Burundians started arriving en masse in Australia in the mid-2000s. Many have settled in major capital cities of Australia including Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney. Approximately 2000 Burundians live in Australia and 300 of those now live in Victoria, according to the 2011 Census.
In 2005, a group of Burundians in Melbourne founded an association called “Australian Burundian Community in Victoria Inc. (ABCV)”. They created this organization as a platform to enable them to get together, maintain and promote their culture and traditions, nurture interdependence and facilitate their integration into the diverse society of Australia and Victoria in particular.
Burundian drummers perform in Melbourne
The ABCV has been organizing regular events and festivals, including Independence Day celebrations, drum-making workshops, drum performances and even a short film called “Ubuzima Bushasha” (New Life). The film depicts the hard life that refugees in general and some ABCV community members endured in refugee camps before coming to Australia. It also highlights their excitement to be in a country where they can enjoy more freedom and not have their basic human rights violated at will.
The ABCV has fostered strong connectedness and a sense of togetherness among Burundians in Victoria. Through it, the Victorian Burundian community has remained united for over 10 years and experienced no dissidence. This is an exceptional achievement, given the division and disunity that is prevalent within organizations based in Burundi and other African communities in Australia.
Burundians are big-hearted individuals with a high level of resilience and quick to forgive. Increasingly more Burundians understand that progress and real development are in their own hands and must be attained through collective actions where the government and the people work together.
Burundi is a landlocked country located in Central Africa. It has been one of the most unstable countries in the region for several decades. It gained its independence from the Kingdom of Belgium in 1962 and since then it has experienced several episodes of civil wars that have continued to create civil unrest, political chaos and the killing of thousands of civilians.
These episodes of instability in Burundi have caused the exodus of millions of Burundians in 1965, 1968, 1972, 1988 and 1993. There was a period of relative political stability for about 10 years, from 1976 to 1987. A civil war broke out in 1988 and resulted in massive killings of civilians. Since then, the country experienced less democracy and more political and civil unrests with five presidents being sworn in and two of them assassinated in less than a year from July 1993 to April 1994. These incidents accelerated the migration of many Burundians out of their country and many have ended up finding refuge in various countries around the world including Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, United States, South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Australia.
By Belthrand Habiyakare,