The Maltese Community Council of Victoria and the Maltese-Australian community mourn the sad loss of one of its prominent leaders, Anthony Bonnici AM, BA, LL.B (1930-2013), who passed away peacefully yesterday after a long illness, aged 82 years.
Tony, as he was known to his friends, had provided great leadership to the Maltese Australian community in Victoria. During his six years as MCCV President, Tony had established the organisation and structure of the community and formalised its processes and procedures to the benefit of the community.
Born on 2 December 1930, Tony arrived in Australia from Egypt as an 18-year-old in March 1949. He attended the Austral Coaching College, and the Leederville Technical School in Perth, Western Australia, and later studied at the University of Melbourne, graduating in Arts in 1960. He joined the Education Department as a school teacher and completed departmental teacher-training.
In 1960 he was commissioned with the rank of pilot officer in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve.
In 1961 Tony enrolled at the University of Melbourne Law School. Shortly thereafter he secured employment as a research assistant with the Board of Studies in Criminology at Melbourne University. In 1966 he graduated as Bachelor of Laws and was admitted to legal practice.
Tony’s involvement in the Maltese community in Victoria included his role as President of the Phoenician Association (1967), President of the Maltese Community Council of Victoria (1968-1974), Chairman of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) (1988-1989) and senior deputy chairman of the Federation of the Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA).
In 1981 Tony was appointed by the Fraser government to the Board of the Special Broadcasting Service. He remained a member of the Board until 1987.
In 1985 Tony was made a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to the Maltese Community. A year later he received the Hellenic award for successfully spearheading the resistance of ethnic communities to the amalgamation of the Special Broadcasting Service with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (1986).
In 1987 Tony was appointed by the Hawke government to the Committee “to Advise on Australia’s Immigration Policies” which included a visit to North America (Canada and the United States) to examine and report back to the Committee on those countries’ immigration legislation and programs. He authored a number of publications relating to legal and migrant issues.
Tony was extremely proud of his Maltese background and made every effort to ensure that younger members of the community learned about their parents’ culture and traditions.
Tony had also been involved with Radio ZZZ and supported the efforts of Dr Joe Abela, the first Maltese language broadcaster on Radio ZZZ and Radio 3EA.
While fighting his failing health, Tony continued to practice his profession as a barrister-at-law. He was the first barrister of Maltese background to be admitted and practice law at the Victorian Bar. He specialised in the areas of family law, immigration law and personal injuries. He was a formidable opponent in court and a great advocate for fairness and natural justice. He fought to ensure that those born overseas were not disadvantaged because of their ethnic background or limited knowledge of the English language.
He was an avid reader and enjoyed a good bottle of wine. He was idolised by his four children, Christopher, Anthea, Martin, and Julian, and will be sadly missed by all those who knew him.
Farewell and rest in peace, Tony!