African Australians

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African Australians
Total population
380,000 (1.6% of Australian population)
Regions with significant populations
All capital cities;
predominantly Melbourne · Sydney · Perth · Brisbane
English, languages of Africa
Predominantly: Christianity; minority: Islam, Traditional faiths, Judaism, Hinduism, Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
other African people

African Australians are Australians of African ancestry.[1][2] Large-scale immigration from Africa to Australia is only a recent phenomenon, with Europe and Asia traditionally being the largest sources of migration to Australia. In 2005–06, permanent settler arrivals to Australia included 4,000 South Africans and 3,800 Sudanese, constituting the sixth and seventh largest sources of migrants, respectively.

African Australians are from diverse racial, cultural, linguistic, religious, educational and employment backgrounds.[3] The majority (72.6%) of African emigrants to Australia are from southern and eastern Africa.[4] The Australian Bureau of Statistics classifies all residents into cultural and ethnic groups according to geographical origin.[5]

Africans may have come to Australia as skilled migrants, refugees, through family reunion, or as secondary migrants from other countries.[6]


An agricultural officer from Ghana visiting Queensland under the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan, 1962

Coins minted by the Persian medieval kingdom of Kilwa Sultanate have been found on the Wessel Islands. This indicates trade with Africa as early as the 12th century. They are the oldest foreign artifacts ever discovered in Australia.[7] Other people descended from African emigrants later arrived indirectly via the First Fleet and 19th century multicultural maritime industry. Notable examples are Billy Blue, John Caesar,[8][9] and Black Jack Anderson.[10]

Migrants from Mauritius have also been arriving in Australia since before federation in 1901. They came as convicts, prospectors who sought Victoria's goldfields, or skilled sugar workers who significantly helped to develop Queensland's sugar industry.[11]

The Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan enabled students from Commonwealth African countries, including from Ghana, to travel to Australia during the mid-1960s. More than 70 percent of those from West African countries remained in Australia following military coup d'états in their countries of birth.[12] Ultimately, however, immigration from Africa to Australia generally remained limited until the 1990s, thus compared to other established European and American countries, African Australian community remains new in the country itself.


Migration streams[edit]

People of South African ancestry whose parents were both born in Australia as a fraction of total residents

The largest number of African immigrants in Australia come from South Africa and are largely of Afrikaner and British descent. Many migrants born in Zimbabwe left the country after major land reforms were begun in the 1980s by the Robert Mugabe government. Two-thirds arrived after 2001, following economic uncertainty in their country of birth. Of the Zimbabwe-born migrants who moved to Australia, the largest proportion are of English (30.6%) ancestry, with some individuals of Scottish (7.3%) background present as well. More recent migration from Zimbabwe has included increasing numbers of people of Shona and Ndebele ethnicities.[13]

Other immigrants from Africa arrived via humanitarian programs, mostly from East Africa. In the 2011–2012 fiscal year, these individuals were mainly from Burundi (44/79), Congo (143/158), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (370/454), Eritrea (244/294), Malawi (57/71), Rwanda (44/62), and Tanzania (40/67).[6]

Additionally, other immigrants from Africa arrived through a family migration stream. In the 2011–2012 fiscal year, these individuals were primarily from Ethiopia (412/802), Ghana (152/202), Guinea (33/62), Liberia (82/129), Sierra Leone (106/140), Somalia (164/420), Sudan (313/513), and Uganda (37/67).[6]

A significant number of African migrants have come to Australia through a skill migration stream. In the 2011–2012 fiscal year, these individuals were chiefly from Egypt (417/773), Kenya (188/415), Mauritius (228/303), Nigeria (126/250), South Africa (4,239/6,307), Zambia (35/115), and Zimbabwe (467/848).[6]

Some African immigrants have also arrived via a secondary migration from New Zealand, where they are citizens. In the 2011–2012 fiscal year, these New Zealand nationals were mainly originally from Libya (31/76).[6]

Across Australia's major cities, immigration from Africa is varied depending on country of origin. While Egyptian, Nigerian, and Ghanaian migrants overwhelmingly head for Sydney,[14][15][16] Mauritian and Sudanese migrant communities are largest in Melbourne.[11][17]

