Dr Charles Mattei
Dr Charles Mattei (1864-1939) was a General Practitioner and community worker in Australia.
Early life and medical contribution
His medical contribution to the Maltese community in Australia stretches back to the earliest Maltese settlement. The first medical doctor of Maltese origin to settle in Australia was Charles Mattei. Born in 1864, he was a much-travelled doctor and entrepreneur who tried very hard to introduce several migration schemes which all but failed miserably. He studied medicine at the Royal University of Malta and continued his studies in the UK, where he spent time in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. He worked among Maltese migrants in Alexandria, Egypt towards the end of the 19th century. In 1892 he emigrated to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, largely in search of the newly discovered gold, but had plenty of opportunity to look after sick people there – epidemics of typhoid were not unknown at that time.
He then joined the Australian Medical Corps and in 1901 he went to the Boer War and stayed there for three years. After he returned to Malta in 1904 he worked as a general practitioner but was involved with migrant issues and was given the task of honorary secretary in the newly instituted Malta Emigration Committee.
By 1910 he wrote: “I passed eleven years in different parts of Australia and visited Tasmania and other regions of Australasia… I have seen sheep stations in Australia and places many times larger than Malta used for grazing sheep only, pearl fishing in Western Australia and whaling, cattle and horse ranches in Mexico and in Australia from where shiploads of frozen meat are sent to Europe. …”
Involvement with Maltese community
Dr Mattei hatched several plans and travelled far and wide, with the scope of finding possible places where Maltese could settle. These included Canada, (Toronto, British Columbia), USA, and Brazil as well as Australia. In 1913 he migrated to Sydney where at once he started scheming to bring more Maltese migrants to Australia. At the time, the Governor of NSW was Sir Gerald Strickland, with whom he had discussions about this. Charles was hoping that the Government of Malta would recognize him as the Representative of Maltese in Australia, but this never eventuated.
With the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted and was sent to the Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt and Turkey). He was actually mentioned in dispatches when he was with the ANZACS in Gallipoli. He also served in France and Italy. By the end of the war he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He returned to Australia in 1919. He continued to lobby to become the Maltese representative, but for whatever reason, he was never appointed. In fact, when eventually a representative was selected in 1929, it was Captain Henry Curmi and not Charles Mattei who was the chosen person.
He moved to Mackay in Queensland and among other things helped launch The Maltese Farmers and Settlers Association, of which he was the first President. He was also the medical officer in charge of Rosemount Hospital where he had the opportunity to deal with fellow Maltese.
Charles Mattei died in 1939.
- Attard, Lawrence, Profiles, 55-63