In 1959, at the age of 7, Patricia with her pregnant mother and her two younger brothers embarked from the port of Alexandria in the direction of Australia. After navigating along the coast of Italy, they stopped in Tripoli and passed through the Suez Canal, the Egyptian family hit Western Australia before disembarking at Botany in Sydney. Far From Africa meets Patricia Attard Daniels in the black heart of Sydney, Redfern, to hear about her passion for her native country and how she is making sure that all African communities are part of the cultural landscape of Australia.
Born in the second-largest African city, Cairo, ‘the city of a thousand minarets’ near the Nile Delta is famous for its Islamic architecture . Patricia feels immensely proud of her country. “I come from this incredible society that is made up of so many societies and people. I love the fact that, factual or not, at the end of the day all men come from this continent. Egypt has the biggest universities in Africa and held Islamic spiritual leadership for the Muslim world”.
With a civilisation dating back to 10th millennium BC, Egypt also has the peculiarity to be a transcontinental country where its land stretches on the North East of Africa and over the land bridge of the Sinai Peninsula to the South West corner of Asia.
Patricia spent the first years of her life in a country that she sees as “exceptionally rich, its wealth is immeasurable and that goes to all of Africa”. Early 1950s when the country made a transition from kingdom to presidency accompanied with the islamisation of the society, the then multicultural Egyptian society was made up of Christians, Muslims, Greek, Maltese, Italian and French Egyptians who suddenly found themselves excluded. The new government provided jobs to Egyptians only. Patricia’s family departed in different directions to the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia at a time when communication was very underdeveloped.
Patricia was part of this first wave of African migrants to Australia. Back then, there was no program in place to assist their settlement or to teach young kids English, “it was up to the kids to pick up the language”. After going through difficult times to be accepted in Australia, Patricia fully embraced her roots in her thirties. “After leaving Egypt, my family never stopped talking and loving Egypt. My goal is to go back and find out about what happened to my family’s property”.
Although she has a strong love for her country of birth, she got to reconnect with her African roots in 2011 when living in Senegal for a few months. She passionately speaks about the West African country, the Senegalese and what she has learnt and discovered.
In 2009, Patricia founded the House of Africa, an economic and marketing strategy for the Australasian Pacific region for Africa. “This project is to market Africa to this region in a positive way as well as promoting new parts of Africa such as opening up new touristy destinations in Africa, organise art exhibitions, create a media centre and work collaboratively with the Australian African Business Council to promote business relations”.
Through her many projects to keep Africa’s cultures and representation alive and active in Australia, her endeavours have gained the attention of international organisations, national and state government bodies. Patricia is also the NSW Executive Organiser of Celebration of African Australians Awards Night which aims to promote contributing Africans in Australia and reward them at this annual national ceremony. The awards night was successfully planned and ran in 2012, hosted at Sydney Opera House, and gathered great African contributors, people from all walks of life. The then Shadow Minister, Tony Abbott and other federal ministers expressed their support to the initiative.
Patricia and her collaborators see the need to start inter-African celebrations to be “strong in unity” as she says. “It is such a rich continent and it has been so devastated by the greed and the selfishness of outside, that Africans need to wake up to themselves”. To carry on about the richness and diversity of Africa, she acclaimed ” there are probably hundreds of nations living on the African continent. Up to 2014, Africa is still a mysterious continent with plenty of treasures to find, a place where there are answers to questions on our ancestors”.
Patricia spreads joy and peace to the world with her Sheba Caravan of World Beats music program at the Koori Radio in Sydney.
On November 7th, Celebration of African Australians will be held in Melbourne at the Parliament House and in Sydney. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to meet talented, passionate and contributing Africans.
Special thanks to Patricia for inviting Far From Africa in her studios in Sydney!