Selection, Nomination and Quota

The end of the First World War pointed to a tentative return to normality and the Australian economy was picking up again. Most Europeans wished to settle in North America, but Australia needed new blood to replace the men who had been lost during the war and also to expand its economy. The population had to increase. By 1920 Australia adopted a more relaxed attitude to immigration even if those migrants were not classified as British. The Australians were then willing to admit three categories of Maltese immigrants:

  1. Wives and dependent children of Maltese already living in Australia.
  2. Maltese who had been formerly living in Australia.
  3. Holders of Australian passports who could be re-admitted without restrictions and needed no special authority.

In addition to these three classes a special quota wag established to admit others who enjoyed good health and were at least able to communicate in English. The quota was established at 260 persons per year because it was calculated that that was the average number of Maltese who had arrived in Australia each year between 1912 and 1914. Moreover, Maltese immigrants were exempted from a dictation test if they carried a declaration from the Maltese authorities that they had been found to be sufficiently acquainted with the English language.

The quota system was not what the Maltese had hoped for but it was a move towards the relaxation of the rigid system under which only those who had immediate relatives in Australia were permitted into the country. The quota of 260 immigrants each year had conditions attached to it. Only small groups of about twenty or thirty immigrants were to be allowed entry in a single month and those migrants were not to disembark at the same port of entry at one time. This discreet policy was meant to avoid publicity and allay suspicions in quarters which were still actively hostile to the Maltese.

It was also strongly recommended that on arrival the Maltese should not walk the streets in groups or loiter in any given area. They were advised not to speak their language aloud and to do everything they could to avoid attracting attention. They were urged to seek employment in the country and avoid the towns at any cost.

Between April 1, 1920, and March 31, 192 1, the number of Maltese who stated their wish to emigrate to Australia was 278. Even before President Harding of the U.S.A. had passed the first Quota Law of 1921 which seriously impeded the flow of Maltese migration to the U.S.A., Australia was then already being considered as one of the most favoured lands by Maltese emigrants especially those who originated from Gozo and the northern parts of Malta.

In 1921 official Government sources in Malta had declared Australia as the land for the Maltese who hailed from the villages because land in Australia was plentiful, the wages attractive and the cost of living very reasonable. Queensland was considered as the ideal State for Maltese emigrants who wished to work not in factories but on the land. It was suggested that migrants should seek employment with a landowner and work for him. Union wages paid to those who worked on sugar plantations in Queensland in 1921 were 17s 6d for an eight hour shift while food was provided by the employers at 23s 6d a week.

The Emigration authorities in Malta provided information concerning work and wages in various States. They also had to work out a periodical report and send it to the Director of Migration and Settlement in London. Migrants who presented themselves for admission into Australia had to be over eighteen years and not over forty-nine. Domiciled and former residents were exempted from the Colloquial Test. In order to acquire domicile one had to reside in Australia for a period or periods in the aggregate of not less than five years.

The Australians had already given the concession to allow in wives, and children under eighteen, but other members of the family such as parents and sisters of Maltese already resident in Australia had to acquire a special permit from the Home and Territories Department in Melbourne.

Another interesting development in the field of emigration to Australia was the extension of the scheme by which assisted passages were made available to emigrants from Malta. The scheme had been in operation for a number of years and migrants from the United Kingdom were enabled to travel to Australia by receiving financial aid to defray their expenses. In 1921 the scheme was extended to migrants from Malta. If a migrant was nominated by a relative already resident in Australia he was able to qualify for an assisted passage.

Mr. Henry Casolani had worked hard to have this scheme also apply to the Maltese. It was for this reason that he had strongly objected when the Maltese were classified as aliens and not as British subjects.

The assisted passage scheme functioned in this way: the nominator had to pay two thirds of the passage fare. Any migrant of twelve years or more was considered as an adult and therefore his nominator had to agree to pay two thirds of a full passage. The ticket was generally obtained from the Orient Line Company. The nominator's duties towards his nominees did not simply consist in making good the greater part of the money which had to be paid for the trip to Australia. He also had to give a guarantee that he would adequately provide for the maintenance of those he had volunteered to help to bring to Australia.

The nomination had to be lodged with the Director of Labour and Immigration of the State in which the nominator was residing. The nomination was then sent to the Director of Migration and Settlement in London who then would send the nomination to the Emigration Office in Malta. The nominees would then be informed that they had been selected to emigrate to Australia and were told to submit themselves to a medical examination to ensure that they satisfied the requirements set down by the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1901.

If the nominated person happened to be a son or a daughter under the age of twelve the consent of one of the parents was necessary. If the person nominated was married he was to provide a signed declaration from his wife that she did not object to his departure. He was also asked to declare that once he settled in Australia he would send for his wife and children. The wife's consent was to be handed in to the Emigration Office on a prescribed form in which the wife was to declare that she was satisfied that the proper provisions had been made for her and for her children until the time they were able to join the husband in Australia.

Finally, the nominated person had to leave Malta not later than a month from the issue of his papers. Besides the certificate concerning his good health the migrant had to carry with him another certificate issued by the police which stated that his conduct record was clean. Both certificates were valid for one month.

Source: The Great Exodus by Fr Lawrence E. Attard. (C) P.E.G. Ltd - 1989.

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