Contributed by Michael Cuschieri. This story is part of a collection of stories from the Skola Maltija’s Maltese Migration Projects From Malta to Australia.
Interview with Mrs Tina Cuschieri (my grandmother) by Michael Cuschieri
1. Where do you come from?
I came from the village of Ħal Qormi Malta. I came when I was 23 years of age, with my son Charlie. ( missierek). Charlie was five years old when he came to Australia in 1964.
2. Tell me about your life before coming to Australia.
Before I came to Australia I lived at home with my family. Mum, Dad and my Brothers and Sisters. There were ten at home altogether. We didn’t have a big house but everyone was happy and contented. We used to wear hand me downs in those days.
3. When did you leave Malta?
I left Malta about eight years after I was married. My husband George( nannu) was in the army and then in the Maltese Navy. I had 3 children when I left Malta, the youngest was 9 months( Uncle Joe), Mario was the middle child about 3 and Charlie( missierek), was 5 years of age.
4. How old were you when you left Malta?
When I left Malta I was turning 23, and had three small children.
5. Why did you migrate to Australia?
I migrated here because after my husband George left the army he couldn’t find work. My older brother Joe had settled in Melbourne already with his wife and children. He was able to find work for George and act as a sponsor for our immigration to Australia.
6. How did you travel here?
We came by ship it was called the “ Sydney”. The journey wasn’t that bad but it took a whole month before we got to Australia. My husband George was seasick for most of the way and I had to look after my three children. There were a lot of other Maltese coming to Australia so we didn’t feel alone.
7. Where did you live when you first arrived in Australia?
The ship arrived in Melbourne and we spent a year and a half in the suburb of Sunshine, in a small bungalow not far from my brother and his family. We later moved to Sydney as George’s sister Sylvia lived their.
8. What were your first impressions of Australia?
When we first came to Australia we saw a lot of big open space and bush. I used to get upset because we left family in Malta, especially mum and dad. When we came to Sydney we did have some Maltese friends through work though.
9. Where did you live in the first few years?
For the first few years we lived in Melbourne because my brother Joe was a sponsor for us to come to Australia. After that, we moved to Sydney and settled here because George’s sister, Sylvia lived here.
10. What was your first job in Australia?
My first job was as a cleaner in a perfume factory in Woolloomooloo, Sydney. I did this for 4 hours each day. I then went home to cook for the family and after this did my second job. I worked at Randwick Race Course as a cleaner. I then found another job after this at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital working in the kitchen. When we finally moved to Auburn and built a house, I worked at Lidcombe Hospital in the kitchen and as a cleaner for 25 years.
11. Is there anything else you would like to tell me?
It wasn’t an easy life when we first came to Australia as immigrants. We had to work for everything, as well as take care of the house and family at the same time. We didn’t have the same welfare benefits and government assistance that a lot of families have today.
Minn Malta għall –Awstralja
1.Fejn kont toqgħod Malta?
Kont noqgħod fir-raħal ta Ħal-Qormi, m’ ommi, missieri u ħuti. Kien hemm għaxra ħajjin , dak iż-żmien.
2. Għidli dwar il-ħajja tiegħek qabel ġejt l-Awstralja.
Konna kuntenti w ferħanin ħafna dak iż-żmien. Ma kellniex dar kbira ħafna , konna nilbsu wara xulxien għax il- familja kienet kbira. Jien kont ngħin l-ommi u ħuti d-dar.
3. Meta tlaqt minn Malta ?
Tlaqt minn Malta xi tmin sninn wara żżewigt, kien 1964. Ir-raġel Ġorġ (in-nannu) kien f’ navy u l-armi ta Malta. Meta ħareg ma siebx xogħol. Jien kont b’tletti-tfal meta tlaqna minn Malta. Missierek Charlie kien l-akbar, xi ħames sninn, umbagħad kien hemm Mario u wara Joey (kien xi –disgħa xhur).
4. Kemm kellek żmien meta tlaqt minn Malta?
Kelli xi tnejn u għoxrin sena, kont b’tletti-tfal. Dak il-ħabta żżewiġna zgħar.
5. X’kienet ir-raġuni l’ emigrajt lejn l-Awstralja ?
Ġejna l-Awstralja għax wara Ġorg ħareg mill armi ma settax isib xogħol. Kelli ħija Joey L-Awstralja diġa. Kien jogħod f’Melbourne mal- mara w tfal, u sab ix-xogħol lil-Ġorg. Ġhamel garanzija biex ninzlu L-Awstralja.
6. Kif kien il-vjaġġ?
Ġejna bil-Vapur is-Sydney. Il-vjaġġ ma kienx ħazzin, imma domna xagħar ġejjin. Ir-raġel hasu ma jiflaħx ħafna , kien naqra sea sick , u jien kelli nieħu ħsieb it-tfal u r-raġel. Kien hemm ħafna Maltin magħna wkoll għal-L-Awstralja dak iż-żmien. Ma konniex waħedna, konna ngħidu r-rużżarju flimkien.
7. Meta wasalt l-Awstralja , fejn kien l-ewwel post li kont togħod?
Morna Melbourne għal-lewwel , għamilna issu sena u nofs hemm. Umbagħad morna nogħodu f’Sydney għax kien hemm oħt ir-raġel Sylvia dak il-ħabta.
Meta wasalna Sydney morna nogħodu Surry Hills . Krejna dar f’ Sherbrook street. Wara Surry hills morna nogħodu Bondi , umbagħad xtrajna dar Auburn.
8. X’kienu l-ewwel impressjonijiet tiegħek meta wasalt l-Awstralja?
Meta ġejna għal-lewwel konnt dejjem nibki għax ħallejt ommi , missieri , w ħuti f’Malta. Ħsibt ser nagħmel sentejn bis f’l-Awstralja , biex umbagħad nargew immoru lura. Bqajna hawn għal- kollox imma. Meta ġejna Sydney għamilna ħbieb ma ħafna Maltin oħrajn u sibt ix-xogħol.
9. X’kien l-ewwel xogħol tiegħek fl-Awstralja?
L-ewwel xogħol tiegħi kien f’Sydney. Kont naħdem ta kleener f’factri tal-fwieħa Wolloomoolu għal erbgħa siegħat kull jum. Filgħaxija kont immur naħdem ukoll wara sajjart u tmajt il-familja. Kont kleener f’Randwick race course. Meta kont noqgħod Bondi , ħdimt fil-kċina tal-Crown St Women’s Hospital. Meta morna noqgħodu Auburn, ħdimt Lidcome Hospital, fil-kċina u anke bħal Kleener. Domt hemm ħamsa u għoxrin sena.
10. Għandek xi esperjenza oħra li tixtieq tgħidli?
Meta konna noqgħodu Auburn, id-dar inħarqetilna. Kelna nerġaw nibnu kollox mill-bidu. Ma kellniex ħajja ‘easy’ bħal l-immigranti tal-lum. Kelna naħdmu għal- kollox u f’listess ħin ħadna ħsieb il-familja. Ma kienx hemm l-għajnuna w l-welfare bħal tal-lum.