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"The forerunner of reconciliation..."
Auntie Joy Wandin Murphy 
speaks about William Barak


"When I look at the King Barak portrait
I see my uncle as a proud and strong
Indigenous Australian man.
I also see deep buried sadness."

Private Collection.

Reproduced with assistance

from Yarra Ranges Regional Museum

King_Barak-V_de_Pury - Private owner via

'King Barak last of the Yarra Tribe' c. 1899.

Oil on canvas by Victor de Pury (1873 - 1960).

"So, Barak to us was a man of great wisdom,

a great leader and a man that knew how to

keep his feet on the ground...

He was very strong with his thoughts but also a man that could connect to other people. He managed to converse with other people because he knew that they were not going to continue to survive if they didn't have the help of others."

Culture Victoria

"...William Barak was also the man who said that this place Coranderrk would survive, that we would work out relationships with people. He became a skilled mediator. Today there are still very strong connections with the people in and around the Healesville area, and particularly a Swiss family, by the name of de Pury...


He was the great entertainer at Yeringberg, the home of the de Pury family who still reside here in the same place, just outside Healesville, near St Hubert's Winery. William would be asked to go along and throw the boomerang. He would perform dances, he would sing beautiful songs, and he would tell stories, all in his traditional tongue. He became such a very close friend of the  de Pury family that he was almost like their son."


Excerpt from Wurundjeri Story, William Barak: The history of one of the greatest men of this area... by Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

Catholic Education Melbourne : Yarra Healing - Towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians

"William Barak was also a man who could embrace any culture."

"He formed a beautiful relationship with a lady by the name of Anne Bon, a Scottish woman. Her husband had brought her out in the mid-1850s, and they built a property on Wappan Station in Mansfield. William Barak would have been travelling around with other elders as they did in those times when there were important social and political decisions to be made. They would join together as a team of leaders and go and meet on the most appropriate land. He met up with Anne Bon and their closeness came about because of loss in their lives. Anne Bon had lost a child then William Barak lost a child.


William generously, very generously, invited Anne Bon to be part of this sharing of celebration of death. But she was very respectful and didn't actually attend ceremonies. She just stood aside and watched what happened. But by that she embraced the culture of Aboriginal people in a very spiritual and in a very special way. When her husband died, she had this beautiful monument made for him which probably stands about 10 feet tall. She had her husband's name and her child's name put on this monument. Their place at Wappan Station was eventually to be flooded and became the Eildon Weir. Anne Bon decided that she should move this monument, but at this time William Barak passed away. So Anne engaged some tradespeople to scratch from this monument her husband's name and her child's name, and re-inscribe it in memory of William Barak. And that monument is now in the Coranderrk Aboriginal cemetery.

I think it's important to say that William Barak and Anne Bon

were probably the forerunners of reconciliation,


and I think that's the way that it should be. I know that William had many other powerful relationships, but I would say that none were as powerful as a black and white person coming together in this way. Certainly, for a white lady, a Scottish lady who was an aristocrat, to have her much beloved families' names removed from a very special memorial was an extraordinary gesture of respect for William Barak."


Excerpt from Wurundjeri Story, William Barak: The history of one of the greatest men of this area... by Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

Catholic Education Melbourne : Yarra Healing - Towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians

Victor de Pury painted the portrait King Barak: Last of the Yarra Tribe in 1899.

He considered it his best painting.


"The incredible story of William Barak and the de Purys"

is told in Oil Paint and Ochre, on the Culture Victoria website.

William Barak standing with Jules de Pury, Rico Sace and an unknown visitor with Frederic Guillaume and Ada de Pury seated at Yeringberg c.1886-1890

Yarra Ranges Regional Museum Collection

5555 (1) Yarra Ranges Regional Museum Co

William Barak

(1824 - 1903)

Coranderrk 1890 – courtesy of State Library Victoria

Silver wattle cropped.Jan Smith 2020jpg

Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

tells more stories about her great-great Uncle William Barak:

View and read: William Barak, Wurundjeri Story, and more.

Quick link:

Catholic Education Melbourne:

Yarra Healing: Towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians -

Stories & Voices

William Barak - the Artist

"William Barak's artworks are shown today all over the world. The National Gallery of Victoria now has in its possession seven of his original paintings. The Museum of Victoria has two paintings. He did all his artwork with a frayed and chewed piece of stick. He would paint with ochre and charcoal, bringing out the colours in the charcoal, even producing a blue from a red, and a mix of pink and white pipe-clay. So some of his work is extremely beautiful. William Barak is known today, more as an artist, but he was the leader of Coranderrk."

Excerpt from Wurundjeri Story, William Barak: The history of one of the greatest men of this area... by Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

Catholic Education Melbourne : Yarra Healing - Towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians

"Barak was a... cultural soul. He was very apt in throwing the boomerang, the wangoom. He was one that was able to make many of the artefacts, had very skilled hands to make spears and waddies and whatever else was needed as were most of the men on Coranderrk.

He also was a man that could sing. He could do a beautiful chant. He could dance.

There's not much, really, that I think that he couldn't do.

When he started painting, it was a way of him saying that these are what happens in our cultures. He painted the figures and the cloaks, the animals of the land, the weapons they used and the fires to show people how ceremonies took place.

FL16344755 Barak, Chief of the Yarra Yar

Barak Drawing a Corroboree,  c. 1898.

Photograph by Talma & Co. Pictures Collection,

State Library Victoria.

But what we believe is that what he wanted was people to remember those ceremonies so that if he painted them - and those paintings have become internationally famous - then people would always know about the ceremonies on Coranderrk and of Wurundjeri people."

'Auntie Joy Wandin Murphy Speaks about William Barak'  Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

Culture Victoria

William Barak - the Mentor

“At Coranderrk, everything I do at Coranderrk is inspired by William Barak.

He’s my guide, he’s telling me what needs to be done.

I think of him and what he did, and think about what he would do.


And really, I think his words say it all. His words at the Enquiry:

“Give us the land and let us manage here ourselves...and we will work it”.

that’s it, that all there is to say.


All this Cultural Practice work I do, people say I have so much knowledge.

But I don’t. It’s not my knowledge, it comes from my father,

and grandfather, and the Aunties and Uncles,

the trees, the land, the water, all of it, from way back.

I don’t prepare, I just think about what they told me and what they did,

and I know what to say.”

Uncle Dave Wandin, 2020.

Dave Wandin tackles Blackberry. Jan Smit

Uncle Dave tackles Blackberry at Coranderrk, December 2019.

Fire. Jan Smith 2020.jpg

When I tend to feel that we haven't got much hope, well, then,  I think about those times that they had

on Coranderrk.

I wish I had been there to feel the real strength, 

but I do feel the strength

and certainly Barak and other leaders, I believe,

have given us that fire in the belly

and we should cherish that.

'Auntie Joy Wandin Murphy Speaks about William Barak' 

Prof. Joy Wandin Murphy A.O.

Culture Victoria

We pay respects to Elders past and present.

They give us guidance, strength  and courage.

We care for Coranderrk and share its stories in their names.

We acknowledge the continued and unbroken connection between our Wurundjeri

ancestors and the Wurundjeri country on which Coranderrk is located.

We acknowledge and respect the continued and unbroken family connections between

Coranderrk and all descendants.

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