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Afghan handlers and camels
Title : Afghan handlers and camels Afghan handlers and camels
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Source : B 1423
Date of creation : ca. 1890
Format : Photograph
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Two Afghan handlers and their camels.

Muslim cameleers with their camels made a significant contribution to the opening up and development of inland South Australia and Australia for Europeans. These men were generally known as 'Afghans' although they came from several different places of origin and a variety of ethnic groups. In 1838 Joseph Bruce brought 18 Afghan cameleers to South Australia. The first camel arrived in the colony in 1840 but was shot in 1846 following the accidental death of explorer John Horrocks.

In the mid-1860s Joseph Stuckey imported 100 camels, with around thirty Afghan handlers from India, mainly to work on Thomas Elder's properties in the far north. A breeding program for camels was established at Beltana to meet increasing demand.

The Afghans and their camel teams provided crucial transport and communication for outback exploration expeditions and mining settlements, carrying most of the supplies to isolated stations, missions and towns. The cameleers assisted survey expeditions, helped railway construction, built fences and carried materials for the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line in the early 1870s. Despite this vital support, they were among the lowest paid workers in the country.

Anti-Afghan attitudes formed part of the widely supported 'White Australia policy' of the late 19th century. The policy was incorporated into the Australian Commonwealth's Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. Over time these racist attitudes improved and the White Australia policy was abolished.

Today, the train which travels from Adelaide to Darwin across central Australia is called 'the Ghan' in honour of the considerable contributions made by Afghan people to the development of Australia's remote inland.

Period : 1884-1913
Further reading :

Cigler, Michael. The Afghans in Australia, Melbourne: AE Press, 1986

Jones, Philip and Kenny, Anna. Australia's Muslim cameleers : pioneers of the inland, 1860s-1930s , Kent Town, S. Aust. : Wakefield Press, 2007

Rajkowski, Pamela. In the tracks of the camelmen: outback Australia's most exotic pioneers, Henley Beach, S. Aust.: Seaview Press, 2005

Stevens, Christine. Tin mosques & ghantowns: a history of Afghan cameldrivers in Australia, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1989

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