What's in a name?

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

I've been asked several times why I named our place Abdallah House. The simple answer is that the house is located on Abdallah Road, and I wanted a name for the house. But there is a bit more to it...

We are located in Seymour, in rural Victoria (Australia). Since settlement the town has a predominately Anglo past, and the name 'Abdallah' is quite unusual for this area. I was attracted to the name to challenge the stereotype of the town as being purely Anglo. Interestingly this is changing and there is a noticeable increase in migrants in the area with the controversial proposal for a mosque on the outskirts of Seymour recently approved by council.

I'm not sure why the road was named Abdallah, but I did discover that on of the early pastoral holdings in the region (from the 1850's), known as 'Glenlyon' was also known as 'Abdallah'. The area is located in the Highlands, about 30km east of Seymour. I suspect that our road was named after a property in the area. I am unsure as to why the pastoral holding was referred to as Abdallah, though I suspect that it has something to do with the Afghan cameleers who had first arrived in Australia not long before.

'Afghan cameleers in 1896' Source: State Library of South Australia B10486
During the early days of settlement the Afghan cameleers were pioneers in inland Australia. Camels were first introduced to South Australia in 1840 initially for exploring the interior of the country, and later for the camel trains that delivered goods to remote outposts. They proved to be far more suitable to the harsh climate than horses. The experienced cameleers came from the region around Afghanistan, being some of the first Muslims that naturalised in Australia. The 'Ghan' railway, that runs through the centre of Australia is named after them.

On my own exploration of the interior of Australia I was surprised to discover that many of the reliable waterholes have date palms that still survive, planted by the cameleers.

A kangaroo munching on dates in Milstream NP in 1997

On research into the origins of the word 'Abdallah' I found that the literal translation means "servant (also slave) of Allah", Allah being 'God', but in pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was considered the creator of the world and giver of rain. I've also heard / read something about 'humbleness before god'.

While I am not a religious man I relate to my interpretation of the word, I feel that I have had to take on the 'Abdallah House' project - to demonstrate that we need to live in harmony with the earth and inspire others in the attempt to do so. While I do this for myself and my family, I am also doing this for the world as a whole - with humility before Gaia. I believe that we need to live in harmony with the earth and each other, and I use permaculture to inform and guide me in this pioneering journey.


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