Last week the Maltese newspaper published in Sydney, Australia, The Maltese Herald, celebrated its 50th anniversary. 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 publication of the newspaper followed the mass migration from Malta to Australia of the 1950s and 1960s. Thousands of Maltese immigrants settled on the eastern coast of the vast continent, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. The Maltese formed their own social groups and football clubs, with Melita Eagles FC formed in Sydney and George Cross FC in Melbourne. These community organisations were critical in assisting the new immigrants to settle in their new country of adoption, following the traumatic experience of leaving their loved ones behind in Malta.
The Maltese Herald played a very important role in providing the Maltese community with information that was of interest, voicing community concerns and fighting for the rights of the Maltese community in Australia, while also maintaining a link with Malta. The articles covered social services, housing schemes and dual-citizenship issues among other topics.
Recently interviewed by the Times of Malta, Mr Dimech recalled the struggle during the first ten years of the newspaper at a time of manual pagination, when typesetting relied on lead blocks and none of the linotype operators and setters were Maltese-literate. It was the sheer determination of Mr Dimech and his colleagues that eventually guaranteed the newspaper’s success.
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.
Having arrived in Australia in 1956, Mr Dimech returned to Malta in 1962 for a couple of years to gain further experience in journalism. In Malta Mr Dimech worked at Allied Newspapers on Il-Berqa and The Times of Malta. In 1967 The Maltese Herald started weekly publication and a year later, Mr Dimech left his editorial post with the paper to join the Malta High Commission in New South Wales. Ġorġ Chetcuti took on the role of editor for a few months, until Mr Vella, the paper’s editor for the past 40 years, became editor. He was supported by his late wife Barbara and Rita Kassas. The newspaper team now consists of two full-time staff and four volunteers.
The 24-page bilingual newspaper has had its fair share of ups and downs in its 50-year history, more recently grappling with the rapid evolution and proliferation of modern means of electronic communication, the increased lack of support from business and industry and an ageing Maltese population in Australia. The newspaper has no plans at this time to go online as it believes that the print media is still the most effective means of communication for those who really want to analyse news, views and opinions.
The Maltese Community Council of Victoria congratulates the Editor, Mr Lino Vella and his staff, as well as all those who have played a part in the newspaper’s success, on the 50th anniversary of The Maltese Herald, a significant milestone and a major achievement in the provision of an essential information service to the various Maltese communities around Australia.