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    The first Maltese to arrive in Australia was a convict Felice Pace. He arrived in Sydney in 1810 together with a group of prisoners from England and Ireland. Antonio Azzopardi was the first free settler and he set foot in Australia in 1837.

    A Maltese Franciscan priest, Fr Ambrose Cassar, migrated to Australia together with a group of 61 labourers and 9 stowaways in 1881. They attempted to settle in Queensland to work on sugar cane farms but their plan was unsuccessful as the conditions were extreme.

    We do not know who was the first Maltese to settle in South Australia. However, Francesco De Cesare, a Maltese scholar who travelled across Australia during the 1880s, recorded a very interesting but sad story of Adelaide�s first Maltese he encountered. His name was C. Fabri and his occupation was a land surveyor. Decesare stated in his work Reports Upon the Unsuitability of the British Colonies in Australia as a Field Maltese Emigration that he met Fabri who at that time was employed by the government as a draughtsman. Unfortunately, he was retrenched due to economic measures taken by the government. To survive he had to sell his professional instruments and books. His health deteriorated so much that he finished up in Adelaide�s Destitute Asylum where he eventually died.

    SchembriAccording to the 1911 census there were 248 Maltese in Australia. The number increased considerably in the years to follow. However, in 1912 the Australian Government excluded Maltese immigrants from the assisted passage scheme as a result of trade unions bans on "cheap labour".

    In the same year the Government legislated the new policy of White Australia called the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act. This unfair exclusion of the Maltese made of mockery of the fact that they were British subjects and held a British passport.

    The bans remained in force until 1948. Yet, between 1911 and 1919 over 2000 Maltese migrated to Australia. They encountered some opposition and most of them had to find work in remote areas such as the Mt Lyell copper mines in Tasmania, at Broken Hill mines and on the Pine Creek to Katherine railway in the Northern Territory. In 1914 there were approximately 385 Maltese working on the Pine Creek to Katherine railway line and another 200 working at Mt Lyell mines.

    In South Australia significant number of Maltese worked at Port Pirie. Father Fenech, a Maltese Carmelite priest, was assisting new arrivals to settle in other States. He even arranged for them to travel to the Northern Territory.

    In December 1913 Joseph Vella from Mellieha, Malta and his friend Paul Abela, decided to emigrate to Australia. They left Malta for Naples, Italy. They continued their journey to Australia aboard the Otway. The two friends were able to find a job as labourers within a week however when they lost their jobs they run out of money and they experienced poverty and hunger. They lived in the bush not very far from Port Adelaide. Every day they walked from the port to the city in search of work. During this period Joe and Paul lived on scraps, grass and tree roots.

    Mistaken as German illegal immigrants they were detained by the police. When they were cleared, the police helped them to find work on a small merchant ship. Joe later moved to Broken Hill on the border between South Australia and New South Wales to worked as a miner with Paul�s cousin. Joe then moved to Sydney and found a job working on the railway lines. He later settled in Mackay, Queensland.

    Frank Schembri, who worked as a canteen manager on British ship when he was in Malta, arrived in Adelaide in 1915. He commenced his working life in Australia at Port Pirie. Later, he moved to Adelaide where he opened a grocery shop at Glanville. Three years later he was able to pay for the passage for his wife and daughter to be with him. In 1922 Frank built an ice-cream factory behind his shop. For twenty years he managed the factory and his business flourished. Then, in 1942 he switched to producing soft drinks. In the late 80s Frank�s son was still running the family business in Alice Springs.

    The darkest period in the history of Maltese migration in South Australia occurred in the 1920s when they were savagely discriminated against. The Australian Government banned them from being employed with the Australian railways. The irony is that a large number of them served in World War I. The majority of the Maltese suffered hunger and despair in spite of many of them were skilled artisans. Mr. Gunn, the South Australian Premier, regarded the Maltese as "uninvited immigrants" and refused to assist them to find employment.

    So, the Maltese set up tents along the River Torrens near the city and made their living from selling vegetables and fruit. They received help and support from the Maltese Club, which was situated in 158 Hindley Street, Adelaide. They formed their own association and called it the Adelaide Unemployed Maltese Organisation and lobbied the Federal and State Governments to lift up the ban. Unfortunately, their efforts were fruitless and the ban stayed. Many of them returned to Malta or went to other News South Wales and mainly Queensland and found work on sugarcane farms run by fellow Maltese/Australians.

    It was during the decade between 1920 and 1930 that the Maltese consolidated themselves into an ethnic community.

