25 Aug 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:05): I rise to make a short contribution to this motion on behalf of the people of my electorate of Stuart. I am certain my electorate would have a stronger historical connection with Afghan people than any other part of the state.

As the Deputy Premier already mentioned, the very first mosque in Australia was established in Marree in my electorate. I believe it was 1862 when it was established. That is still a very special place in Marree. People in Marree respect that mosque. It is a fairly humble structure, not nearly as grand and special as the other ones that we see in Adelaide and in images from around the world. There is a mud and stone wall around about knee or thigh height that has been rendered, with native pine posts and a thatched roof over the top. It still stands there, and everybody in Marree has enormous respect for that mosque.

There used to be a natural spring that had a small pool in front of the mosque, where the Afghan worshippers would wash their feet before they went into this mosque. It is a place that is never vandalised, never messed with. Quite regularly it is renovated or just supported, if something just needs a little bit of help here and there. There is a large, thick rope of the sort that you would see from shipping circles around the outside of the mosque to stop people from going inside. It serves two purposes: it protects the mosque but also it respects the fact that a mosque is not just a place that tourists or anybody else can just wander in in their shoes and have a look around. It is actually a special place.

In Marree, there are still Khans, Bejahs, Dadlehs and Mooshas living in the town. It is a beautiful community in Marree, made up of Aboriginal descendent people, Afghan descendent people and, of course, European and Anglo descendent people, all living in perfect harmony. One of the reasons for that is because the Afghan people made such an enormous contribution to the development of the outback in South Australia.

Port Augusta, where I have my electorate office in the heart of my electorate, has pictures in the council chambers and other historic places of ships that went back and forth between Port Augusta and England, that took cargo back and forth one way and the other, largely exporting wool from the north of South Australia back to Europe. That wool was brought down to Port Augusta from the sheep stations by Afghan cameleers.

Afghan cameleers hold a very special place in the hearts and minds of people in outback South Australia. I have to say, in my many years of living in the north of the state, there has never ever been anything other than affection and support and recognition for the important role that Afghan people played in partnership with others in opening up, exploring and developing the north of South Australia.

Perhaps 16 or 17 years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a photographic exhibition in the art gallery in Port Pirie that was all about the Afghan community in the north of South Australia 100 and 150 years ago. They were absolutely stunningly beautiful photographs of Afghans and their contribution. Whether it was in a labouring and toil way, whether it was in a business development way or whether it was in a teaching way, the clear thrust of that exhibition was that the Afghan community that came to the north of South Australia contributed much more than just their skills as labourers or cameleers; they actually brought a strong quality of society and education and ethics, and they were well respected in the north of the state.

I represent the people of Stuart. For those who may not be familiar with Stuart, it goes up to the Northern Territory-Queensland border and the northern part of the western border of New South Wales. That whole north-east area of the state would not be what it is today if it were not for migrants from Afghanistan who worked hand in hand with other people from other parts of the world, including Australian Aboriginal people, to develop that part of the world. In the north of South Australia, it is something that we are proud of, and in the north of South Australia I know we would welcome more Afghan people into our community.