A number of points are of interest in relation to the second generation in Australia.
Firstly, it is important to bear in mind that the 'second generation' is not a homogenous group of persons within a narrow age group. They cannot therefore be considered as one group in an analysis of their needs and their achievements. This group includes persons whose ages range from 0 to 60 years. Some of them are the children of parents who migrated with the wave of migrants leaving Malta in the late 40s. Others form part of families that are of much more recent vintage. It is therefore important to keep in mind this range when discussing educational and professional achievement.
It is of interest to note that most papers discussing the second generation and the census data in their analysis do not make this distinction, and lump all "second generation" as one category.
Another curious feature is the discrepancy between census data and other sources of information obtained more recently through surveys, assessment of recent University acceptances of Maltese-background students, as well as performance at some of the Universities where Maltese-background students tend to congregate. The former seem to show only minimal change in educational attitude and professional mobility, whereas the latter appear more optimistic and indicate a much more robust and dynamic upward mobility on the part of Maltese-background youth. Some of these discrepancies can be explained by the variable nature of the second generation population as a group, as mentioned above. It is indeed fair to assume that the younger-aged second generation persons share very little with the older persons, except that their parents were born over-seas. It is a point worth noting that this is not a sufficient basis for lumping this group into one homogenous whole.
In relation to language-maintenance, it is seen that census data under-estimates the degree of Maltese language use because of the restricted nature of the question asked. Many Maltese-background youth of the second, and even the third generation admit to understanding some Maltese. They still use it in communicating with the older members of the family, but they would not normally say that they usually "speak Maltese at home". In the survey carried out in 1998, the proportion of second generation persons who could speak "some" Maltese was 67%, while those who could understand some Maltese was as high as 83%. The majority of these would not speak it as their first language or at home most of the time. Even in the third generation there is a non-negligible proportion of persons who understand Maltese. It has to be admitted that the proficiency and mastery of Maltese language of second-, and even more so, third-generation generation persons of Maltese ancestry may be limited. It may be no more than the ability to say a few words in Maltese. Often however, it is sufficient for them to understand the general trend of a conversation in Maltese. As mentioned elsewhere, the occasions when they are expected to utilise such knowledge may also be considerably limited, and may be no more than the occasional chat with a grandmother, or perhaps the annual Christmas telephone call to the relatives back in Malta.
In relation to the work and occupation that the Maltese-background second generation aspire to, there also appear to have been some changes. It would appear that for a long time there was a tendency for the second generation to follow on the footsteps of their parents in so far as education, employment, and professional status are concerned. This also is changing, although the changes are not so obvious overall to make dramatic changes to the census data, and certainly it would be difficult to disentangle if the younger and older members of the second generation are not analysed separately. The 1998 survey showed that 21% of the second generation had a profession of some kind, with another 26% following a trade. The latter is still one of the highest in the country, and is well documented in the census statistics over the years, but the former appears to be an new aspect of Maltese society showing a divergence into areas not previously popular with Maltese youth.
It would appear that the picture is one that is rapidly changing, where Maltese youth are trying to make up for lost time by ensuring that they obtain a decent education which opens up new vistas in relation to employment. As mentioned elsewhere, there appears to be a definite trend in this direction, and that they are taking full advantage of the new opportunities presented to them through decentralisation of the education establishment and the setting up of the Victoria University of Technology in the Western regions of Melbourne where most of the Maltese have settled. While there is no doubt that there is a close association between education level and unemployment rate, it is pleasing to see that the unemployment rate (4.2%) was lower for Maltese second generation than for the country as a whole which has hovered around the 9% for a considerable time. It is to be hoped that these trends will continue and will become an obvious feature of the Maltese community in years to come.
Source: Maurice N.Cauchi - The Maltese Migrant Experience, Malta 1999