Oromo in Victoria
The Australian Oromo community is the largest in Victoria. Approximately 10,000 Australian Oromo population are living in Victoria. Most Australian Oromos live in the capital, Melbourne. There are also a number of smaller Oromo communities in State cities, including Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Darwin with an active social and cultural life.
The Oromo people are the custodian of the Oromo Gadaa system of governance (one of the ancient African civilizations), indigenous people and largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa who are estimated to represent more than 50 % of the people in Ethiopia or estimated to be greater than 40 million people.
Reasons of Immigration
Beginning with the conquest of Oromia in the late 1800s by Africans supported by European colonists, the Oromo have been subjected to much persecution from ruling governments. From imperial rulers, to Communist dictatorship, to the current ethnic Tigrayan governments, human rights violations have been used frequently to suppress dissent. Continuous civil war with liberation movements has contributed to an unstable and dangerous political environment. This worsened already widespread starvation during a series of severe famines between 1984 and 1990.
The majority of Australia’s Oromo community fled East Africa following the military dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s ‘red terror’ campaign in 1978, and after the 1991 change of government. The dominance of other ethnic groups, particularly Amhara and Tigray, in the new government continues to be a point of strife for the Oromo. In 1991, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) reignited a guerilla war to seek Oromia’s liberation. The current Tigrayan government perceives the Oromo as a threat by virtue of their demographic dominance. Along with suspicion of OLF activity, this has led to repression, abuse, and torture of Oromo citizens.
Oromo people have settled peacefully in Australia since the beginning of 1980s from where the Australian Oromo community has been emerged. Hence, Australian Oromo people prefer to be referred to as Australia-Oromo, rather than Australia-Ethiopian. Speaking the Oromo language, “Afaan Oromoo” has served to retain a powerful sense of identity among the Oromo and defy the long standing ban, upheld for almost half a century particularly against the Oromo people and language.
After leaving their country, most people spent some time in refugee camps in Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen or Somalia. Refugee arrival in Australia began in the early 1980s and peaked in 2006-9, with the largest numbers of people settling in Australia in 2008. The total population in the Victoria numbers about 5000 and is growing, mainly with new babies but also with a few family members still emigrating from refugee camps in Kenya. The Oromo community is one of the emerging communities and its members in Australia are estimated to be greater than 10,000 people.
The Oromo Association and other community Organisation were founded by members of the community to help each other build new lives in Victoria Australia, and a main focus of the association right now is education, social services, cultural maintenance and job training so that Oromos can support themselves independently without needing public assistance. The association is especially interested in promoting education for its women as a way of improving the health and welfare of women, children and the community as a whole.
Traditional Oromo society was based on Gadaa, a democratic system of societal law, a system that has declined with their loss of freedom. Members of a Gadaa gained seniority as they aged, taking new responsibilities every eight years. Elders, considered to be wiser, were responsible for teaching, resolving conflicts, and nurturing Oromo culture. Seniority is thus an important factor in Oromo relationships.
Children were taught respect for elders, and disciplined by a combination of familial pressure and occasional spanking. In Australia, the fear of child protection services can lead to a fear of correcting their child’s behaviours. In addition, children may learn an independence from family in Australia that is unfamiliar and stressful to parents, making discipline more difficult.
Education has been limited for Oromos due to marginalization in Ethiopia and as resources are limited in refugee camps. Many children arrive in Australia far behind their Australian classmates, and they may also need to work to support their families. This can create great stress and loss of confidence for the children. For this reason, and possibly due to the frightening results of speaking out in Ethiopia, children may not ask for help when they need it. Parents often don’t understand the Australian educational system, and in addition, the demands of multiple jobs may make parents unable to be involved in their child’s schooling.
