Barry York (b. 1951) was born in London, the son of a Maltese airman and his English wife. His family migrated to Melbourne in 1954 and he grew up in Brunswick. He attended La Trobe University, where he was deeply involved in student politics. In 1971, following a blockade of a University Council meeting, he was one of eight students who were excluded from the University. In the following year, he and two other students were gaoled in Pentridge Gaol for several weeks for contempt of court. The University successfully applied for their release and York then completed his Arts degree. He subsequently taught at schools in Victoria and New South Wales. From 1981 to 1988 he was a postgraduate student at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, where he gained a doctorate. In 1989 he joined the staff of the Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies at The Australian National University and he was a research fellow at the Centre from 1991 to 1996. He was a research fellow at the Victoria University of Technology in Melbourne in 1997–99. He was then employed as a historian with the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House until his retirement in 2016.

York is the author of:

The Maltese in Australia (1986)

Josephine Zammit MBE: A Maltese Woman in Australia (1989)

Student Revolt: La Trobe University 1966 to 1973 (1989)

Empire and Race: The Maltese in Australia 1881–1949 (1990)

Maltese in Australia: Wanderings Through the Maltese-Australian Story from Convict Times to the Present (1998)

He has also written many scholarly monographs and articles on aspects of Australian immigration and particularly on Maltese migration to Australia. In addition, he has contributed feature articles and other pieces to the Canberra Times and Maltese-Australian newspapers.

Since about 1987 York has had a close association with the Library. As well as being an oral history interviewer, he has been a regular contributor to National Library of Australian News and other publications of the Library. He was the compiler or joint compiler of:

Our Multicultural Heritage: An Annotated Guide to the Collections of the National Library of Australia (1995)

Mura Gadi: An Online Guide to Manuscripts, Oral Histories and Pictures in the National Library of Australia Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2004)

He was a Harold White Fellow at the Library in 1997.


In 1981 York donated a collection of student and radical newspapers to the Library and further printed material was received between 1987 and 1994. The first oral history recordings made by York were received in 1988 and additions have been made to the collection in almost every year until 2019. He donated the papers of Michael Cigler in 1991 and the papers of Douglas Grant in 1997. His own personal papers were acquired, either by gift or purchase, in several instalments between 1987 and 2000.


Printed Materials

The Barry York Collection contains a large quantity of Maltese newspapers, student newspapers, radical pamphlets and printed ephemera. The newspapers and journals include:

Malta Review (1986–87)

Midnight Cry (1983–85)

Times of Malta (1986).


York acquired two collections of papers, which he subsequently placed in the Library:

MS 8235

Papers of the Czech-born historian and editor Michael Cigler (1923–1990) consisting of correspondence, drafts of Australia: A Land of Immigrants (1985) and other books and articles, newspaper cuttings and papers concerning the Ethnic Heritage Series.

MS 9058

Papers of Michael Cigler relating to Douglas Grant (c. 1885–1951), an Australian Aborigine who served in the Australian Imperial Forces during World War I. They include correspondence, copies of articles and newspaper cuttings.

Oral History

There are about 220 oral history interviews in the Barry York Collection. His Maltese-Australian folklore and social history project forms the largest component, consisting of 77 interviews (303 reels) with Maltese migrants and the descendants of Maltese migrants. They were mostly recorded in the period 1984–98, mainly in Melbourne but also in Sydney, Canberra, Mackay, Broken Hill and elsewhere. While most of the interviewees had emigrated from Malta after World War II, some of the interviews deal with the experiences of Maltese who came to Australia in the early part of the twentieth century. They were of varied backgrounds, including politicians, diplomats, lawyers, businessmen, school teachers, journalists, broadcasters, writers, seamen, miners, cane cutters, labourers and housewives. Among the interviewees are the politicians John Aquilina, John Cole, Ives De Barro, Eddie Micaleff, Christian Zahra and Paul Zammit, the high commissioners George Bussutil and Joseph Forace, the emigration attaché Joseph Caruana, the broadcaster Monica Attard and the folk singer Joe Galea. There are also lengthy interviews with Loreto and Olive York, the parents of York.

The Polish-Australian oral history project, which was recorded in the period 1996-2007 and totals 49 interviews, is the other large component within the Barry York Collection. Most of the interviewees arrived in Australia in 1947–52 and the recordings deal with their early lives in Poland, the impact of the War, and their experiences in concentration camps, labour camps and refugee camps. They also cover the journey to Australia, settlement experiences, Bonegilla and other migrant centres, and their involvement in the Polish community in Australia. The interviewees, who mostly lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra, Adelaide and Hobart, included labourers, factory workers, schoolteachers, academics, librarians, businessmen and doctors. Among them were the politician Bill Stefaniak, the historian Lech Paszkowski, the linguist Anna Wierzbicka and the sociologist Jerzy Zubrzycki.

The following are smaller groups of interviews recorded by York:

  • Demographers and other writers with an interest in migration including W.D. Borrie, Michael Cigler, Edward Duyker, James Jupp, Charles Price and David Walker
  • Trade union leaders including Ted Bull and John Halfpenny
  • Trade unionists recalling the life of Norman Gallagher, president of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation
  • Wrestlers including Jack Dealy, Alick Jackomos and Mario Milano
  • Retired ACT Transport employees.

The Library also holds interviews with many former Australian parliamentarians recorded by York for the Museum of Australian Democracy and some interviews commissioned by other oral history projects.


The collection contains over 100 photographs of Maltese-Australians, some of them taken by York and the rest that he acquired from other sources.

Personal Papers

The personal papers of York date from 1973 to 2000 and include drafts of his theses, books and articles, correspondence, research notes, book reviews, job applications, newspaper cuttings and printed ephemera There are extensive records of the Prisoners’ Action Committee (Victoria) and the Victorian Association of Peace Studies.


The newspapers, journals, pamphlets and other printed items in the Barry York Collection have been integrated in the Australian, Newspapers and general collections.

The oral history recordings and transcripts are held in the Oral History Collection at various locations. They have been catalogued individually. Some of the recordings are held under restricted access.

The photographs are held in the Pictures Collection. They are filed under various subject headings, including ‘Maltese in Australia’.

The papers of Michael Cigler and Douglas Grant are held in the Manuscripts Collection. The Cigler papers (MS 8235) occupy nine boxes and the Grant papers (MS 9058) are in three folders. The personal papers of York are also held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 6947. They are under restricted access. The processed papers are described in a 23-page finding aid that is available online at The instalments received in 1999–2008 have not yet been processed.


York, Barry, Oral History: An Annotated Guide to Oral History Recordings of Relevance to the Maltese Experience in Australia, Held in the National Library of Australia, Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies, Canberra, 1995.

York, Barry, Maltese Voices Down Under, National Library of Australia News, vol. 8 (8), May 1998, pp. 9–12.

York, Barry, The Polish-Australian Oral History Project, National Library of Australia News, vol. 12 (10), July 2002, pp. 15–18.

York, Barry, Twenty Years in the Field: Recording the Migrant Experience, National Library of Australia News, vol. 14 (12), September 2004, pp. 11–13

York, Barry, The Maltese of Woolloomooloo Wharf, National Library of Australia Magazine, vol. 8 (1), March 2016, pp. 14-17

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)