On 26 January 2011, Australia Day, Lilian Calleja was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the Maltese community of Victoria, Australia. Mrs Calleja will officially receive the honour at a ceremony in April.
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975 with the purpose of acknowledging Australian citizens for achievements and service.
Lillian Calleja was born in Valletta, Malta on 15th April, 1931, the eldest child of 14 children to Michael and Teresa Pace (both deceased). Lillian grew up during the Second World War and, as a young teenager, was in charge of her siblings.
After the war Lillian went to school to learn dressmaking and helped her family financially by making wedding dresses and teaching children how to be seamstresses. In her 17th year she met and then married Vincent Calleja in 1953. In 1954 she gave birth to a daughter Maria and on 9 February 1955 they migrated to Australia. In 1956 Lillian had another child, Natalin, married to Raymond with two sons, Adam and David.
On their arrival in Australia they lived with Lillian’s father in Newport, Victoria and were well known for the help they gave to the migrants when they arrived with no family or accommodation. Lillian and her father would welcome migrants in their home until they could find suitable accommodation.
Since 1956 Lillian has worked tirelessly for the Maltese Community, performing in small operettas and shows in Brunswick Town Hall and being involved in organising Dinner Dances in local Masonic Hall in Newport. Whilst doing this, she worked five days a week and, with the help of her husband, raised two children.
Between 1978 and 1981 Lillian was the Vice President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Maltese Community Council of Victoria. In 1981 she resigned from Vice President to take up a position of Teacher’s Aide at the Sunshine Technical College assisting Maltese children in day-to-day education-related problems and communicating with to their parents about these problems. In 1989 she was awarded with the “Official Award for 10 years of Distinguished Service to the School” by Ms Joan Kirner, Minister of Education.
For the past 50 years Lillian has been a volunteer member of numerous organizations such as Community Development, Social Activities, Fund Raising, Culture, Young Talent, Aged Care, Overseas Missions and Religious Organizations. The Missionary Society of St. Paul in Parkville, Victoria nominated Lillian to receive the blessing and Communion from his Holiness Pope John Paul II at the Flemington Race Course during the Pope’s visit to Australia.
Lillian has worked very hard with great enthusiasm and sheer determination to provide welfare and organized social activities for its members, and her aim was with other to raise funds for our Community Centre in Parkville.
As a member of the Maltese Cultural Festival Committee, Lillian took under her umbrella the task of organizing the Children’s Concert and to her credit these concerts have gone from strength to strength to date. Lillian has searched and developed the talent of some of our younger generation with the Maltese Community and some of them have actually made a name for themselves in the entertainment world, in fact in 1990 Lillian was awarded the Manuel de Vilhena Award for her dedication and outstanding work in teaching our young the song and dance aspect of the entertainment world with great success.
In 2001 Lillian was awarded the “Citizen of the year” by the City of Brimbank in recognition of the outstanding community contribution which she had made over many decades.
In 2004 Lillian was awarded the Victoria Multicultural Commission Victoria’s Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs.
Lillian will turn 80 this coming April 15 and is still very active especially in the social activities in the Newport Maltese Association and as the Maltese Multicultural Festival Co-Coordinator for the Children’s Concert.