The maintenance and development of the Maltese language and the understanding of its culture in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is being strengthened and secured by a new wave of teachers who have recently settled in Australia. These community-minded teachers are native speakers of Maltese with admirable academic backgrounds, having matriculated from the education system in Malta.

Annemarie Theuma was selected from among 321 teachers who graduated with a Certificate in Community Language Teaching to present an address at the Community Languages Teaching Programme Award Ceremony held recently at the University of Sydney.

Diane Camilleri (née Grima) and Michelle Tanti (née Grima) were also recognised for both achieving a high distinction in the Certificate in Community Language Teaching course. These teachers completed their studies by attending lectures on Sundays while teaching on Saturdays at Skola Maltija Sydney. They dedicated 60 contact hours of professional learning while juggling work and family commitments.

The NSW Department of Education, in partnership with the University of Sydney’s Sydney Institute of Community Languages Education (SICLE), funded the professional development of these teachers. Such courses not only build the capacity of community language teachers, but ultimately enhance the learning outcomes of students.

At the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools (NSW FCLS) annual gala dinner 2019, two new Maltese Community Language Teachers were recognised for their first year of service. Ms Theuma and Beatrice Pace received their New Community Language School Teacher Award in the presence of the Consul General of Malta for NSW, Lawrence Buhagiar, and his wife Rosianne Buhagiar.

Last February this year, Ms Theuma successfully established both a primary and adult class at the George Cross Falcons Club in Cringila, 90 kilometres south of Sydney. She coordinates and teaches the Skola Maltija programme in the Illawarra region. Ms Pace started teaching with Skola Maltija Sydney in March. She leads the multi-level primary class at Cobbitty Public School, 60 kilometres southwest of Sydney. Previously, Ms Pace worked for six years as a Learning Support Educator with the Education Ministry in Malta.

Other guests at the event included Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello and Shadow Minister Assisting on Multi­culturalism Jihad Dib.

In his address Mr Dominello said: “The most important thing you can teach your children is resilience through the maintenance of your language and culture. It is this identity which becomes their anchor.”

Mr Dib added: “Our multiculturalism is something to celebrate because it is who we are. Community Languages Schools not only teach language, culture, history and heritage, but they teach pride. Never be ashamed of where you come from… we are better when we are together.”

In a video message Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Australia’s diverse linguistic capability is one of our greatest strengths. It helps keep communities connected and informed. It links us to the wider world and for many it is central to culture and identity.” He added: “For more than 40 years, the Federation has been championing the benefits of learning another language. You [sic] have done great work honouring multicultural Australia and helping to strengthen connections between people of different backgrounds. It is work worth celebrating.”

Community Languages Schools began in Australia in 1859. In NSW, over 36,000 students attend around 550 schools and are taught by almost 3,000 teachers in 62 different languages. Community Languages Schools such as Skola Maltija Sydney and the Maltese Language School of NSW are an important provider of language and culture education in Australia and rely on the dedication and hard work of communities, parents and teachers.

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