Uncommon Lives

The NAA website
 "Uncommon Lives": 

"Muslim Journeys"

"Muslim Journeys" was developed with assistance from the staff of the NAA.

Stories include: 

  • The Wonder Man

  • 5 Generations

  • Ali Abdul vs The King

  • The Pearl Diver

The following is an excerpt from Hanifa Deen’s talk "Cameleers, Hawkers, Divers and Herbalists: Muslims in Australia in the Early 20th Century".  It is based on selections from the research she completed for the National Australian Archives. Her investigation resulted in a collection of stories and vignettes based on archival documents, 1901-1975, for the NAA’s website "Uncommon Lives." (link on the left).

Joint winner of the 
2008 Australian Society of Archivists Mander Jones Award 

"I never ever expected to find real life stories amongst the dusty documents in the National Australian Archives in Canberra.  But that’s exactly what happened—I found a gold mine. I entered the archives a stranger and walked out my head reeling: drama, conflicts, hope, despair, aspirations and a cavalcade of Muslim pioneers, adventurers and ordinary men… Themes that make us want to read a book from beginning to end—pain and its antidote.  Stories mirroring the society of the times.. a journey from exclusion to a gradual inclusion by politicians, and policy makers  and the Australian public in the years 1901-1975.  

My search became a labour of love, a journey of the mind and the heart as I tapped into correspondence, applications, reports, and memos never meant to see light of day.. I had the thrill of the chase in my nostrils and loved the forensic work involved.  The narratives I wrote reflected in some ways my childhood in Perth.  I remembered visiting the Perth mosque and seeing these old Indian and Afghan men gently pulling on their hookahs and inhaling the tobacco, dreaming of their youth and giving me money to buy sweets..."