State Library of South Australia logo Timeline
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Afghan handlers and camels
Title : Afghan handlers and camels Afghan handlers and camels
Add To My SA Memory
Date of creation : ca. 1890
Format : Photograph
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
The State Library of South Australia is keen to find out more about SA Memory items. We encourage you to contact the Library if you have additional information about any of these items.
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

Two Afghan handlers and their camels.

'Afghan' cameleers with their camels made a significant contribution to the opening up and development of inland South Australia and Australia for Europeans. Known generally as 'Afghans', the Muslim men were from several different places of origin and various ethnic groups. The first camel arrived in South Australia in October 1840 and was used in exploration work. It was shot in 1846 following the accidental death of explorer John Horrocks.

In the mid-1860s Thomas Elder and Samuel Stuckey imported 124 camels, with 31 Afghan cameleers from India, mainly to work on Elder's properties in the far north. A breeding program for camels was established at Beltana to meet increasing demand.

Crucial transport and communication for outback exploration expeditions, mining settlements, and provision of supplies to towns, stations and missions were enabled by Afghans and their camel teams. Afghans assisted survey expeditions, transported materials for construction of the Overland Telegraph Line in the early 1870s and aided railway construction. However, the cameleers were among the lowest paid workers in the country.

Anti-Afghan attitudes were encompassed in the 'White Australia policy' widely supported in the late 19th century, and incorporated in the Australian Commonwealth's Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. Today the name of 'The Ghan' Adelaide-Darwin train journey through central Australia honours the considerable contributions made by Afghan people to the development of remote inland regions.

Period : 1884-1913
Further reading :

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

Jones, Philip G. 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

Internet links : Land of the Afghans See: Culture: Afghans of Australia

Embassy of Afghanistan to Australia and New Zealand See: Afghan-Aust Relations: Ambassador's report: Visit to Northern Territory and South Australia, 4-15 May 2004

Australia's Great Train Journeys See: The Ghan



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on