As of 2013, the Australian Special Broadcasting Service broadcasts in six new languages spoken by the growing migrant and refugee communities from Africa and Asia. Among these are Dinka of South Sudan, Swahili of Tanzania and the African Great Lakes region, Tigrinya of Eritrea and Amharic of Ethiopia.[18] Arabic broadcasting has taken in a much longer scale, began since 1996 with 2ME Radio Arabic and mostly served for North African community in the country; while SBS in 2016 also includes Arabic in broadcasting.[19]

Countries of birth[edit]

In the 2016 Australian Census, 380,000 residents declared that they were born in Africa.[20]

Major countries of birth of African immigrants to Australia (2016 Census)
Country Population Main city and proportion who live there
South Africa 104,128 Sydney (27.3%)
Egypt 33,497 Sydney (48.5%)
Zimbabwe 20,157 Perth (24.7%)
Sudan 19,049 Melbourne (31.0%)
Mauritius 18,175 Melbourne (48.6%)
Somalia 10,131 Melbourne (60.1%)
Kenya 9,940 Perth (26.9%)
Ethiopia 5,633 Melbourne (53.9%)
South Sudan 4,825 Melbourne (63.7%)
Nigeria 4,519 Sydney (59.5%)
Eritrea 4,116 Melbourne (65.1%)
Zambia 4,082 Perth (30.7%)
Ghana 2,771 Sydney (51.0%)
Tanzania 1,562 Melbourne (64.0%)

Social status[edit]

As Africans only began to migrate to Australia in larger numbers much later than Africans were brought to the United States as slaves, and those who settled in parts of Europe, African Australian status is largely a new challenge for Australian authorities, and it is acknowledged that widespread racism against Africans is not uncommon in Australia.[21][22] Research on the experience of African Australians began in the 2000s[23] and more has been conducted since the 2010s as more and more Africans, mostly from East Africa, have arrived in the country.[24]

Relationship to Indigenous Australians[edit]

The concept of how the American notion of "blackness" was adopted and adapted by Aboriginal civil rights activists has been little known or understood in the US. In an exhibition of Indigenous Australian art mounted in 2011, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in New York was concerned with making connections between the current civil rights and spiritual movements of Indigenous Australians and that of black people in America and elsewhere.[25]

A 2012 study looked at attitudes towards Black African immigrants in Western Australia, based on a survey of 184 Australians, examining the quantitative data for use in developing strategies to combat prejudice, and the media's role in the development of negative attitudes. It compared the results of the study with those previously found in looking at attitudes towards Indigenous and Muslim Australians.[26]

Natasha Guantai, writing of Roxane Gay's initial implication that the only Black people in Australia would be of African descent, wrote "In the dominant Australian narrative, Blacks are regarded as Aboriginal. This is a narrative with little space for non-Indigenous Black Australians". Guantai goes on to highlight some differences in the experience of the various groups - Indigenous Australians, immigrants from Africa, the Black descendants of settlers, and Black people who arrive from other white-majority countries such as the UK or the US.[27]

In 2018 Kaiya Aboagye, a PhD student of Ghanaian, Aboriginal, South Sea and Torres Strait Islander heritage,[28] underlined the African connection to Aboriginal Australians, citing "long histories of African/Indigenous relationships both inside and outside Australia", despite the many and varied origins and experiences of blackness among peoples in the global South.[29]

African Australian identity[edit]

African Australian identity is the objective or subjective state of perceiving oneself as an African Australian and as relating to being African Australian. As a group identity, "African Australian" can denote pan-African ethnic identity, as well as a diasporic identity in relation to the perception of Africa as a homeland.[30]

Notable African Australians[edit]

