Elder & Co. brought the first ‘Afghans’ (Afghan cameleers) to South Australia to help traverse the desert terrain and long distances. Thirty-one Afghans arrived on the the ship ‘The Blackwell’ at Port Augusta and on New Year’s Eve 1865 the waiting crowd of onlookers watched the remarkable sight of 124 camels being lifted and deposited onto Australian soil. Sent to work at Beltana station, north of Port Augusta in the Far North, camel trains were soon transporting wool and other stores across hundred of miles including the supply of materials to the Overland Telegraph Line.
Although known as Afghans, the cameleers were actually Pathans from the border of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.The cameleers arrived on Australian soil as single men on three-year contracts and were said to have generally come from poor backgrounds. By the 1890s there were some 800 Afghan males in Australia. Remarkable men who provided an indispensable service under harsh conditions.
(picture courtesy State Library SA)