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177 Nations of Tasmania - Episode 53 - Barber from Sierra Leone

If you look at the history of migration across the world, one of the common threads you see is how migrants bring both new skills and a spirit of enterprise to their host society. Communities of new migrants as they grow create demand for new industries as well. You can see examples of this in many cities around the world. In previous episodes of the podcast, Jenny talked about working for a Hungarian who introduced yoghurt-making to Tasmania and Nick talked about a bar and club her bought in Hobart to supply Greek Hydro workers with dolmades and ouzo when they were in town on the weekends. But you could go back many centuries in Europe or Asia to see the impact of migrant communities on local economies, whether the Chinese in SE Asia, the Italians in New York or the South Asians in Birmingham.

Alusine aka Aws, is the latest manifestation of this long tradition. He came to Tasmania just for a bit of a look around, but in the process he spotted a business opportunity and also the chance to pursue a dream to run his own barber business.

The African community in Hobart has grown quite considerably over the last 20 years, and now encompasses a wide diversity of nationalities. Through meeting a few of them and cutting their hair privately, Alusine, discovered that there was no reliable hairdresser or barber with experience at cutting African hair.

Seeing that there was an opportunity for him here, he moved from Sydney to Hobart to pursue his goal. He was realistic, and had a long-term plan to eventually have his own barber shop, but as chance would have it, a small, but long-standing barber's shop became available sooner than Alusine though and he has seized the opportunity.

Now Aws is well-known amongst the African community of Hobart, but he is also catering for some of the regular customers of the previous barber , a fair percentage who are old and white. In fact, when I visited Aws in his shop to get a photo, a confused old-timer popped his head in to see if he could still get his hair cut, and of course Aws was only to happy to welcome him in. As others will probably know, in Hobart, it helps to be adaptable and not be confined to much to one set of customers and Aws seems to be doing a good job of serving the old locals as well as the newer Tasmanians in the African community.

We didn't talk so much about Sierra Leone, as Aws left the country when he was quite young with his parents as they fled the violent civil war that was raging there in the 90s and early 2000s - another African conflict that gained relatively little attention in the media. But there were little hints as to its impact - family moving constantly, disruption to schooling and threats by soldiers to cut him and his twin brother, and then eventually the family's flight across to border to Guinea.

For those who want to get more of an insight into the impact of the civil war :


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