After WWII, immigration from Malta to Australia was encouraged with assisted passages for would-be immigrants, resulting in 150,000 new settlers arriving each year; a total of two million in twenty years. Mainly, it was because of this very fact that Fr George Preca called on the SDC members to offer their services and go to Australia to continue the work of the Society in this new land.
The first parish where the SDC members started their activities was at St Mary Star of the Sea, in West Melbourne. It was a flourishing parish under the guidance of Archbishop Justin Simonds, who was Archbishop of Hobart from 1937 until 1942. In 1942, he was called to be the Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne with the right of succession and installed as Parish Priest of West Melbourne in November 1942. It was during his time that the SDC started its first mission in Australia. Simonds was the first Australian-born priest to be given archiepiscopal status.
West Melbourne in the 1950’s was a struggling suburb of mainly ‘blue-collar’ workers. There was a large Catholic population of Italian and Maltese people. It was into this backdrop that the Members, (late) Maurice Mifsud, John Portelli and Joseph Sacco, after leaving Malta on 17th March 1956, arrived.
Later, three further Members arrived from Malta – Pius Farrugia, John Micallef and Vincent Xerri. These Members formed the nucleus of the first Australian SDC centre at West Melbourne. After the first few months, these Members moved into new premises, at 7, Chatwynd Street.
The early members were full of enthusiasm for the work of the SDC. They had to find employment and fit in with the Australian psyche, and managed to make themselves known and understood in a culture that knew nothing about this new form of lay apostolate.
Today the SDC in Australia has nine centres spread around Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Sydney.