Australia’s Muslim Cameleers Pioneers of the inland, 1860s – 1930s

21 October 2011 – 21 January 2012

Nearly 150 years ago, Australia gained a small Muslim population when explorers and pastoralists imported camels and their skilled handlers from Afghanistan and British India. Many cameleers returned home but most stayed, establishing communities in outback towns. Some cameleers married European and aboriginal woman, raising their children in the Islamic faith. Their skills unlocked the Australian deserts, permitting supply and communication between settlements, mines and mission stations. This exhibition is a tribute to Australia’s ‘Afghan’ cameleers’ revolutionary history, displaying artefacts that show the harshness of their lives, the complexity of their relationships and the importance of their faith.


Between 1870 and 1920 as many as 2000 cameleers and 20,000 camels arrived in Australia from Afghanistan and northern India. Australia’s Muslim Cameleers is a rich pictorial history of these men, their way of life and the vital role they played in pioneering transport and communication routes across outback Australia’s vast expanses. Many of the images and artefacts in this fascinating account are published here for the first time, and the book contains a biographical listing of more than 1200 cameleers.

‘A scholarly evaluation of the contribution made by the cameleers between their arrival in the 1860s and their virtual disappearance in the 1930s.’ – Media/Culture Reviews

The exhibition catalogue of this exhibition is available at the Museum Shop.