Ryan Butta grew up in regional New South Wales. Before he started writing he worked in international trade and has lived and worked extensively overseas. He authors Out of Office, a newsletter that charts his course of quitting office life to pursue a writing career. When he is not writing Ryan enjoys fly fishing, cooking over flame and telling people that he once played cricket for Argentina. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese but mostly enjoys long silences. Ryan currently lives on the NSW South Coast with his wife, Carolina, and a Cavoodle called Canela.
The Ballad of Abdul Wade
When young Afghan entrepreneur Abdul Wade first brought his camel trains to the outback in the 1890s, he was hailed as a hero by local communities. The British colonies relied on horses, which couldn’t access many remote settlements – especially those stricken by flood or drought – so camel trains rode to the rescue time and time again.
But with success came fierce opposition fuelled by prejudice, and in a climate of colonial misinformation, hyperbole and fear, Wade – along with other Afghans involved in the camel business – found himself with a target firmly on his back when his business threatened the livelihoods of the European horse drivers. The anti-Afghan movement took off, propelled by the union leaders and politicians of the time, leaving a legacy of xenophobia that endures in Australian society today. Yet all the while, for those in need, the ships of the desert continued to appear on the outback horizon.
Ryan Butta stumbled on this fascinating forgotten history when visiting his father’s hometown of Brewarrina in north-west New South Wales in 2018. Flicking through the pages of a local history of the town, his interest was piqued by a 19th-century photo of a camel train, and he soon found himself on the trail of Australia’s earliest Afghan camel drivers. Separating the bulldust from the bush poetry, Butta reveals the breadth and depth of white Australian protectionism and prejudice.
Events at Mansfield Readers and Writers Festival 2023