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Journeying Through Narratives: Sam's Collaboration with the National Library of Australia

Updated: Mar 26

Janeth pointing at her grandfather Fazal Deen and his father's hawker mobile.

I am delighted to share a significant milestone in the journey of Talking Stories – a collaboration with the National Library of Australia on an endeavor that promises to be a compelling addition to the multicultral identity of Australian narratives.

This collaboration is a bridge connecting personal histories of Indian migrants with the broader Australian cultural landscape.

Our first interviewee in this venture is Janeth Begum Deen OAM, a luminary whose roots trace back to one of the oldest Indian Australian families.

In the interview, Janeth opened the door to a world shaped by her family's journey, which began with her great-grandfather and grandfather, both intrepid Indian hawkers turned successful entrepreneurs in Australia.

Before automobiles and paved roads, Indian hawkers were a common sight in rural Australian communities, providing vital supplies and a sense of excitement to farm families and distant stations.

These hawkers traveled extensively, using covered wagons pulled by horses to carry an assortment of goods to remote areas. Their visits were eagerly anticipated events, offering a wide range of essentials such as needles, cotton, soap, and medicines, as well as luxuries like curtains and dress fabrics.

The hawkers' wagons served as mobile shops, allowing them to showcase their wares to eager customers. Despite their transient lifestyle, they formed strong bonds with the communities they served, often engaging in friendly interactions and games with farmers and their families.

These hawkers played a crucial role in bridging the gap between remote areas and urban centers, providing access to goods and fostering a sense of camaraderie among rural residents.

Janeth's ancestoral contributions to the Holland Park Mosque in Brisbane, a landmark with historical significance, reveal their economic endeavors and a cultural legacy.

Amidst the challenges posed by the White Australia policy, Janeth's family exemplified resilience by not just sustaining but thriving in their businesses.

Janeth Mumtaz Begum Deen OAM

Born in wartime Tenant Creek in 1942, Janeth's narrative becomes a testament to navigating adversity.

Growing up in Brisbane during an era of significant cultural shifts, she witnessed her family's ventures and felt the profound impact of those changes.

Her story is a chronicle of commitment to education and community service.

Following a transformative Hajj pilgrimage, Janeth dedicated herself to building inclusive communities, notably establishing the first Muslim op-shop in Australia.

Her endeavors extend to supporting new migrants, refugees, and advocating for multiculturalism, showcasing the profound impact one individual can have on fostering understanding and unity.

A recipient of the Medal Order of Australia and other accolades, Janeth's journey echoes the power of faith, identity, and service.

In her reflections, one can discern a life lived with purpose, resilience in the face of challenges, and an unwavering commitment to community welfare.

Like Janeth's story, this collaboration with the National Library of Australia is a journey into the heart of diverse Australian experiences.

In the coming months, we look forward to unraveling more stories, each a unique thread in the rich tapestry of this nation's history.

Stay tuned for more conversations that delve into the complexities of life, identity, and the profound impact of storytelling.

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