Yesterday I heard the news that The Maltese Herald, which has been the newspaper for the Maltese community for over 50 years, is printing its last publication.
While my initial reaction was of sadness that this newspaper will no longer be around, after further reflection I have come to the conclusion that the end of The Maltese Herald is potentially a good sign and a positive milestone for the Maltese community in Australia.
Unlike many other ‘mainstream’ newspapers that are cutting staff and closing their doors, The Maltese Herald is closing not because it is solely a print medium, but because it has potentially served its purpose in the community.
The newspaper was born out of the European migration into Australian throughout the 50s and 60s. Large numbers of Maltese people (including my parents) immigrated here during that period, mostly settling in Melbourne and Sydney. When The Maltese Herald printed its first publication in 1961 it was due to the intense need for the Maltese community to connect with each other, highlight community issues and remain in touch with news from back home.
Over the past 50 years the newspaper has highlighted community issues that are specific to the Maltese, relations between Australia and Malta, and followed the lives of the Maltese community as they became established in their new community.
Fifty years later, however, statistics are showing that the use of the Maltese language in the Australian community is in decline. Those still deeply connected with Malta use dedicated news programs on SBS or Maltese news sites to get their news back home, while for many who are Maltese-born or Australian with Maltese heritage, Australian news is now their news from home.
The community concerns or issues that they raise are the same as their neighbours from other backgrounds.
Ending the need to cater for the Maltese community as a separate entity is being seen in other parts of communication. You don’t find many translations of government materials into Maltese, as the majority of the Maltese speaking population either read English or have close relatives that do.
As the Maltese newspaper closes, however, many others are starting up. The past two years have seen a number of multicultural newspapers start to meet the needs of newer communities such as Somali, Thai and Korean.
The birth and retirement of multicultural newspapers is an interesting one to watch, as it gives a good indication of the levels of integration within the Australian community. It can also give you a strong insight into how these communities need to be communicated to.
Goodbye to The Maltese Herald and well done.