May 1st, 2008
History of immigration from Ethiopia
The Ethiopia-born community in Australia is a recently-established community, with the earliest migrants arriving during the 1970s when the ‘Derg’ socialist government assumed power in Ethiopia. The government repressed its opponents, and between 1977-78 over 30,000 people were imprisoned and several thousand killed on suspicion of anti-government activity.
Sosina Wogayehu, Circus Oz performer, during a show.
Sosina arrived from Ethiopia in 1998.
Photographer / Source: Ponch Hawkes
As armed conflict with the opposition groups erupted, over half a million refugees fled to neighbouring countries. Ethiopian refugees waited in Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt before being accepted in Australia under the refugee and humanitarian programs. Drought and famine in the mid-1980s caused further distress and displacement.
The fall of the Derg regime in 1991 failed to end political persecution, and Ethiopians continued to flee their country. Over the next decade Victoria became home to the largest population of Ethiopia-born migrants in Australia, increasing by 137% to 1,971 between 1991 and 2001. Since 2001 the community has increased considerably.
The majority of the Ethiopia-born Victorians today are employed in production, transport and labouring; 17% of workers are employed in managerial or professional positions. The community mainly lives in Melbourne’s western suburbs such as Footscray.
The Ethiopia-born population in Victoria is a vibrant mix of diverse cultures, including the Tigray, Oromo, Amhara and Harari (also known as Adaree), each with a distinct sense of community and tradition. This cultural diversity is reflected in the number of religions followed and languages spoken at home by the Ethiopia-born population in Victoria.
Support services are provided by organisations including the Ethiopian Community Association in Victoria and the Hararian Community Association.