• Muslims in Australia have a long and varied history that is thought to predate European settlement. Some of Australia’s earliest visitors were Muslim, from the east Indonesian archipelago.

    Muslims from Indonesia have been coming to Australia for many years, they made contact with indigenous Australians as early as the 16th and 17th centuries.

  • Evidence of these early visitors can be found in the similarity of certain words that occur in the language of the Macassarese and of the coastal Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal cave paintings depict the traditional Makassar vessels or ‘prau” and a number of Macassan artefacts have been found in Aboriginal settlements on the west and north coasts of Australia. Marriages between Indigenous people and Macassarese are believed to have taken place, and Macassan grave sites have been found along the coastline.

  • During the colonial period, some 200 years ago, Muslim immigrants from coastal Africa and island territories under the British Empire came to Australia in the early fleets of European settlers. The first significant Muslim population was formed with the arrival of Afghan cameleers who were brought from the then India to help open up the interior of the country. One of the major projects involving Afghan cameleers was the development of the rail link between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, which became known as the Ghan. The rail line was extended to Darwin in 2004

  • The Afghans married local Aboriginal women, settled down in the remote parts and. many of these towns, which became known as Ghan towns had at least one mosque, usually constructed from corrugated iron with a small minaret. .These Mosques provided the base for Muslim communities of the time. However, the advent of the motor vehicle and the introduction of motor lorry transportation signalled the end of an era of cameleers, While some returned to their homeland, others settled in areas near Alice Springs and other parts of the Northern Territory.. Descendants of the Afghan cameleers have since played active roles in numerous Islamic communities in Australia.

  • Small numbers of Muslims were also recruited from the Dutch and British colonies in South East Asia to work in the Australian pearling industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Australia’s first Mosque was built at Marree in northern South Australia in 1861. The first large Mosque was built in Adelaide in 1890, and another was built in Broken Hill (New South Wales) in 1891which still remains.

  • Muslim cameleers played an indispensable part in the early development of Australia In Central Australia, Afghan Cameleers made an enormous contribution to the exploration and development of the Australian interior. Between the 1860s and early 1900s, cameleers and their 'ships of the desert' became the backbone of the outback economy.

  • While some were originally from Afghanistan, others came from countries such as Pakistan (especially the Peshawar region), Baluchistan, Kashmir, Sind, Rajasthan, Egypt, Persia, Turkey and Punjab. They spoke a variety of languages but their common bond was their Islamic religion. Many of the third and fourth generation of these “Afghans” still live in the Territory.