Recognising Aboriginal Afghans in Australia's National Reconciliation Week
Recognising Aboriginal Afghans - Australian National Reconciliation Week
Reconciliation Week is dedicated to strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians. Running from May 27th to June 3rdevery year, this week aims to draw attention to the ongoing journey towards a just, equitable and reconciled Australia where all people have access to the same opportunities and quality of life. Reconciliation Week is about celebrating Country and acknowledging our share histories, cultures and achievements; and this is reflected in this year’s theme - ‘In This Together’.
At the Embassy of Afghanistan, this means celebrating and raising awareness of the togetherness shared by Aboriginal communities and Afghans, who first arrived in Outback Australia as cameleers 160 years ago. These cameleers played a crucial role in developing inland Australia, and along the way settled and established rural Ghantowns. The long and deep connections forged by those Afghan cameleers who befriended and married into Indigenous communities and started families are today told by their descendants, and this Reconciliation Week the Embassy will be shining a light on these stories.
There are many proud descendants of Aboriginals Afghans living in Australia. As the National Reconcilian Week in Australia celebrating the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples for seven days only, we are gratful to introduce the follwoing seven desendants of Aboriginal Afghans who have lived and still living in Australia. Our viewers and audience in Afghanistan and Afghans all around the world are interested to read more about their lives, history and backgroud.
We thank Pamela Rajkowski, a research author specialising in the history, heritage and contribution of the Australian Afghan Cameleers (1860 - 1930), for her gnenerous contribution to this profile. Pamela has regularly collaborates with Afghan Cameleer descendants across Australia. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canberra or the Government of Afghanistan. Material presented throughout this article is for information purpose and is only as accurate as the sources allow.
Eric Sultan is a descendant of one of these early cameleers, and is also very proud of his Aboriginal heritage. His grandfather, Sultan Mohammed, arrived in Australia from Kandahar, Afghanistan in the late 1800s and worked on transporting goods all across the continent; from South Australia across to Western Australia, and north into the Northern Territory and Queensland. Eric is passionate about ensuring that the contributions of these cameleers and their descendants, particularly those Aboriginal Afghans, do not disappear from the history books.
Rameth Nameth “Rocky” Khan, son of Oodnadatta Afghan camel owner Nameth Allik Khan and Aboriginal mother Alison Stokes, with his sister Miriam and brother Akbar travelled across country and states on their father’s camel strings. From the 1910s Rocky and Akbar worked and lived between Marree and Beltana as labourers and station hands. His first and second marriages were to Aboriginal sisters Cissie then Esther Dodd of Marree. The 8 children of Rocky and Esther were given both Afghan and English names (only 7 in the photo). Rocky Khan regularly attended Afghan cameleer family reunions at the Marree camel races.
Janice Taverner (née Mahomet)
Peer Mahomet came East Afghanistan, to South Australia in the 1880s with his camels. He was contracted to cart sleepers for the Beltana and north railway line. In 1908 he married Ruby Rita Stuart, 16, a part-Aboriginal girl of Port Augusta. In 1900 Mullah Assam Khan of Marree became his brother-in-law when Ruby’s sister Agnes married the religious head. Peer and Ruby Rita lived and worked at mining at Muchatoona then raised their 6 children in Beltana. One son, John Mahomet, was the father of Janice Taverner (née Mahomet) of Beltana, who as a very proud descendant has been very active over decades in preserving her Afghan-Aboriginal and Afghan cameleer heritage. In 2007, Janice Taverner (née Mahomet) become member of a memorial committee, Voyagers. It is an artwork celebrates the ‘Afghan’ heritage of Adelaide. It commemorates cameleers who came to South Australia from Afghanistan. The form of the Yoyagers artwork alludes to the cultures of these men and their lives in Australia.
Khan Zada, born in 1869, came from Afghanistan to work with camel strings in Bourke, then Broken Hill and Wilcannia. Khan Zada and his part-Aboriginal wife Mary Payne had ten children who were given both Afghan and English names. One son, Abdul “al” Zada, married an Afghan cameleer’s daughter Ayshi Dadleh, of Marree ghan town. Their two children, Larl Zada and Irene Zada, are Afghan Aboriginal descendants who live in Port Augusta and have actively supported events over decades to celebrate their heritage.
Nazmeena Mulladad (née Cummings)
Nazmeena Mulladad grew up in an Afghan cameleer family in Central Australia. According to an ABC radio feature (see the link below) her childhood was unique nomadic, traveling with the Muslim cameleers, at the beginning of the twentieth century. She had a harsh but exotic lifestyle that revolved around the work, the camels and Muslim worship. Her father, Sayid Mulladad, a camel owner of Oodnadatta Ghantown, married May Humphries, a part-Aboriginal woman of Hermannsburg mission. The Afghan father insisted their five children, all daughters, had Afghan female names [Vera “Wira”, Roseann, Bebe, Zulka Nanadulka and Nazmeena]. The parents took the five girls on camel carrying trips and when in Oodnadatta sent the girls to the Oodnadatta school. Sayid was delivering supplies to places beyond the train line. She was living and working with Aboriginal families, who were employed by the Afghan cameleers. Nazmeena's mother would assist at their births as the local white settlers would not assist the Aboriginal people with medical problems. Sayid Satour, of Farina then Alice Springs, a Pisheen born in Quorto, India, married an Aboriginal woman from Hermannsburg mission. Their one child, William John Satour, married Vera Mulladad, both Afghan Aboriginal descendants. Some descendants of the Alice Springs Mulladads - Satours continued to be practising Muslims.
Mona Wilson (née Akbar)
Mona Wilson (née Akbar) is a descendant of Jack Akbar who came to Australia some time in the late 19th century as an Afghan cameleer. He married Lallie an Aboriginal Wongai from Western Australia in South Australia. Mona Wilson and her family are of Afghan and Aboriginal heritage. Mona Wilson, nee Akbar, was born in Renmark, SA, on February 28th, 1930. Eldest of 4 to Jack and Lallie. Mona spent her childhood and young adulthood in Renmark, travelling to Adelaide each year to attend Mosque with her father. After his death she moved to WA to be near her mother's country. Due to WA policies of the time, her children were removed from her care and she and her partner relocated to Victoria where she remained until after his passing. The entire family were not reunited until the 1980s. Mona was involved with many community organisations in her later life and left a legacy of love, peace, reconciliation and education of self. Her favourite saying...You are never too old to learn something new! Mona Akbar passed away in 2016 when she was 86 years old. In the eulogy given at her funeral, a friend of Mona wrote: "The biggest thing I remember is her smile. Welcoming, bright, cheerful and encouraging. Positive and upbeat. It drew people in and once engaged her eloquent story-telling abilities usually kept them spellbound, sometimes for just a few minutes, other times for hours. She was generous with her knowledge, always happy to share what she knew". A community tribute Facebook page is developed by Mona's grandchildren and friends who are descendants of Aboriginal Afghan Cameleers. The page is called "a place to share stories, photos, videos and memories of Mona Wilson, nee Akbar".
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