Cameleers in the Corner Country

By 1837 the exploration and settlement of the interior of Australia had begun in earnest but horses and bullocks could not cope with the dry, arid outback areas. It was proposed that the ships that carried horses to India for the British army could be back-loaded with camels for use in Australia. The first major successful shipment was for the Burke and Wills Expedition.

Around 1865 Thomas Elder began importing camels for breeding on Beltana Station near Marree in South Australia. He also engaged 31 men from Kandahar, Kabul, and Sinde to act as camel drivers. Amongst them were brothers Faiz and Tagh Mahomet.

By 1882 the far west of New South Wales was in the grip of a drought and stores were not able to be carried to the Albert Goldfields by the route from the Darling River. An ingenious plan to bring much needed supplies to the area from the west was developed resulting in the first camel trains and cameleers coming into the Corner Country.

The camel era is described in detail in the interpretations of the Sturt’s Steps museum in Tibooburra, along with a wire sculpture of a camel and cameleer.

For a story about the arrival of the very first camels into the area see the following pdf Memoirs of Euston Coryndon King.