Maitland’s rich cultural identity over the years impacted by migration, Greta Migrant Camp

PEOPLE: Greta Migrant Camp fourth class in 1957. Many of the people who lived there moved to Maitland after leaving the camp.
PEOPLE: Greta Migrant Camp fourth class in 1957. Many of the people who lived there moved to Maitland after leaving the camp.

Today, Maitland is home to people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds.

According to the 2016 Census, almost 15 per cent of Maitland’s residents were not born in Australia –  more than during the 2011, 2006 and 2001 Census.

More than five per cent of people also identified as Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander, almost double the Australian average of 2.8 per cent.

The Maitland City Council Cultural Plan 2016-19 also says that 49 different nationalities and cultures are represented in the community.

“Significant sized non-Anglo cultural communities of first or second generation migrants in Maitland include: German, Dutch, Polish, Chinese, Italian, Filipino, Indian, Maori, South African, Greek, and Maltese,” the plan says. “Emerging communities include the Thai, Sudanese, Tibetan, Japanese, Afghan, Ethiopian and Sinhalese.”

The city’s people come from all different corners of the globe – England the most prominent birth country other than Australia, followed by New Zealand, India, The Philippines then South Africa as recorded in 2016.

But that diversity has changed over time, particularly by war.

Fifteen years earlier in 2001, Germany and Poland were in Maitland’s top three countries of birth other than Australia.

Many German, Polish and other European people came to the area after World War II to live at Greta Migrant Camp.

The camp, which opened to migrants in 1949, took in approximately 100,000 displaced people who fled the war.

The camp officially closed in January 1960, meaning many moved out into the Hunter where some still remain today.

With European migration being so prominent in Maitland at that time, many residents in the area still have parents who were born overseas.

In the 2016 census, more than a quarter of respondents had at least one parent who was born overseas, with one in 10 people saying both parents of their parents were not born in Australia.

Maitland’s rich multiculturalism is on display right now in an exhibition by Maitland Regional Museum entitled Journeys: Maitland is My Home at Brough House.

The exhibition showcases the stories and cultures of 22 different people who now call Maitland home and “seeks to track and celebrate Maitland’s rapid increase in cultural diversity, but also look back at the waves of migration which have formed the character, culture and economy of the Hunter Valley”.

Journeys will run on Saturdays and Sundays until October 28.