Indian Pioneers Of Australia – Part 4

Indian Pioneers of Australia – Part 4


Len Kenna 10.04.2015

As discussed earlier, the first settlement in New South Wales was under the control of Europeans who had either worked or lived in India and brought the administrative skills that they had learned in India to New South Wales.

The ships that carried them to Australia were in part manned by Indian sailors called Lascars and the Lascars were under the control of AngloIndians who in the main were the Officers or senior ranking officials on these ships; this was certainly the case for ships owned or under the control of the English East India Trading Company.

In the early days of the Settlement at least, there was interaction between the Lascars and the convicts and other settlers.  This was the case when the “Shar Hormus” lander in Sydney, some time during the 1790’s.  The convicts in Sydney gave warm cloths and warm blankets to the Lascars on the “Shar Hormus” because the convicts felt sorry for the Lascars as they were suffering from the effects of the cold weather.

The first migration of indentured labourers into Australia took place in 1816, when indentured labourers from the hills behind Calcutta were imported into New South Wales, but this was stopped a short time later. The people of New South Wales were not ready for mass migration of indentured labourers and a huge debate raged as to the suitability of importing Indian indentured labourers at that time. The forces against the importation of Indian indentured labourers won the day and the indentured labourers were returned to India.

The indentured labourers in New South Wales that were introduced unsuccessfully were followed in the 1840’s by the importation of indentured labourers into South Australia. They mainly came from northwest India with the intention of using these indentured labourers as cameleers.  This migration proved very successful and Indian Cameleers and Indian camels were used very successfully across inland Australia.

Following the success of the Cameleers, indentured Cane Cutters were brought to Australia to cut Sugar Cane in Queensland and northern New South Wales and this again proved very successful.

In both of these cases many of these indentured labourers after their contracts were finished remained in Australia, some even brought their families to Australia. They were able gain work and worked as free agents on an equal footing with other Australians.