.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


Thoughts and Reflections on African Migration and Settlement in Australia.

Monday, August 16, 2004


As Australia picks up an ever-increasing number of new migrants from the African continent, attention is now focused on what these relatively young and productive people actually do once they arrive in this great country.

In fact, recent migrants are endowed with a variety of skills that would help to modernize all sectors of the nation’s economy. And Australia is extremely lucky to attract this caliber of migrants. They come as well-trained nurses, teachers, social workers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and specialist in information technology.

Nevertheless, some with well-sought-after professional skills said they are generally underemployed; and sometimes even unemployed - a challenging proposition for the career-conscious migrants.

Others, mostly female migrants, have found themselves working at the bottom end of the service and manufacturing industry as casual labour.

There is a small but growing army of Africans (mostly male) working in fruit-picking jobs in South Australia and Victoria. And abattoir jobs in New South Wales.

The different experiences of African migrants in the Australian job market reflects a polarization of the society between the rich and the poor; between male and female.

More stories at http://africanrefugees.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Increased migration of Africans to the Western world is generally seen as a good thing; a win-win situation for the migrants and their countries of origin. The grass may appear ”greener” elsewhere; but things are not what they seem.

The problem is that transnational migration may not always unlock the nirvana for everyone at the same time, because migration affects people differently. And there are winners and losers.

Thus, in the migration stakes, African women are the real winners. They have tasted the fruits of freedom from “patriarchal control” and are not about to give up. Nor should they give up their hard won freedom.

Consequently, too many men of African descent are suffering in silence due to what they perceive to be an inevitable loss of status as soon as they arrive in the new country. Most Africans I know think they have lost control of their family because they are no longer “respected” and seen as the “Bread winner”. And this sense of loss has overwhelmed them; affecting their self-image and relationship with family and friends. Hence, the emergence of status anxiety as a significant problem of adaptation for African migrants.

In fact, despite their impressive academic credentials, and most are very highly educated, African migrants are sometimes forced into a position in which they have to take the jobs that others reject; working either as farm hands. Or building laborers. Or street cleaners. Or rubbish collectors just to make ends meet. But sometimes, to their utmost surprise, the ends do not always meet!

“They asked me to wipe the floor and clean the toilets” Eyenowo said, with a great deal of sadness in his eyes as he remembered his first day at work as a migrant, “A whole me! I have never done such work before…And I don’t intend to start doing it now”.

Come to think of it, African migrants want to "work hard" and "live well". They want the best of all possible worlds. And they want "decent jobs" that pay well - naturally, jobs that are in line with their perceived status.

For the African men though, migration is a traumatic experience. But for the African women (married or single), it is probably the best thing since the invention of the wheel. They have ceased the initiative where it matters most and are moving towards real independence. Now that they have got the “economic power” and have been blessed with their own sources of income, most women generally feel they do not have to depend on any man for survival in the new environment.

“We were definitely growing apart” said Felix Okonta as he reflects on what could have been a long and happy marriage to his former school sweetheart. “The divorce was quick, it caught me by complete surprise”. But Felix is not alone. His experience of family breakdown, and a quick and easy divorce, is common to many migrants.

Thus, while African women are celebrating their new found “freedom from patriarchy” and domestic chores and are becoming more independent than ever before, African men have been devastated by the experience. They are no longer considered the “Head of the household”; no servants to cook and clean and mow the lawn, as was the case in Africa. They have to learn to do everything by themselves to survive the early years of migration.

Migration is an orphan!

Friday, August 06, 2004


The current migration trends have been linked to the number of Australian school students studying Croatian, Arabic, Persian, and Serbian languages.

The Australian Department of Education figures show that the number of primary and secondary students studying Arabic has grown from two in 1998 to 34 in 2003.

The number of pupils studying Croatian rose from 16 to 40; Serbian from 103 to 150; and Persian from 16 to 53 during the same period.

It is a matter of time before Swahili and other African languages take their rightful place in the school curriculum here.

Throughout the land, increasing number of African students are studying indigenous languages; while at the same time improving their English language skills.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Educated Africans now seem to be more willing to try their luck in other countries and are less tied up with the trappings of national identity than they were a few decades ago. Most have found greener pastures in Europe and the USA. A significant number are now finding their way to Australia.

“I like it here; this is a great country” said Iziegbe Ohonba as he munched his lunch at the Light Square Campus of Adelaide Institute of TAFE in South Australia. “The people are nice and willing to help”.

Iziegbe (friends call him Ez) is a well credentialed migrant with a good degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Benin in Nigeria.

He said he came to Australia because the country has many attractive features: “a strong economic profile and a very high standard of living”. And, above all, he added a “stable political system”.

It should be noted that Ez, who is only a few weeks old in Australia, is already showing signs of progress in his field of specialization; attending short-courses and seminars to upgrade his skills.

Trying to make the most of his new way of life, he has decided to enroll in an Employment Assistance Program for Skilled migrants – a process most career-minded migrants go though.

This is an Interlink SA program which provides in-house training and networking; as well as vocational placement for new migrants. It offers seminars run by industry guest speakers and consultants.

So, on the whole, Ez has found something very attractive about Australia and appears to be well adjusted to the new environment. All the best and good luck Ez!

Watch this spot!