The Australian Muslim History

Muslim fishermen and traders first came to our shores in the seventeenth century, or even earlier, from the eastern islands of modern Indonesia. They sailed their prahus along our north and north-western coast fishing for trepang and trading with the Aborigines; a cross-cultural interaction that carried on for more than three centuries. However, it was not until the nineteenth century that a new wave of Muslims entered Australia and settled here.

Between 1870 and 1920 approximately 20,000 camels and 2,000-3,000 cameleers landed at ports around Australia and a vast network of camel routes spread out across inland Australia. Cameleers undertook what needed to be done when a country is being opened up: they proved invaluable on numerous expeditions hastening to map the continent, carted wool to ports, and water to drought ridden areas, and transported mail, equipment and stores at a time when railway construction was in its infancy. They played a significant role in facilitating the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line 1870-1872 by carting equipment, material and supplies. Without their services Australia's inland development would have lagged behind by at least fifty years until the era of improved roads, trucks and railway services led to machine power supplanting animal power.

In the wake of the Afghan and Indian cameleers came the hawkers and later the Malay pearl divers; they in turn were followed by the early Albanians and Turks, and other Muslims from many different countries who were all part of early Australian history… at last this hidden history has been discovered and can be told.

The Museum's historical consultant is historian Hanifa Deen, who compiled and authored the 'Muslim Journeys' exhibition for the National Archives of Australia's Uncommon Lives series.


Living as Muslims in Australia today provides fresh and unique insights to be shared with all.  A host of Australian Muslim authors, comics, media personalities and charity workers have  written books, made TV shows and led interesting lives which highlight the Australian Muslim experience.

This gallery will also profile a number of prominent Muslim Australian sports stars and business identities such as, Ahmed Fahour, John Ilhan, footballer Hazem Masri and cricketer Uthman Khawaja.


A project commissioned by the IMA and led by founder & director, Moustafa Fahour, takes 4 Australian Muslims outback to reconnect and discover the Australian Muslim History today. A visual photography book of the Australian Muslim History and film, it was launched with Yusuf Islam & Hon Kate Lundy (on behalf of the Prime Minister of Australia) in Feb 2012. For more information visit