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Teresa A New Australian

Story and Background

Deb’s dad was born in a cave during one of the heaviest bombing raids of WW2. When she researched more about the war, she discovered the 'cave' was actuallyan underground shelter built to protect the Maltese during Hitler’s bombing raids. The raids lasted 3 years, which made Malta the most heavily bombed place in WW2. Can you imagine that? Having your home bombed for 3 years? Deb’s Nanna Teresa had to bring up kids with bombs falling all around, food hard to find and her country being destroyed. After the war, Deb’s 7-year-old father and his family made the long journey to Australia, but their new home wasn’t always an easy place to be.

Teresa: A New Australian is the story of a young girl and her family who, like Deb’s family, survive the war and sail to Sydney. It is part of a series of books about kids who migrate to Australia. You can see a few more on the right.

Arthur Calwell, Australia's first Minister for Immigration

malta and research

Malta is an ancient and rocky country in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe. During the war, Hitler attacked Malta knowing whoever had control of the country, could command the war effort and win, but after 3 years of relentless attacks, the Maltese never surrendered. This was because of their bravery but also a series of shelters carved by hand by Maltese of all ages. During the war, King George VI gave Malta the George Cross, the highest award for civilian bravery.

Deb visited Malta to research the story and interviewed many Maltese who made the journey to Australia as children, leaving behind everything they loved and everything they knew.

australia and migration

Everyone who lives in Australia is here because they or someone in their family migrated here. After WW2, much of Europe lay in ruins. It was hard to live and many people searched for a new place to call home. For over one million migrants, Australia became that place.

Post WW2 saw the largest movement of migrants the world had ever seen. Today we are seeing another wave of migrants around the world, fleeing war and starvation, just like Deb’s dad and his family. Every migrant story, then and now, resonates with questions of identity, home, determination, hope and fear. Many still arrive with very little except a desperate will to create a new life for themselves and their families. There is the same amount of fear and suspicion towards them but what we have to remember is that Australia is a stronger, richer nation because of migration. Deb lives in Australia today because her family made that journey after the war.

The Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, knew Australia needed a bigger population to build the nation and to protect itself if there was another war. With only 7 million people, he declared the country had to ‘populate or perish’, so he championed migration, but he was also a supporter of the White Australia Policy, which meant Australia wasn’t always welcoming of the new arrivals.

Teresa is a young girl who, with her best friend George, survive the war by hiding in shelters during the bombing raids, just like Deb's Nanna and her family. Afterwards, she travels to Australia and is bullied, but she is strong and smart and determined to outwit the bullies and make Australia home.

Deb In The Tunnels
Birgu, Malta, Above a Large Underground Shelter

Nanna Teresa and the president of Malta

This book is dedicated to Deb’s Nanna Teresa. A brave and courageous woman she never got to meet. It was also launched by the president at her palace in Malta, which was very special! The book was translated into Maltese by two very famous authors in Malta.

Deb's Nanna Teresa
Deb & the President of Malta


Deb In Malta

Deb used to watch her dad's old film footage of Malta when she was a kid and promised herself she would travel there one day.


When she did, the country was more beautiful than she'd imagined and during her trip in 2016, she made this video about Malta, the tunnels and how this fascinating history led to this novel.



The Maltese Translation
Single Room With Bed
Tunnel With Beds
Deb At The Palace

an Inquiry Based Approach

to Exploring Australian History

Read more in this SCIS article about how Deb used primary and secondary sources to write the novel.

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