Pioneers of the Inland: Australia ’s Muslim Cameleers 1860s–1930s


12 December 2007 – 17 February 2008

Pioneers of the Inland:Australia’s Muslim Cameleers 1860s–1930s records for the first time the remarkable contribution of Australia’s cameleers. This exhibition reveals how the cameleers, from Afghanistan and British India, unlocked the Australian deserts and opened crucial supply lines. The stories of Muslim explorers and pioneers also provide an intriguing counterbalance to the dominant white explorer legends of Central Australia. This is a travelling exhibition from the South Australian Museum.

A small Koran with its cloth pouch. This was retrieved from the body of Mullah Abdullah, who died during the battle following the attack on the picnic train at Broken Hill, 1 January 1915. JP1910/57, Justice & Police Museum

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Woven cap belonging to Bejah Dervish. His distinctive grey and black turban was worn wrapped around this inner cap, which is lined with silk. W. Bejah

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Although camels were generally hobbled at stops during long trips, they often wandered at night. The bells helped the cameleers locate the dominant males more easily, preventing long delays. Camel bells were valued objects.

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This saddle was made before 1887 and was collected in northern South Australia in 1961. It is perhaps the only original ‘Afghan’ pack-saddle to survive. H6926, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

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Queensland cameleer and camel, c1900. 168171, State Library of Queensland

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Mohamed Sidik at prayer in Alice Springs, 1934. M. Abbott collection

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Camel with pianola destined for outback station. Broken Hill City Library

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Loading wool at Olive Downs, NSW, c1920. After roping the bales to the saddle, the cameleers would tighten the top rope, lifting the bales apart and upward to take pressure off the camel. Photographer: L. Reynolds. B39169, State Library of South Australia

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William Strutt, The camels for Exploring Expedition, just landed. July 1860. Study of a cameleer exercising camels soon after their arrival in Melbourne for the Burke and Wills expedition. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

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William Strutt, Indian camel hobbled, from a collection of drawings in watercolour, ink and pencil illustrating the Burke and Wills expedition,1860. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

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A. H. Massina & Co.
The Burke and Wills exploring expedition, departure of the expedition
Melbourne : 1860
tinted lithograph; 37.5 x 48.0 cm

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John Flynn (1880–1951)
Three unidentified men, one an Afghan camel driver, standing next to a camel train  [between 1912 and 1930]
2007 A4 digital print

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Bejah Dervish at Mullewa, WA,
leaving for the Calvert Expedition, 1896.
B10486/1 SLSA.

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Unloading camels, Port Augusta, 1890s.
B68916 SLSA.

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An unknown cameleer setting off from a Queensland town, c. 1910. Cameleers saved to buy a small string of camels, and if successful, were able to employ other cameleers and take on additional contracts for carrying goods.
1897, State Library of Queensland.

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