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Sunshine and St Albans have been known as 'Little Malta' since the 1960s. Mass emigration was facilitated after World War II by the 1948 Malta-Australia Assisted Passage Agreement. The agreement marked a basic change in Australian policy towards the Maltese who had previously been classified as 'semi-white'. Inexpensive land situated near a railway line close to large factories, coupled with the presence of the Catholic Church and local government regulations which permitted the building of bungalows for residential purposes, attracted the Maltese to Melbourne's northern and western regions. Through chain migration, new settlers encouraged relatives from their villages of origin to join them. New immigrants, anxious to avoid indebtedness, added new rooms to the initial structure as savings and time allowed.

In the early postwar years, life was very difficult in these suburbs: roads were unmade, sewerage was primitive and people were isolated from services. It was particularly hard for those Maltese women who stayed at home while their husbands went out to work. The Maltese worked overtime whenever possible and helped each other build or extend bungalows into proper homes in their spare time. They developed a reputation as hard-working, hospitable and unpretentious people. The 2001 census counted 22 456 Malta-born persons in Victoria - nearly half of all in Australia - of whom 90% were in the statistical division of Melbourne. To this may be added a few thousand ethnic Maltese who were born in Egypt and Tripoli. The principal Maltese meeting-places in Victoria are the Maltese Community Centre, Parkville (1983), and the Maltese Cultural Centre, Albion. A small, more middle-class community lives 'on the other side of town' but, whether east or west, the Maltese have a high level of home ownership. The ultimate measure of success for the first generation is the condition of their children. Family ties remain close and while the second generation tend to do better than their parents in material terms, most parents regret any loss of traditional Maltese values.

Barry York

York, Barry, 'The Maltese in Melbourne', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 60, September, 1989, pp. 3-23. Details