    Dr Barry York writes "the Maltese were, according to Dom Puli, 'like one big happy family' in those days. There was considerable mutual support, not just in boarding houses and clubs, but also in the course of everyday working life. Moreover, there was little choice, but to make good.

    "For young men, with several decades of life before them, the hurdles to settlement were not insurmountable. 'We were young', says Victor Schembri-Hardy. 'We all had fun, even if we were broke?'

    "It is not possible to estimate how many years the process of adaptation took. When Dora Puli returned to his native Birkirkara in 1935, to attend the Feast of Saint Helen, he found that while he was happy to be back in Malta he regarding Australia as a heaven' by comparison.

    "That was seven years after his arrival in Australia. To borrow Dom Puli's analogy, Malta remained the Maltese men's 'mother', but they had left home and had 'married' Australia."

    ">SchembriYet, for most of them, the beginning was very hard. Many had to travel from one place to another in their effort to find a suitable place where they could settle down happily.

    Luigi, Giovanni and Michele Camilleri were among the so-called 'Sons of Billy Hughes' who had been refused entry to Australia in 1917. After spending some weeks on New Caledonia they were finally allowed to land. Paul Calleja reports that their first employment was on the transcontinental railway construction at Port Augusta in South Australia.

    "Luigi and Giovanni returned to their home in Gozo in 1926 where Luigi married Giuseppa Cassar and Giovanni married Giuseppa's sister. Two years later Luigi, Giuseppa and their newborn son Joseph sailed for Australia on the Esperance Bay. Giovanni and his family had already returned to Australia.

    Sam Xerri, who spoke about his experiences at a seminar organised to commemorate the first hundred years of Maltese migration to Australia, disembarked at Melbourne. He was unable to obtain suitable work in Melbourne and, with his uncle, travelled to Queensland. They went to Innisfail.

    Xerri's move north seems to have been beneficial for him. "My first impressions of Innisfail were good," he said. "An Irishman employed me. They seemed to employ many Maltese because they were Catholics too. The farm was five miles from Innisfail and it was 100 acres all under cane. My day consisted of a little bit of everything.

    "We planted the cane, weeded the grass, we cut timber for firewood so we would keep busy. I was accommodated on the farm," Xerri said. "It was quite comfortable. My wages were 14s 6d a week. It was good money then. Accommodation was free, we only had to buy food. Life then was rather wild. There was a lot of hunting and shooting. This supplemented our food supply.

    "I managed to save some money and I was able to repay the cost of my passage. I always sent some extra money to the family. I spent the rest. I sent about 10 pounds every six months and it helped the family a lot."

    Xerri continued: "Some Maltese bought farms in the area but I didn't. There was a lot involved in taking out a loan, employing labour and then having to work very hard. On the whole Innisfail would have had about 1,000 Maltese. Some of these employed others. If you were a good worker word got around and you would get a job. References were given by word of mouth."

    Sam Xerri was not the first, nor the only person, to seek work in a city away from where he first disembarked. Indeed, the history of early Maltese settlement shows very clearly that the Maltese were a transient group.

    Malta, being a British colony, served as a strategic base for Allied forces during World War II. The Maltese Islands suffered heavy bomb damage to most of its buildings. When the war ended Malta and the Maltese were physically and economically under a heavy stress. Malta and Gozo were overpopulated and the unemployment was very high. Therefore, between 1948 and 1973 a large number of Maltese paid the Australian Government ten pounds, sold up their belongings and took ship for Australia under the Malta-Australia Passage Scheme.

    The range of social background of migrants was wide. So where their skills and ages. Some were married with children, but many were single. The lucky ones had relatives already in Australia, but the majority did not. The Maltese left home not because of political or religious oppression; they had one idea in common - to build a better future for their children and for themselves.

    Most Maltese have prospered and have no regrets; but there were those who wish they have never left Malta. Some of them went back and many returned to Australia again, unable to settle in either country. Today nearly every family in Malta has an immediate relative living in this continent.

    A large number of Maltese Egyptians resettled in Australia following the 1956 Suez crisis. The Egyptian Government took action against British subjects in Egypt, including the Maltese. Approximately 1,500 Maltese resettled in South Australia between 1947 and 1961. By 1966 there were 2,258 Maltese South Australians. There has not been any significant Maltese immigration to South Australia since then.

    Maltese South Australians have settled throughout the state and are employed in a range of occupations.

