A documentary by SBS Australia has shed more light on the roles played in the history and building of modern day Australia by ten convicts of African descent who arrived in Australia on the First Fleet 200 years ago.
‘Our African Roots’ tells of a forgotten part of Australia’s history, how these Africans were among the first batch of convicts routed from Europe to Australia.
It turns out that when colonists first arrived on Australian shores in 1788, there were indeed ten convicts of African descent among them. It’s a fact that remains largely undocumented in most school history books. It also fails to capture the important role of these convicts and their ongoing significance to Australia’s cultural landscape. There’s a personal frustration with the limited reference to these early settlers for Chingaipe; when her family migrated from Zambia when she was just a child, she struggled to connect with the historical narrative she was taught and recognises the impact this can have.
On Sunday, October 17, SBS will premiere a documentary about Australia’s lost African history. A topic that, despite its importance, is one many people are unaware of.
The sixth stand-alone film in the eight-part Australia Uncovered documentary series will be presented by Santilla Chingaipe, a filmmaker and journalist, and will discuss modern Australia’s history while paying tribute to the people of African descent who have helped build this nation.
Every Aussie is aware of the First Fleet, but what many don’t know is that at least ten African men were on board the ship.
For more than 200 years, Australians of African descent have contributed greatly to Australia’s history, from the Eureka Rebellion to the ANZACs.
Our African Roots is rewriting them into our story, proving that Australia’s origin has always been complex and multicultural.
Chingaipe understands the importance behind sharing these stories, saying: “For me, the mission is personal. If Australia continues to erase the stories of people of colour, does it mean the contributions of contemporary African Australians like me are also in danger of being dismissed or forgotten?
“It’s time we started telling the truth about the history of colonised Australia. These aren’t African-Australian stories; these are Australian stories – and we should know the names of these men and women.”
Tony Jackson, Chemical Media Producer and Director share the same sentiments.
“When a highly respected journalist who is knowledgeable about their subject brings you a story that leaves your jaw on the floor, you know it’s too good an opportunity to miss,” he said.
“It’s been a privilege to work with Santilla to tell such a cracking story. I hope that Our African Roots becomes a staple in our schools and challenges us to think about which tales we choose to tell ourselves as a nation and which ones we leave out.”
The documentary will be available to watch on SBS On Demand with subtitles in five languages: Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.
The series will also be available with audio descriptions for blind and vision-impaired audiences.