Getting to know you: African Community in Australia

This MultiConnexions blog was written by Joel Hussain, Marketing Intern.

Who are they?

While the African community in Australia represents a small population, they are a growing one. In Australia in 2021, 447,524 people, or 1.76 per cent of Australia’s total population and 6.35 per cent of Australia’s total overseas born population were African by place of birth, an increase of over 100,000 since 2006.

The percentage of Africans living in Australia jumps to 2.6 per cent when also accounting for second generation Africans. Around 300,000 out of the 400,000 Africans in Australia originate from Africa’s vast array of countries, with the vast majority of this population, 54.3 per cent or 201,930 people, originating from South Africa (and often European/ Western backgrounds).

The origins of the remaining 45.8 per cent of the African-born population spread across Africa’s 46 different Sub-Saharan countries all with vastly different cultures to that of the Australian culture.  Some notable African Australians include: Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a Sudanese–Australian media presenter and writer who was named Young Queenslander of the Year in 2010 and Queensland Australian of the Year in 2015 for her engagement in community work; Aliir Aliir who is a South Sudanese-Australian professional football player who played for the Sydney Swans and now plays for the Port Adelaide Football Club; and Gabriel Erjok Majer Akon more commonly known as DyspOra who is a South Sudanese-born Australian hip hop artist, poet and activist.

Where do they live?

Most migrants in Australia live in big cities. This is no different for African migrants who are primarily split between Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. The top states for Western and Sub-Saharan Africans in Australia are New South Wales with 23.2 per cent of this population living there, Victoria and Queensland both with 22.4 per cent, and Western Australia, with 23 per cent. While Western Australia places fourth in the list, proportionally, they house the most Africans due its much smaller population.

What languages do they speak?

The African continent is home to a vast array of different countries and cultures, so it is no surprise that the African migrant community in Australia speak a variety of different languages at home. Around 50 per cent of the African migrant community speak English at home, with the remainder of African migrants speaking languages including Afrikaans, Swahili, Kirundi, Gujarati, Luganda and various other African languages as well as French. Afrikaans was the most popular African language spoken at home in 2021 having 49,388 speakers, an increase of 5,640 since 2016.

What is their culture like?

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most diverse regions in the world. The region houses over 1 billion people and over 500 different ethnic groups and 2,000 different unique languages.

Religion plays an important role in Africa, with Christianity and Islam dominating the religious landscape. One quarter of the total global Christian population are found in Africa’s Sub-Saharan countries with some religious leaders having enormous influence.

Sub-Saharan traditions are expressed through many different forms including art, music, dance, and sculpture. Listening and oral tradition is important in many African cultures as it ensures cultural passage from one generation to another. Music and dance often go hand in hand and play a central role in African cultures.

Music is used as a form of communication and often accompany things such as marriage and birth as well as political activities. Music is also often accompanied by dance, which utilises symbolic gestures, masks, costumes, body painting and props as a form of communication.

Sub-Saharan African cultures generally believe in keeping to cultural practices and value social hierarchy structures and expect power distances in society. They also believe in retaining close family ties and express pride and loyalty in organisations and family.

Africans in Australia

Like the waves of migrants to Australia before them, many in the African community find it challenging to adapt to life here in Australia. Many have arrived here fleeing hardship as refugees. As the African migrant population in Australia originate from a large span of different countries, they have a diverse range of cultures and reflect a wide range of different values and behaviours.

Older migrants often hold on to their home culture and traditional values and resist Australia’s culture, while their younger relatives may embrace it. As described in Maxine Beneba Clarke’s book “Growing up African in Australia,” fitting in as a black-African migrant is a complicated process and often, challenges are apparent.

Australians are beginning to understand and embrace African culture. Africultures Festival is an annual one-day festival held in Sydney’s Olympic Park that celebrates the diverse range of African cultures present in Australia. The festival began in 2009 as a small community festival and has grown into a nation-wide recognised festival attracting tens of thousands of attendees, indicating the growing presence of African communities in Australia.

Notably, Tsehay Hawkins, an African Australian, began her journey at Africultures as a performer when she was a kid and got the recognition from the festival to later become a member of the Wiggles, one of the biggest children entertainment groups in the world.

I had the good fortune to volunteer in 2022 and was super excited to see large crowds gathering to celebrate the African people and cultures present in Australia. I was able to try traditional African food and view performances including traditional dances, fashion showcases and live music. There was also a small roundtable session with multiple African Australians explaining their journey of fitting in to Australia’s culture and the challenges they faced when finding their identity.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who attended in traditional African clothing. It was a very enjoyable festival to be a part of and was great to see such high attendance and participation. The festival truly showcased how the African community in Australia is growing.

What does this mean for brands?

The African community in Australia is growing and multicultural advertising has never been more important and effective. It is important for brands to recognise and welcome the differences in their audience.

Marketing to an African audience is an inclusive approach that can set a brand apart from brands who target broader audiences. When marketing to African cultures it is important to remember that many African migrants retain to their home cultures and values. Ensure the content you advertise is relevant and engaging on an emotional level and remind them that your brand values their culture and traditions. This creates a connection from your brand to Africans in Australia and is the first step to building brand loyalty.

For further information on targeting African Australians in your next campaign, contact MultiConnexions today – or submit your creative to our bespoke cultural and diversity testing sister company Diversity Testing.

1 thought on “Getting to know you: African Community in Australia”

  1. Laurence Boulle

    Is there a stree or strip in Perth, similar to Marooka in Brisbane, with a preponderance of African shops, restaurants, hair saloons, and the light?
    Thanks for any information
    Regards, Laurence Boulle

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