    Community Activities

    The Malta Community Society was established in the late 1940s. In 1952 it was registered as an official body and became the Maltese Guild of South Australia. The cruild has premises in Jeanes Street, Beverley.

    Like the other 12 Maltese South Australian organisations, the Maltese Guild is affiliated with the Maltese Community Council of South Australia, which aims to promote harmony and the maintenance of Maltese culture among the organisations.

    The council co-ordinates three annual national days: Maltese National Day; the Feast Day of Our Lady Queen of Victories; and the Feast Day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

    Maltese National Day is on September 8, celebrating two momentous events in Maltese history - On September 8, 1565, the Maltese people and the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem drove Turkish Muslim invaders from the shores of Malta. In 1943 Malta triumphed over a three-year siege by the Axis powers.

    Maltese South Australians celebrate September 8 with speeches on historical themes and social gatherings, and sometimes communal meals. Traditional foods that are served include lampuki, fish, timpana, macaroni and eggplant, hard-boiled eggs and ricotta, 'pastizzi', cheese pastries, and 'imqaret' (date slices).

    The Feast Day of Our Lady Queen of Victories is celebrated on the first Sunday in Octo~er. Maltese Roman Catholic South Australians celebrate Maltese Masses throughout the week leading up to the feast day, which honours the Blessed Virgin's deliverance of Malta in 1565 and 1943. They hold social gatherings, a Queen of Victories Feast Ball, and a procession with a statue of Our Lady at the Feast Day Mass at the Church of Christ the King at Lockleys.

    The Feast Day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is celebrated on the last Sunday of November. Saint Catherine was a Christian of noble birth, believed to have lived in Alexandria during the fourth century. Roman Emperor Maximian sent learned worshippers of images to speak with her to make her renounce her faith.

    However Catherine, who became known as 'the philosopher', converted the men to Christianity. She was beheaded by the emperor in 305. In Adelaide the Feast Day of Saint Catherine is celebrated with a Maltese Mass at Saint Brigid's Church in Kilburn.

    In 1992 the Maltese Community Council of South Australia erected a monument at the RSL War Memorial Garden in Prospect. The monument commemorated the 50th anniversary of King George VI awarding the George Cross to all of the inhabitants of Malta. This decoration is the highest British award for civilian gallantry. It was bestowed upon the people of Malta as a tribute to their great tenacity during the Axis siege. The monument was unveiled on April 15, 1992.


    Approximately, 1500 Maltese settled in South Australia between 1947 and 1961 and by 1966 there were 2258 Maltese South Australians. Since then the number of Maltese who settled in South Australia was minimal.

    The 1981 Census recorded 2183 Maltese South Australian. The 1986 Census recorded 2145 Maltese South Australian. 4171 South Australians stated they were of Maltese descent. 1991 Census recorded 2 088 Maltese South Australians. 3 913 South Australians stated that their mother was born in Malta and 4 201 persons stated their father was born in Malta.

    ferriggi The Maltese Franciscan priests have been looking after the spiritual needs of the Maltese community in South Australia for several decades. The First Maltese chaplain for the Maltese community in South Australia was Father Giles Carmelo Ferriggi, a Franciscan Friar, who was the instigator in the building of the Christ the King Church at Lockleys. He was also the first parish priest of the same parish from 1952 to 1979. He arrived in Adelaide in 1948. Fr. Ferriggi serves in the Australian Army as a chaplain for many years. He died at Fulham SA on Thursday, 27 January 2000 at St Hilarion Home. The present chaplain for the community is Father Gabriel Micallef OFM who is also the Chaplain of the Maltese Community Council of South Australia Inc. The parish priest of Lockleys is Father Edward Zammit OFM.(2002)


    Maltese Associations in South Australia

    1. Maltese Community Council of South Australia Inc.
    2. Maltese Guild of SA Incorporated
    3. Maltese Language School of Adelaide
    4. Maltese Queen of Victories Band Inc.
    5. Returned Services League (Maltese branch)
    6. Maltese Chaplaincy Group
    7. Maltese Philatelic Club
    8. Enfield City Soccer Club
    9. Maltese Senior Citizens Association of SA Inc
    10. St Catherine�s Association of SA Inc
    11. Society of Christian Doctrine M.U.S.E.U.M.
    12. Blue Grotto Maltese Program on 5PBAfm (Saturday 10 - 11.30 am)
    13. Maltese Community Radio on 5EBIfm (Friday 7 - 8 pm and Sunday 7.30-8.30).

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