Afghan Australians

Afghan Australians (Dari: استرالیایی های افغان‌تبار Ostorâliyâi-hāye Afghān tabar, Pashto: د اسټرالیا افغانان Da Asṭrālyā Afghanan) are Australians tied to Afghanistan either by birth or by ancestry.

Afghan Australians
Total population
59,797 by birth (2021)
Dari (Persian dialect), Pashto, other languages of Afghanistan and English
Predominantly Islam, minority Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Afghan New Zealanders, Afghan diaspora

The first Afghans who migrated to Australia arrived mid the 19th century as cameleers. Over subsequent decades, they played a crucial role in facilitating British exploration of the country's desert centre.


19th centuryEdit

Although Afghans without camels are reported to have reached Australia as early as 1838,[1] in the latter part of the 19th century several thousand men from Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Kashmir, Sind, Rajasthan, Egypt, Persia, Turkey, and Punjab, but collectively known as "Afghans", were recruited during initial British development of the outback, especially for the operation of camel trains in desert areas. The first Afghan cameleers arrived in Melbourne in June 1860, when three men arrived with a shipment of 24 camels for the Burke and Wills expedition.[2][3] They continued to work in the arid interior of the continent from the 1860s to the 1930s, until finally being superseded by the development of railways and motorised road transport. The Afghans played an important supportive role in the exploration and economic development of the interior through carting water, food and materials to remote pastoral stations and mining settlements, as well as for the construction of the Overland Telegraph, and the Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway.[2] They also had an important role in establishing the Muslim faith in Australia.

20th centuryEdit

During the 1980s Soviet–Afghan War and the Afghanistan civil wars of the 1990s (1989–1992, 1992–1996, and 1996–2001), over 7,000 Afghans arrived in Australia.[citation needed]


Cameleers were prohibited from bringing their wives to Australia. Therefore, the Afghan demographic was almost entirely made up of men during this period. The White Australia policy prevented further migration from 1901 until the 1970s.[citation needed]

In 2008, 19,416 people claimed Afghan ancestry, either part of a mixed ancestry or Afghan alone.[4]

At the time of the 2016 Australian census, there were 46,800 Australian people in Australia who had been born in Afghanistan.[5] The 2021 census recorded 59,797 Afghan Australians, a significant increase.[6]

The Australian Bureau of Statistics categorises Afghan people as part of Southern and Central Asian Australians.[7]

By cityEdit


In Sydney, the largest portion of Afghan Australians reside in the LGAs of City of Ryde (North Ryde, Macquarie Park, Marsfield, and Top Ryde), The Hills Shire (Castle Hill, Cherrybrook, and Kellyville), Blacktown (Glenwood, Parklea, Stanhope Gardens and Bella Vista) and Sutherland Shire (Miranda). Ethnic Hazaras are believed[by whom?] to reside in suburbs such as Auburn and Merrylands.[citation needed]

In Sydney there are several mosques at which Afghans gather, one located in North Ryde and another located in Auburn. The largest and most significant mosque is located in Blacktown, where the new mosque was inaugurated on 3 May 2014,[8] after being reconstructed on the site of the old mosque. Across the road from the mosque is a cultural centre that hosts ceremonies such as wakes, community elections, awards etc. Custodianship of both properties belongs to the Afghan Community Support Association, the largest association representing Afghans in Australia.[9]

There are[when?] two Saturday schools for Afghan Australian youths:[citation needed]

  • Esteqlal Afghan Saturday School located at Castle Hill Library
  • Top Ryde Persian Saturday School located at Ryde Public School


In Melbourne the majority of Afghans live in Greater Dandenong and Casey. The recent arrival of Afghan asylum seekers by boat has changed the demography of the Afghan Australian community in a significant way. Once only a tiny minority, Hazaras are now more common among the Afghan Australian community in all major cities and small country towns such as Shepparton, Mildura and Swan Hill in Victoria and Griffith in NSW.

Other citiesEdit

Smaller communities of Afghans are also found in Brisbane and Perth. Australian residents at the time of the 2006 Census who were born in Afghanistan arrived mostly in the 1990s (7,707) and since 2000 (8,554). Very few had arrived before 1979 (149). At that time, 9,356 (56%) had acquired Australian citizenship.[10]


Most Afghan Australians are fluent in English and their native Afghan languages such as Dari, Pashto, and Hazaragi.[10]


Islam is the declared religion of most Afghan Australians. Additionally, there is a small minority of Christians.[10]

The Afghans have a long history in Australia. The Marree Mosque, the first mosque in Australia, was built by Afghan cameleers in the 19th century, and many more mosques were subsequently built by Afghan Australians, including the Adelaide Mosque in 1888–1889, the oldest permanent mosque in Australia.[11]

Human rights abusesEdit

Afghan refugees, along with those of other nationalities claiming asylum in Australia, have been victims of human rights abuses in immigration detention centres. One publicised story in 2019 was of an Afghan doctor who studied in China and then claimed asylum in Australia, becoming demoralised during six years in detention and committing suicide in a Brisbane hotel.[12]

In filmEdit

  • A 2020 documentary, The Afghan Cameleers in Australia, directed by Afghan/Australian filmmaker Fahim Hashimy, explores and records the relationships that many cameleers formed with Aboriginal women, and their descendants.[13]

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Flinders Range Research - The Afghan Camelmen
  2. ^ a b > About Australia > Australian Stories > Afghan cameleers in Australia Archived 15 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 8 May 2014.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2 June 2008. Total responses: 25,451,383 for total count of persons: 19,855,288.
  5. ^ "2016 QuickStats Country of Birth". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 August 2021. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  6. ^ "2021 People in Australia who were born in Afghanistan". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  7. ^ Classifications. Cultural and ethnic groups
  8. ^ "Opening ceremony of Afghan's Blacktown mosque". SBS Your Language. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Afghan Community Support Association of NSW Inc". Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  10. ^ a b c "2914.0.55.002 2006 Census Ethnic Media Package" (Excel download). Census Dictionary, 2006 ( 2901.0). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  11. ^ Elton, Jude. "Adelaide Mosque". Adelaidea. History Trust of South Australia: Government of South Australia. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  12. ^ "A young doctor's dreams died in detention".
  13. ^ Mohabbat, Besmillah (13 November 2020). "Filmmaker explores the love that grew between Afghan cameleers and Indigenous women". SBS Language. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  14. ^ "Australian feature film shines light on pioneering gold rush cameleers". Gold Industry Group. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  15. ^ Bakare, Lanre (8 September 2020). "The Furnace director: stories of Australia's cameleers 'felt like a huge historic omission'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  16. ^ Singh, Manpreet K. (9 December 2020). "'Confronting truths': Film peels back layers of 'untold history' of migrant cameleers in Australia". SBS Language. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  17. ^ Watandar, My Countryman at IMDb
  18. ^ "Former Hazara refugee and photographer connects with cameleer descendants in Australian outback". ABC News. 21 January 2023. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  19. ^ "Watandar, My Countryman". Adelaide Film Festival. 8 September 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  20. ^ "Home page". Watandar, My Countryman. Retrieved 8 February 2023.

External linksEdit