The African Community mostly arrived in Tasmania through forced migration. The first African migrants were convicts from England sent between 1804 and 1853, freed slaves who had committed crimes. The next batch came after the Second World War, students who came under the Colombo Plan after 1950 from different British colonies to study at the university. They were meant to return home after their studies but not all did. Some very few remained. Slightly later there were a number of Africans from the south of the continent during the years of the liberation struggle in South West Africa (Namibia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa.
However there were few Africans until the 1990s when humanitarian entrants started arriving in Tasmania, mainly as refugees uprooted from their homes due to war, political or religious persecution. By June 2004, a total of 1493 Africans had migrated to Tasmania, mostly settling in Hobart and Launceston. A small African community has emerged hoping to make Tasmania its home and is making a significant contribution to the diverse multicultural society, while asserting the value of its own culture. But it must be noted that there are still strong links with families back home in country of origin.
However, because of the high unemployment rate in Tasmania, many have had to go to the mainland to find work, while others moved into the countryside to find seasonal jobs in apple orchards. A number of others have found work as taxi drivers. Among these refugees, very few have formal qualifications, and for those few, sometimes qualifications have not been recognised. It is therefore difficult to secure employment. Many refugees are now attending high schools, colleges, TAFE and university. Some, who have secured their qualifications in this way, or through Work Skills training, have been able to secure jobs.
Among other recent arrivals are students from different African countries, who study at TAFE or the university. Some are on scholarships, while others have sponsored themselves. Another category includes those on special missions such as economic or skilled migrants, brought through the churches. Some Africans have settled here through marriage.
Few of these African settlers had any had prior knowledge of Australia or Tasmania before settlement, and they have had to adjust to different climates, language, and culture. Apart from unemployment, cultural shock as a result of the transition, language differences, a different climate, loss of identity (especially for men), relationship breakdown of both marriages and of parents and children, racism, poverty and welfare dependency are issues many Africans have faced.
In 2003, some refugees with the support of community organisations formed an Association, which was registered as an Incorporated Association, named African Enterprise. They secured a government grant and opened the AFRITAS restaurant in Hobart as the first enterprise project. It is providing training and much-needed employment opportunities for those interested in the hospitality sector. (See also South Africans.)
Ansumana Usman Koroma