How much do you know about the African diaspora in Australia? Did you know that the oldest foreign artifacts discovered in Australia were African coins? They were minted by the medieval kingdom of the Kilwa Sultanate, the equivalent of modern Tanzania– found in the Wessel Islands, indicating trade with Africa since 12the century.
There were black passengers on the first fleet of British ships to reach Botany Bay, sydney, in 1788. The British established a penal colony on the mainland, which was populated by exiled British convicts. Over time, the British moved further inland and established other colonies, decimating indigenous Aboriginal communities through war and disease.
Much of the money that went into establishing British colonies in Australia was financed by Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database at University College London details many prominent European settlers in Australia who profited financially from the slave trade. They include former Melbourne Mayor Godfrey Downes Carter, the Rev Robert Allwood, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, and Archibald Paull Burt, the first Chief Justice of Western Australia.
As mentioned, Afro-descendants arrived through the First Fleet and throughout the 19the century. Notable examples include Billy Blue, John Caesar, and Black Jack Anderson.
Billy Blue was a black convict who was transported to Botany Bay on the convict ship Minorca in 1801 to serve the remaining two years of his sentence. Upon his release, Billy became a ferryman, ferrying passengers across Sydney Harbour. Blues point in Sydney Harbor and Blue Street, Blues point tower and Billy Blue College of Design are named after him.
John Caesar, nicknamed ‘Black Caesar’, was the first Australian bushranger and one of the first people of African descent to arrive in Australia. Born in the West Indies, he was convicted of theft and transported to Australia as part of the First Fleet in 1788. Caesar escaped four times during his sentence, but was eventually caught or turned himself in, all times except the fourth time when he was wounded. of death by their captors.
Black Jack Anderson was an African-American pirate and seal hunter who operated off the coast of Western Australia. He arrived in 1826 on the American ship Vigilant and escaped to the Recherche archipelago. Black Jack Anderson made his fortune from it trading furs along the coast and robbing passing ships. Black Jack was eventually killed by his fellow pirates.
Australia’s oldest African diaspora group is the Mauritian community, which established a trading relationship in the early 19th century when Australia began importing sugar from Mauritius. However, the broader African diaspora in Australia, as we know it today, is relatively recent. During the 1960s, the Commonwealth African Special Assistance Scheme facilitated the travel of students from Commonwealth African countries to Australia, where many of them chose to stay.
In more recent years, African immigrants have entered Australia for a variety of reasons, whether as skilled workers, through family connections, or on humanitarian programmes. The largest African diaspora communities in Australia come from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Mauritius and Kenya.
To learn more about the African diaspora around the world, check out the ‘Freedom Is Mine’ YouTube channel, where I’ve made videos about black communities around the world. And you can follow Freedom Is Mine on Instagram for daily content from global black history!