to the northern coastal resorts towns of Taree and Coffs Harbour (Caruana 1984).

A large number of community organizations have sprung up to cater for the recreational, religious, sporting, and other needs of the Maltese in Sydney (see York, 1988b).

Settlement in Adelaide

The early Maltese settlers in South Australia settled as a rather isolated community in Adelaide. By 1933 there were 248 males and 10 females living there (York 1988c).

The history of the depression years is well described by York (1988c). Unemployment was rife and this affected the Maltese severely. A special 'Maltese dole' of 10/6 per week was paid to Maltese who were excluded from employment through the Labour Bureau. In the early 1930, several Maltese were living in tents along the bank of the river Torrens. Frank Cordner wrote in 1932 (see York 1988c p 155):

"Their section was notable for the fact that garden plots had been cultivated around each tent, tile Maltese growing vegetables to add to their food supplies, or flowers which they might succeed in selling for small sums ... This indication of enterprise and self reliance - not emulated by any other section of the unemployed - has won commendation in many quarters".

By 1936 the number of jobless had fallen to 10.8% and economic conditions improved somewhat. After the war, a number of migrants settled in Adelaide and other parts of S. Australia, but most Maltese migrants preferred the well-established Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra / Queanbeyan

The first Maltese arrived in Canberra in the 1920's. By 1949, a number 370 of Maltese tradesmen were recruited by the Department of Works and Housing under a 'group nomination' scheme. These tradesmen, mainly carpenters were working under a 2-year contract. (York 1987)

Most of these people would have come from the Maltese cities and would have had a better way of life in Malta than Canberra. They found Canberra desolate. One migrant expected the national Capital to be 'like Paris or Hollywood" but instead found that one " ... couldn't even walk the streets because they were full of herds [of sheep and cattle]. We couldn't catch the bus, because the service was limited to one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and 11.00 at night.'

Many of them had to live in two-man tents measuring 12 feet by 12 feet by 7 feet high when they first arrived. "When we arrived at Fairbairn, we found a few rows of tents, and were told that we had to live in them. The washrooms and showers were just two sheds. The hot water came from a wood-burning boiler ... everybody felt cold under canvas. 'There were about 100 tents for the Maltese. Each tent had two beds with a 'Very thin hard mattress, one sheet, one pillow, and two blankets". Sometimes they "had to use newspapers under the sheet and between the blankets to keep us warm.' (York,ibid).

By 1981 there were 419 Maltese living in Canberra.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

top-of-pageprevioustopic-indexnext Email-A-Page



We need your support to continue working on this site. Help us.
Text and pictures (c) 2001-2017 Malta Emigration Museum and/or its contributors.

Consultancy, hosting, programming and technical assistance provided by A6iT.