The Maltese Diaspora

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With migration from the Maltese Islands being so rife post WW2, the Maltese diaspora has become quite vast. Estimating the exact population size of the Maltese diaspora has always been a challenge. In round figures it is estimated that there are about 120,000 first generation and 300,000 second and third generation Maltese living overseas, making a total diaspora population of about 420,000, as large as the population of the Maltese Islands.

The main host countries are Australia, Canada, USA, UK and NZ. The biggest Maltese community outside Malta is in Australia, with the State of Victoria having the largest number of Maltese. The State of New South Wales comes in a close second. In the United States of America, the largest Maltese communities can be found in Detroit, New York and San Francisco. The majority of Maltese born migrants maintain strong political ties with Malta.

Maltese in Australia

The first Maltese arrivals to Australia were convicts who arrived around 1810. The first Maltese migrant (as opposed to convict or bonded servant) is thought to have been Antonio Azzopardi who arrived in Melbourne in 1837. In 1883 their was the arrival of the first group of 70 labourers and nine stowaways. Group and mass migration gradually picked up, first, to Queensland and, after World War I, to Sydney. Maltese immigration to Australia reached its peak during the 1960s.

The first woman to migrate from Malta to Australia was Carmela Sant in 1915. The move was prompted by her husband Giuseppe Ellul, who had migrated in 1913. Giuseppe was a stonemason in Mosta before moving to Australia to commence a successful career in sugar cane and dairy farming in Mackay, Queensland. In 1916 the couple gave birth to the firstborn Maltese Australian, Joseph Ellul.

Ethnic community services

There are a number of ethnic services in Australia available which help with the maintenance of the different cultures that make up the country's multicultural tapestry. The Maltese in Australia are serviced by Maltese language programs on SBS Radio and 30 minutes of Maltese News from PBS Malta on SBS TV. There are also a number of community radio stations both in Melbourne and Sydney that broadcast programs in Maltese, run by volunteers.

The Maltese community also had a Maltese newspaper, The Maltese Herald. The first edition of the newspaper was published on 28 July 1961, when three young men who loved football, Nicholas Bonello, Vincent Pisani and Lawrence Dimech, its first editor, got together to launch the newspaper intended to serve the Maltese community in Australia. The Maltese Herald succeeded two other Maltese publications, Leħen il-Malti and the Malta News, which were discontinued after a short life. Manwel Pisani and Lino Vella joined The Maltese Herald team in Australia, while Joseph Xerri provided assistance from Malta. Unfortunately, The Maltese Herald ceased publication in April 2013.

There are also a number of Maltese language classes for students and adults wanting to learn Maltese. The majority of these classes are in Melbourne and Sydney. Classes are also held in South Australia.

Maltese in Victoria, Australia

The majority of Maltese migrants reside in Melbourne's western suburbs of Sunshine, and St Albans. Many Maltese organisations in Victoria help to maintain the rich legacy of Maltese history, language, music and religion. They are mainly coordinated by the Maltese Community Council of Victoria through the Maltese Centre in Parkville. The MCCV also runs a Welfare section, which coordinates activities and services for elderly Maltese. These services operate with funds from the State Government of Victoria. There are various organisations that organise annual Maltese feasts.

Maltese in New South Wales, Australia

The majority of Maltese migrants reside in Sydney's western suburbs, in Greystanes and Horsley Park. A number of Maltese organisations in New South Wales organise events to maintain Maltese cultural traditions. The main Maltese clubs in NSW are La Vallette Social Centre in Blacktown and the Maltese Welfare Group. The Maltese Community Council of NSW is an umbrella body of Maltese associations in NSW. The associations serve the Maltese community in many aspects of life – settlement services, welfare, aged care, education, the teaching of the Maltese Language, advocacy with relevant bodies, religious matters and festivities, business networking, entertainment, sport and recreation.

Maltese in Queensland, Australia

The first Maltese immigrants settled in the Mackay area in 1883. Many Maltese immigrants found work in the sugarcane fields in the surrounding districts of Mackay in places like Habana and Farleigh. The work was hard labour, clearing hilly, rocky ground, planting sugarcane and, in the harvesting season, cutting the cane by hand. At first Maltese immigrants worked for others, but before long, some earned enough money, often by going into partnership with their fellow countrymen, which enabled them to buy their own piece of land and became farmers themselves.

The Mackay Maltese Club is an amalgamation of the Mackay Maltese Festival Association INC. together with the Friends of Malta-Mackay Inc. Carmel Baretta is the current President. In Mackay today it is estimated that 25% of the Mackay and region's population are of Maltese descent.

Maltese in America

In the 2008 American Community Survey, there were an estimated 50,691 Maltese Americans, which was up from the 2000 United States Census that listed some 40,159 Americans who claimed Maltese ancestry. This includes Maltese-born migrants to the United States, their American-born descendants as well as numerous migrants of Maltese origin from other nations.

Maltese in Michigan, USA

Many Maltese who once lived in Corktown have moved to surrounding communities, like Dearborn Heights, Redford, Livonia, downriver cities and even across the river to Canada. However, there are still many Maltese living in Corktown and other parts of Detroit and they remain proud of the community that the first Maltese migrants found when they left Malta. Images representing the community can be found at Most Holy Trinity Church, which displays a Maltese flag.

The Maltese clubs in Detroit and Dearborn, the Maltese American Benevolent Society Inc and the Maltese American Community Club in Dearborn continue to thrive with events, including the Miss Malta Pageants, visits from Maltese politicians and church hierarchy from Malta and feast day dinners.

Maltese in New Zealand

The last census put the figure of Maltese people resident in NZ at 222. There have never been huge numbers of Maltese in New Zealand. In a study coordinated by Mark Caruana and Dr Carmen Dalli, the earliest Maltese man registered in New Zealand was Angelo Parigi. He is listed at St Patrick’s Church in Auckland as having married 16-year-old RoseAnne McMullen on 4 July 1849. He was described as “a boatman born in Malta”.

Others followed including a James Cassar for whom some letters remained unclaimed at the Auckland Post Office in 1864. In 1883, Francesco Saverio de Cesare, was tasked by the Government in Malta to assess the “suitability of the British Colonies in Australia as a field for Maltese Migration” reported that: “At Auckland I met three Maltese, there settled for several years, and at Tauranga another one, employed as a cook; they are doing well; and have no idea of returning to Malta. They told me there are some other Maltese, whom they know, settled in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.”

Since these times there have been small groups of Maltese who went to New Zealand, some after the first and second world wars, some jumping ship from British naval vessels, and others under a limited annual assisted quota system. Over these times there have also been those who arrived in NZ via Australia. In 1989, a small group of Maltese formed the Maltese Association of Wellington Inc.


There are various definitions for Maltese living outside of the Maltese Islands.


Following the Convention for Maltese Living Abroad in 2010, the Federation of Maltese Living Abroad (FMLA) was formally established, with representatives from various countries.

In 2011, the Council for Maltese Living Abroad was set up. The Council for Maltese Living Abroad is made up of representatives of Maltese communities as well as experts in the field of migration and it was set up with the approval of the House of Representatives. The Council is represented by 5 experts from Australia, Canada, UK, Europe and Malta and council members from Australia, USA, Canada, Europe and Malta. The Council will also strive to set up a Maltese Cultural Institute.

The next Convention for Maltese Living Abroad is going to be held in 2015.

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