This list includes only individuals who immigrated directly from Africa to Australia, plus those who had an immediate ancestor who made such a migration. Individuals of African origin who migrated from non-African countries, or those whose entire African ancestry stems from such migration, are not included.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "African Australians: A Report on Human Rights and Social Inclusion Issues" (PDF). Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 23 November 2013. It is a common misconception that people from African backgrounds are one and the same. While the strong African spirit and pride certainly unifies, people from African backgrounds represent tremendous diversity in ethnicity, race, language, culture and religion. After all, the African continent comprises more than 50 countries. The impression of homogeneity is only one of many misconceptions about African Australians.
  2. ^ "Joint Submission on the Australian Human Rights Commission Discussion Paper: African Australians: A report on human rights and social inclusion issues" (PDF). NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  3. ^ "African resettlement in Australia: Conference report" (PDF). African Think Tank Inc. April 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  4. ^ "Overview: African Australians – Compendium (2010)". Australian Human Rights Commission.
  5. ^ "Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2011". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Settler Arrival Data: Selected Countries of Birth by Migration Stream for the Financial Year 2011–12". Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Unravelling the mystery of Arnhem Land's ancient African coins". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  9. ^ "A Multicultural First Fleet". University of Wollongong. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  10. ^ Pownall, Angela (26 March 2012). "In search of pirate Black Jack". The West Australian. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Working together to keep Australia safe" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Community Information Summary: Ghana-born" (PDF). Department of Immigration & Citizenship. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2014.
  13. ^ "Zimbabwe" (PDF). Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  14. ^ "Welcome" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Welcome" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Welcome" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  18. ^ "SBS unveils new Radio Schedule". Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex – Australia (2006)
  21. ^ Mapedzahama, Virginia; Kwansah-Aidoo, Kwamena (2017). "Blackness as Burden? The Lived Experience of Black Africans in Australia". SAGE Open. SAGE Publications. 7 (3): 1–13. doi:10.1177/2158244017720483. ISSN 2158-2440. pdf CC-BY icon.svg Text from this source is available under a Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.
  22. ^ Gatwiri, Kathomi (3 April 2019). "Growing Up African in Australia: Racism, resilience and the right to belong". The Conversation. Retrieved 3 November 2020. Review: Growing Up African in Australia, edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Magan Magan and Ahmed Yussuf
  23. ^ Mergia, Ayalew (October 2005). Black African immigrants in Australia: An exploratory analysis of the impacts of race and class on their lived experiences and adaptation processes (PhD). University of Melbourne. Retrieved 4 November 2020 – via Minerva Access. PDF
  24. ^ Udah, Hyacinth; Singh, Parlo; Hiruy, Kiroy; Mwanri, Lillian (21 July 2019). "African Immigrants to Australia: Barriers and Challenges to Labor Market Success". Journal of Asian and African Studies. SAGE Publications. 54 (8): 1159–1174. doi:10.1177/0021909619861788. ISSN 0021-9096.
  25. ^ Vartanian, Hrag (28 September 2011). "Is Australian Aboriginal Art Part of the African Diaspora?". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  26. ^ Khan, Safiyya; Pedersen, Anne (23 February 2012). "Black African Immigrants to Australia: Prejudice and the Function of Attitudes - Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology". Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology. 4 (2): 116–129. doi:10.1375/prp.4.2.116. ISSN 1834-4909. Retrieved 5 November 2020. PDF
  27. ^ Guantai, Natasha (10 March 2015). "Are there Black people in Australia?". Overland literary journal. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Kaiya Aboagye". Writing NSW. 14 February 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  29. ^ Aboagye, Kaiya (2018). "Australian Blackness, the African Diaspora and Afro/Indigenous Connections in the Global South". Transition. Indiana University Press (126): 72–85. doi:10.2979/transition.126.1.11. ISSN 0041-1191.
  30. ^ Abay Adhana (2017). "Strategic othering through 'African Australian' as a collective identity: A view from African background young people in Melbourne". La Trobe University. Externally Africans are collectively known as 'African Australians'. This label displays a generalised image for all African descent people. The colloquial phrase can be interpreted in two ways: first as group identity that signals pan-African ethnicity; and second as Diasporic identity appealing to reconnect back to their motherland.
  31. ^ Wolfe, Alexandra (10 August 2018). "For Sisonke Msimang, a Childhood in Exile Created a Life of Activism". WSJ. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  32. ^ "Sisonke Msimang". ABC: Q+A. 27 May 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2020.

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