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  • Writer's pictureMo Zaatar

South African Migrants In Australia: A Community That Contributes In Every Way To Their New Home

south african migrants

Did you know that the word “busisa” – “bless” in Zulu – has an integral meaning in South African culture? That concept of “busisa” is deeply embedded in these rituals that cross the country and its diverse community. One particularly well-known one, for example, is the agricultural rituals that are designed to persuade the gods to bless people with rains and successful harvests and to guarantee healthy livestock.

The History Of South Africans In Australia

Australia and South Africa - as two former parts of the British Empire in the Southern Hemisphere - have always been close. Indeed, in those early days for both nations, they were called “Sisters of the South” through their connections as part of the Commonwealth.

This kinship resulted in a great deal of movement between the two nations. For example, during the gold rushes in the 1850s, there were a large number of South African prospectors that tried their fortunes in Victoria… only for those South Africans (and large numbers of Australians) to about-face and relocate to Africa when coal was discovered in Transvaal in South Africa in 1886.

The first major, permanent migrations to Australia occurred later on, as the racist apartheid system in South Africa came to an end, and the changes that came from South Africa throwing off colonisation meant that many white South Africans looked to migrate overseas.

Australia – and particularly Western Australia – became a popular location for these migrants, who included farmers, entrepreneurs, and people with technical and engineering skills.

Now, nearly 200,000 South Africans call Australia home – about 0.7% of the total population. This population is the seventh-largest migrant community living in Australia. Of these, around 60% claim a heritage of English, Dutch, German or Scottish ancestry. More than half of these people migrated to Australia following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

In recent years there has also been an increase in the number of native South Africans that have made Australia home. This community now represents around 40% of the total South African migrant population, and they are contributing significantly to the rich cultural diversity of Melbourne in particular.

Experiencing South African Culture In Australia

Because the South African community in Australia is so large, there is significant demand for South African cultural events and tours of artists and cultural icons to Australia. One organisation alone – SA Events – specialises in bringing all kinds of entertainment acts to tour Australia.

Meanwhile, the big festival for African culture – including South African – occurs in Sydney every year, with the Africultures Festival. This is a celebration of art, music, fashion, culture, sport and food, from one of the most vibrant and exciting sources of all of those things from around the world.

Speaking of sport, one of the ways that Australia and South Africa continue to bond is over our joint love of sport. Both Cricket and Rugby are major sports in South Africa, and second only to the friendly rivalry Australia shares with New Zealand, every time the international team tours, you can be sure that the stadiums will be filled with rousing and cheering crowds.

Resources For South Africans In Australia

To help South Africans settle into their new home and make the most of their community, there are several excellent resources available:

  1. Proudly South African In Perth: This blog is, as the name suggests, written by a South African who lives in Perth. It covers a wide range of topics of interest to new migrants, from understanding how to enrol their children in school right through to tips for setting up a business.

  2. African Communities Council: Each state and territory in Australia has its own non-profit organisations that work to help African migrants comfortably integrate into their communities. 

  3. South African High Commission: The South African High Commission provides legal support to South African tourists and migrants in Australia. It also provides information, alerts, and critical updates on key events to South Africans living in the country. 

  4. Channel Africa: For those who want to keep up-to-date with what is happening back in South Africa and the African continent, Channel Africa is a Web-based radio service that the South African government maintains for the diaspora worldwide. 

  5. South Africans Living In Australia: For South Africans who want to meet fellow migrants and ask for assistance in navigating their new country, this active Facebook group is particularly helpful.

Additionally, many State-based projects, such as Move To SA provide government support to help migrants find essential services, and accommodation, and get set up in their new locations.


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