A foreign land

Zymbyle and Selime Mehmet
Zymbyle and Selime Mehmet on their family’s cotton farm, Biloela, Queensland, 1935. The family eventually settled in Shepparton, Victoria, early 1940s.
Source: Mary Mehmet

In Albanian, the word kurbet denotes a ‘foreign land’ and is strongly connected to the long-standing practice of journeying to ‘foreign lands’ in search of work and a livelihood. The term also refers to temporary or extended residence in a foreign land – a sort of temporary exile – and eventual return to one’s place of origin. Traditionally, only men of working age undertook kurbet and they were referred to as kurbetxhi.

This story traces the formation of the Albanian community in Victoria and the transformation of kurbet into a permanent place of settlement and belonging – a ‘home’.

Although individual and small groups of Albanians had been journeying to Australia for many years, the beginnings of the present settlement can be traced to the arrival of a group of five men from the Korçë region of Albania. Bektash Muharem, Bejxhet Emini, Rexhep Mustafa, Musa Ibrahimi and Riza Ali disembarked in Fremantle, Western Australia, on 29 October 1924. These pioneers played a crucial role in providing later kurbetxhi with assistance and camaraderie, laying the foundations for a supportive kurbet community.

Image Gallery

Hand beaded coin purse Celebrating Albania’s National Day Rexhep Mustafa hauls sugar cane Emin Mulla Nesim Ahmet and Besim Abedin Certificate of Entry Sabri Shemshedin’s Certificate of Entry in Australia Sabri Shemshedin’s passport Skender Ismail ploughing his land