Islam, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, or occasionally Ethiopian Orthodox), or the traditional Oromo monotheistic belief (Waaqeffannaa) in Waaqaa, or God. Traditional Oromo religious belief centres around one God, Waaqaa, who is responsible for everything that happens to human beings. As Oromos adopted Islam or Christianity, they maintained the concept of Waaqaa and incorporated their beliefs into the new religions. The majority of Oromos in Victoria practice Islam. Another large percentage of Oromos are Christian. Christians are primarily Catholic or Adventist rather than Orthodox, as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is associated with the dominant Amhara cultural group. Within the Oromo nation, Waaqeffannaa followers, Muslims and Christians have mingled peacefully, as they do in the community here. Those Oromos whose traditions still mirror the traditions of Waaqeffannaa are less organised, less visible and therefore less understood.
Holidays generally follow either the traditional Oromo style, Christian or Muslim holiday schedule. Traditional Oromo religion celebrates a thanksgiving festival in fall, Irreechaa. New Year’s Day (January 1) is also an important family holiday, and there are also several holidays like the Oromian Civil Resistance Day, and the Oromo Martyrs Day in remembrance of people who have died.
Common Acculturation Issues
Most of the community comes from rural and marginalised areas and may have had little formal education, but many urban Oromos are well-educated and worked in nursing, teaching, or other professional fields before coming here. Oromos are working in a variety of capacities in Victoria, but unemployment and underemployment are problems for many heads of households.
Many familiar practices will be changing in the new Australian cultural milieu, but Oromos hope to celebrate and strengthen their own culture as they build a community here.
The Oromo radio program at 3zzz was established in August 1995. The program is one of the four Oromo community radio stations operating in the world and the only radio program in the Asian-pacific region.
The Oromo program broadcasts on 92.3 FM every Sunday from 1:00 – 2:00 PM. It broadcasts a diverse range of news from around the globe, youth program, health program, opinions and analysis of current affairs, interviews, sports, special events (festivals) and provides entertainment to our listeners that would otherwise not be available to them. The program provides enormous benefits to the Oromo community in Australia and beyond.
The Oromo community is one of the emerging communities and its members in Australia are estimated to be greater than 10,000 people. Lack of English language affects most community members and prevents important information getting to the community, especially during the first stages of settlement. That is where the community radio fills the gap. More importantly the program allows our community members to maintain the Oromo language and teach the youth about the Oromo culture and heritage.
A Brief History of 3ZZZ Oromo Radio Program
The Victorian Oromo Community Association approached the management and committee of Ethnic Community Radio, 3ZZZ in early 1995 in order to start a radio programme in Afaan Oromo for the growing Oromo migrants in the city of Melbourne. The first group of migrants consisting of three or four families arrived in Melbourne, Australia in 1984 and it was a big step in our lives to contemplate this project. The Oromo Radio program started broadcasting in Afaan Oromoo on 10th August 1995 by the veteran Oromo artist Shantam Shubisa with the object of:
- Establishing the Oromo community and its language, Afaan Oromo, as one of the major ethnic languages here in Australia;
- Making Oromo community members feel that we can exercise our democratic rights in this country and show that we can make it here what we failed to achieve in our own home country;
- Serving as a means of communications for major government policies;
- Keeping our community members in touch and get in depth understanding of what is happening in Oromia; and
- Using as a means of entertainment.
Thanks to the development of Internet, the Oromo Radio Program is now recognised as one of the major sources of information and entertainment for Oromo who live around the globe. The management and broadcasters of this program invite you to listen to us and provide us with your comments so that we can serve you better.
The Oromo program can be heard Sunday, 1-2 pm, on 92.3 FM (Melbourne)
To Oromo Program P.O. Box 1106, Collingwood, 3066
Telephone – (61,3) 9415 1928 Fax: (61, 3) 9415 1818
Telephone – (61,3) 9415 1923
Telephone – (61,3) 9415 1926
please send your comment to 3zzz Oromo Program
Several social and religious Oromo organisations operate in Victoria, Australia.
- Australian Oromo Community Association in Victoria Inc (AOCAV)
Name: Yadata Saba
Tel + 61 412 795 909
120 Race course Rd (Office #2), Flemington, VIC 3031
P.O.BOX 2123, Footscray VIC 3011
Office Phone: +61 422869709
Or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oromia Support Group Australia
PO Box 38 Noble Park, VIC 3174
- Advocacy for Oromia
P O Box 150, Noble Park, Vic 3174