African communities in Australia face growing tensions over race, prejudice and xenophobia

Bridget Boakye January 05, 2018
Africans demonstrating in Australia against racism -- Photo Credit:

There is very little news about Africans in Australia in the international media so it is easy to assume that there are either no Africans in Australia or that the experience of Africans there must be sublime.

But recent videos surfacing online show that Australia has a vibrant African community that has experiences worth bringing to the international forefront, especially as they begin to publicly wrestle with issues of race, prejudice, and xenophobia.

In the disturbing video above, an Ethiopian-born man, Habib Gudato Tonnu, who was speaking to a T.V. station about recent racial tension in Australia was heckled by a white passerby who remarked, “lock ’em all up”. It is not clear the context with which the passerby made his statement but it reveals growing unease about African immigrants in Australia.

Some background: the Guardian reports that there is currently an ongoing debate about race in Victoria, Australia,  in public and “….in the comment sections of front-page articles on gang violence, and on social media, where comments like ‘stop immigration until this mess is sorted’ populate Victoria police’s official Facebook page”.

A perceived rise in large-scale violent offences committed by young people of African appearance, most of whom have been linked to Melbourne’s Sudanese migrant community, is the catalyst. Videos have surfaced online of youth appearing to look African attacking others and fighting each other. One is below:

But African Australians say that public officials and the media have further instigated the issue. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said at a press conference in Sydney that “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria” was “a failure of the Andrews government”. And when condemned for fear-mongering, he explained that:

“We just need to call it for what it is: African gang violence,” he said. “The reality is, people are scared to go out to restaurants at nighttime because they’re followed home by these gangs.”

Media coverage, including one by the tabloid, the Herald Sun, which dubbed, Victoria “a state of fear”, alongside inconsistent reports from the police about the numbers – whether ‘African street gang’ is a growing problem, an existing one, or not present at all – is further fueling racial tension and unease.

African community leaders have spoken out about the issue. Leaders of the African Australian Communities Leadership Forum (AACLF) released a statement at the African-Australian conference. There, they condemned the acts of the law un-abiding youth, and expressed concern about how the situation is being handled. They warned that the poor behavior of a few bad apples could not be used to overshadow the great contributions of the African community in Australia.

South Sudanese leaders argue that African youth must be welcomed, and further integrated into Australian society to solve the issue, but some Africans fear that the situation could get worse.


Last Edited by:Editor Updated: September 15, 2023


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