“Despite the long distances separating you from Malta, we all consider you as an important and complete part of our Maltese and Gozitan family”, was President George Vella’s message during an event with the Maltese community in the Australian state of Victoria.
President Vella remarked that even though a large part of the Maltese people in Melbourne are part of the third, possibly even the fourth, generation in Australia, they are still Maltese at heart. In a speech on the occasion, the President commended the work of the Maltese associations in Melbourne to keep the Maltese community united and the Maltese traditions alive, including the celebration of several Maltese feasts. He also noted the service offered by several radio stations broadcasting programmes in Maltese and the care service for the elderly provided by the Maltese Community Council in the state of Victoria and in elderly care facilities run by Maltese nuns.
According to the latest federal census, there are more than 80,000 people of Maltese descent living in Victoria. Most of the Maltese in the City of Melbourne emigrated after the signing of an agreement for an assisted passage scheme between Malta and Australia on 31st May 1948.
In a speech, parts of which were in Maltese, President Vella encouraged the Maltese community to not only teach the Maltese language to the younger generations, but to spread knowledge about its origin and evolution and about what makes it unique.
In Melbourne, the President had meetings with members of the Maltese Community Council of Victoria, which for the last 65 years has been working for the benefit of the Maltese Australian community in this state as well as with members of the Maltese Cultural Association of Victoria.
On Saturday morning, President Vella saluted the memory of the Maltese ancestors who lost their lives during World War II, allowing us to embrace freedom and democracy during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Shelter of Peace, a monument that was erected in 1994 by the Governments of Malta and Australia, the City of Melbourne, and the Maltese Community in Melbourne in commemoration of the George Cross award to Malta.
The President also visited the Shrine of Remembrance where he laid a wreath in remembrance of all those who served and lost their lives in World War I and in other wars.
Accompanied by the Minister for Public Works and Planning, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, President Vella also had a meeting with the Governor of the State of Victoria, Margaret Gardner. During the meeting, they discussed the role of the Maltese community in Victoria and the history of immigration from Malta to Australia, as well as the way the state of Victoria developed to become more multicultural.