Australia's Muslim Cameleers
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Cameleers and Aboriginal people

As Muslim cameleers travelled through the inland they encountered a diversity of Aboriginal groups. An exchange of skills, knowledge and goods soon developed.

Some cameleers assisted Aboriginal people by carrying traditional exchange goods, including red ochre or the narcotic plant pituri, along ancient trade routes such as the Birdsville Track. The cameleers also brought new commodities such as sugar, tea, tobacco, clothing and metal tools to remote Aboriginal groups.

Exchanges occurred at every level. Aboriginal people incorporated camel hair into their traditional string artefacts, and provided information on desert waters and plant resources. Some cameleers employed Aboriginal men and women to assist them on their long desert treks. This resulted in some enduring partnerships, and several marriages.

By the 1930s, as the cameleers became displaced by motor transport, an opportunity arose for Aboriginal people. They learnt camel-handling skills and acquired their own animals, extending their mobility and independence in a rapidly changing frontier society.