Dr Joe Abela (author)

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Joe Abela (1931-1991) was a Maltese academic, broadcaster, poet and author based in Melbourne Australia.

Foremost among those who struggled to maintain Maltese language in Australia one must include Dr Joe (Ġuzé) Abela. He will be remembered as a promoter and teacher of the Maltese language, as a poet and author, as well as a pioneer of Maltese language broadcasting in Melbourne.

Early life and Radio

Joe was born in Żabbar and migrated to Australia in 1952. As a keen member of the Society of Christian Doctrine he worked hard to infuse the young with a solid Christian background. He was the Director of this branch for some 17 years. He studied for the priesthood at Corpus Christi in Werribee. He worked within the Maltese community in the western suburbs of Melbourne for several years. He met Carol Parkes, a nurse, when he was hospitalised and they subsequently married. He continued his studies in philosophy at Louvain University in Belgium where he graduated magnum cum laude, obtaining a B.Phil., Lic. en Phil., and a Ph.D.)

On his return he began to undertake research in the Faculty of Education at Monash University and was a volunteer Maltese language broadcaster on community radio 3ZZ. In June 1975 Joe Abela was invited to coordinate the Maltese language programs on the newly established ethnic radio 3EA which later became SBS Radio. Joe continued in his role as coordinator and broadcaster for many years until he resigned due to ill health. In 1981 he was appointed as a lecturer at Coburg State College which, with a later amalgamation, formed the Phillip Institute of Technology. He introduced Maltese as a major area of study initially in the Associate Diploma of Ethnic Studies and later as part of the B.A. in Multicultural Studies. Through his efforts, Maltese was also included as a subject at Higher School Certificate level.


Dr Abela is the co-author of several books in Maltese. His poetry style is largely traditional, although, as Chetcuti remarks, there is in his poetry “a sense of uncertainty, wishes without hope, which elements are characteristic of modern poetry”. They deal with various topics relating to life as he sees it. He says: Today I write on any subject. Whatever I say, and whatever I feel inside me, that for me is a subject of poetry. But the most dear thing to me is the people, the sense of justice. Those are the topics of my poetry, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, sometime pessimistic… I do not apologize. He considered himself to be a rebel, influenced by the rebel poet – his own teacher in Malta – Karmenu Vassallo.

Abela has written both prose and poetry, in Maltese as well as in English. He is also the author of philosophical works. The following is a list of his publications.

1953: Tlitt Iqlub. [‘Three Hearts’] – poetry collection (with M. Cassar, J. Sciberras)
1957: ‘Maltese death and burial’, Madonna, Melbourne,
1964: Hawn min iridek [about seminary life]
1983: Meta Jofrogħ il-Baħar [‘When the tide moves out’] – poetry (with Maurice Cauchi).
1984: The Concept of the Infinite in the works of Giordano Bruno, which is a philosophical treatise.
1984: Siltiet [‘Selections’] – quotations (with Maurice Cauchi).

His poetry is also found in several anthologies, including: Driegħ ma’ Driegħ (1971), Irjieħ (1986), Poet's Choice (ed. Roberts, Phillip 1976), Ethnic Australia (1981), How strong the roots, London, (1981). He has also written an autobiography, as well as a collection of post-war Maltese immigrants’ letters which has not yet been published. He was involved in editing The Voice of Malta. He has also published several articles, including Maltese settlement in Melbourne in The Australian People: An encyclopaedia of the nation, its people and their origins, (ed. by J. Jupp et al., 1988)

Other involvements

Chairperson of the Maltese panel, National Accreditation for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).
Member of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs.
The Maltese Literature Group: Perhaps this will be the most important achievement of Dr Abela, namely his involvement and re-creation of an active group interested in the maintenance of the Maltese language. There were other attempts at organizing a literature group in Victoria, however, he ensured that the MLG became an active force, which in effect has lasted well after his death.

Awards and Recognitions

Dr Abela died before the Honours system was introduced in Malta. However, in 1988, he was honoured with a citation from the Maltese government for his part in promoting Maltese language & culture in Australia. In this citation from the then Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Eddie Fenech Adami, it states: you have served your country nobly and well, above the normal call of duty, dedicating most of your leisure time to the advancement of culture, friendship and unity within the Maltese community and in the wider multi-cultural society of Australia. You have set a very high standard for others to follow, and I trust that others will be able to continue on the far-sighted course you have initiated.

At the inaugural MCCV Community Awards held at the Maltese Community Centre in Melbourne, on 11 August 2012, Dr Abela received a posthumous award for his contribution to Scholarship and Education. His nephew, Daniel Abela, accepted the award on his behalf. On 24 March 2013, the Maltese Literature Group launched a booklet Dr Joe Abela:Hajtu f'Hidmietu written by Joe Axiaq at the Maltese Community Centre in Parkville.