African-Australians: trials and triumphs

The African community in Australia has before been dominated by white South African immigrants who came to Australia in the 1970s and 60s seeking a more secure life. These South African migrant communities remain privileged in Australia earning an average of $882 per week whilst the average Australian only earns $557.

From the 1980s on, more refugees have been coming from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea and general immigration from other African countries has increased (e.g. Ghana, and Egypt). These migrants often come from less privileged backgrounds than some South Africans and are predominantly black. In this article we will look at the issues faced by these newer communities before covering the signs of hope for the future behind these issues.


Unemployment within Newly Emerging African Communities: unemployment is a major issue in these communities. It is contributed to by all the other major problems highlighted below and allows for these problems to lead to a lack of money and lower social standing for these communities.

Lack of Local Knowledge: Who to go to for a job? What’s a “good” salary? What does this legal document mean? What benefits can I be given as a migrant/ refugee? These are all questions that sadly many new migrants are unable to answer, and a distrust of Australian authorities makes it difficult to find a solution. Lack of knowledge has been cited as effecting everything from housing, to healthcare and presents a major issue.

Racism and Discrimination: Issues of racism were regularly highlighted during the government consultations with African communities and media has often worked off public racist ideas e.g. over-blown news on “African gangs” in Sydney.

Recognition of Previous Qualification: A significant number of people in newly emerging African communities are professionals with qualifications. However Australian businesses often refuse to recognise these foreign qualifications contributing again to the lack of employment in African communities.

Difficulties with Language: 510 hours of teaching is not enough for many to cope with English especially for migrants who could not read and write in their own language beforehand. This lack of language skills severely affects employment. Studies show that those who spoke English “not well” or “not at all” upon arriving, despite the 510 hours of lessons, have their chances of becoming employed reduced by up to three times as much as others who spoke better English.


Government Work: Effort is going into making sure that these problems do not continue. Much of the information for this article came from government sources or government funded studies. The government has taken clear steps to analyse and solve the issues above.

Individuals Achievements in the Community: A great showcase of such triumphs has been the awards ceremony in Sydney honouring African Australians such as Ghana born TV personality/ chef Dorinda Hafner or Tanzania-born drum player Sheena Langeberg. Both of these people have been able to find a unique cultural style, be it music or cooking, due to their immersion in not just their home culture of Africa but their borrowed culture of Australia.

Economic and Social Contributions: Most importantly everyday immigrants through their contribution to the workforce and society help keep alive Australian communities. A striking case of this impact was when a migrant group from the great lakes region of Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the DRC) revitalised a dying rural Australian community with new labour and families.



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