‘The new mode of shipping horses to India’- ramps were safer and faster than slings – wood engraving, 1880. State Library of Victoria.
Indian Australians are Australians of Indian Heritage. A study of DNA has found that Indian people may have come to Australia around 4000 years ago.
Indians were the largest self-funded migrants who were not of European descent. Many Indians came to Australia as hawkers, traders, banana growers, and sugar cane farmers.
In 1792 Governor Phillip turned to India for help in supplying food and meat during the crisis when Colony was on the point of starvation. As a result, the Home Secretary in London ordered that all supplies including animals should be purchased from India. This was a momentous decision and from that time on all horse, cattle and sheep had strong bloodlines going back to India.
Australian horses were also exported to India. The first exports commenced in the 1820s and continued to the start of the Second World War. During that time well over 400,000 horsed and 50,000 horse handlers travelled to Indian.
HORSES FOR INDIA
This subject is one of considerable commercial importance to these colonies where the breeding of horse stock for the Indian market might become a very extensive and lucrative industry.
In March 1858 one hundred and thirty-two Goorah Wallas (horse groomers and horse handlers) from the Bengal Army arrived at Parramatta, New South Wales to break and remount horses. They arrived on the steam ship Wanta. They landed in Sydney and were housed at Old Government House. Dressed up in their traditional uniforms, the next day they went to see Parramatta and got drunk. They became involved in a brawl with the Chinese who were passing through Parramatta on their way to the goldfields.
The Indians were perceived as the saviours of the day and were well received by the locals. Goorah Wallas were cutting the trees and using the wood for firewood. They were bathing and washing their clothes in the Parramatta River which raised objections from the locals as Parramatta River supplied the town with drinking water.
Goorah Wallas were in Australia to prepare their horses for their journey back to India. India imported 523 horses in 1857, 1081 in 1858 and 614 in 1859 from Australia.
Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2017
The Changing Face of Australia: A century of immigration 1901 – 2000 by Kate Walsh
Are Indians an Ethnic Minority? Volume 3- Horses and Walers by Len Kenna
Government Gazette, 11 September 1857. retrieved on 03/07/2017