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Development   /  Tony Jackson

Our African Roots

Uncovering Australia’s forgotten African history, from the First Fleet to the Eureka Rebellion and beyond.


Impact areas



  • DIRECTOR Tony Jackson

  • PRODUCER Tony Jackson and Santilla Chingaipe



On 26 January 1788, ten men of African descent stepped off the ships of the First Fleet and were set to work building the modern nation of Australia. They were the first of hundreds of African convicts sent to these shores.

On a journey back to the multicultural origins of modern Australia, African migrant Santilla Chingaipe rips up the monocultural myths of Australia’s white foundation narratives and colours in our nation’s post-colonial history by revealing the stories of the black Africans who left an indelible mark on this country.

Although their achievements have largely been overlooked or forgotten, they became bushrangers, feminists, freedom fighters, war heroes and sports stars, and they played a pivotal role in some of the most decisive events in Australian history.

Our African Roots writes these forgotten African men and women back into the nation’s history books, and reveals how Australia’s shifting attitudes to race came to shape our national identity.

Support this project

86.43% funded
  • $631,879.00

  • $546,126.00

  • November 2020

  • 2

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Anonymous $100.00
Offline Support $546,026.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

People of African descent have played a pivotal role in Australian life since day one of colonisation. But you wouldn’t know this from looking at our history books or our school curriculums because their contribution has been ignored, erased or overlooked.

Our African Roots sets the record straight by reinserting the stories of men and women of African descent back into our shared history. It’s an act of historical truth-telling that proves once and for all that African-Australians have a place and a history in this country that is as legitimate and as deep-rooted as any other migrant community.

The film encourages all Australians to re-evaluate the monocultural myths that have accreted around settlement of this country, and to acknowledge that our nation's colonial history is a complex, multicultural and multiracial affair - one that includes the lives and experiences of many black Africans.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

By revealing a hidden truth about our history, we hope to challenge the myth that modern Australia was founded by white people, and encourage the nation to acknowledge that modern Australia has been a multicultural endeavour from day one.

We hope this historical truth-telling will disrupt the toxic narrative that suggests African-Australians are new arrivals who will never fit into 'the Aussie way of life' and give contemporary African-Australians a greater sense of belonging in this country.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Short-term outcomes:

During the making of the film, we’ll work with community groups to raise a prominent public monument that acknowledges the contributions people of African descent have made to Australia.

We’ll encourage a national Australian television audience to understand that our national history is incomplete and that there are black African stories that need to be told.

Through film screenings with African-Australian community groups we’ll share this forgotten history with contemporary migrants from Africa to reveal that people of African descent have long played a role in shaping modern Australia.

Long-term outcomes:

Through widespread film screenings and by providing Australian teachers with a robust set of educational resources, we’ll create an on-going national conversation that ultimately writes people of African descent back into our national history and ensures their stories are not marginalised or forgotten.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

To raise production funds, we have entered into a partnership with SBS and Film Victoria. We are currently in discussions with Screen Australia about supporting the production.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

We want a mainstream Australian television audience to share the jaw-dropping new information the film reveals about our national history with friends and family. We’ll develop a playful toolbox of pre-prepared social media assets to encourage them to do this.

We hope Australian teachers, historians and institutions will embrace these forgotten stories and make them part of our national narrative by requesting study guides, film screenings and copies of Santilla’s history book Black Convicts.

We’d like the audience and community groups to host their own screenings of the film to promote a more accurate, nuanced, and inclusive version of Australian history.

We’d like to encourage the tens of thousands of Australians who have no idea that they are descended from African convicts to discover their heritage and celebrate becoming part of Australia’s multicultural story.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We will gauge the success of our impact by:

● Monitoring the number of viewers who see the film on SBS and SBS On Demand, as well as the number of public screenings and audiences reached.

● Assessing response to the film through social media and media coverage, including success in generating a national conversation about the role of people of African descent in our national story

● Measuring our impact on awareness of, and attitudes towards, this historical contribution through an audience and community screening survey

● Assessing educational outcomes by monitoring SBS Learn and ATOM Study Guide downloads, number of schools/students reached, and student educational survey

● Assessing the impact of the film and campaign on the African-Australian community through community feedback and dialogue with African-Australian organisations

● Capturing audience engagement and action through website usage, resource downloads, screening requests and educational and community initiatives.