Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Illuminated address which William Barak and fifteen other Coranderrk residents presented to Graham Berry, 1886

2008.0037.0001

Illuminated address which William Barak and fifteen other Coranderrk residents presented to Graham Berry, 1886

Object information

Description

The address reads:

"To the Honble [sic] Graham Berry
Melbourne March 22nd 1886

We have come to see you because you have done a great deal of work for the Aborigines.

I feel very sorrowful and first time I hear you was going home I was crying. You do all that thing for the Station when we were in trouble, when the Board would not give us much food and clothes and wanted to drive us off the land we came to you and told you our trouble and you gave us the land for our own as long as we live and gave us more food and clothes and Blankets and Better Houses and the people are all very thankful.

And now you leave this country, Victoria to go to England where we may never see you no more. We give small present with our love, when you go away keep remembering the Natives for the Natives will remember you for your doing good to Coranderrk.

We had a trouble here in this Country but we can all meet up along "Our Father we hope that God will lead you right through the water and take you safe to England and keep you in the straight way and give you eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Saviour.

Signed Barak X / Chief of the Yarra Yarra tribe of Aborigines, Victoria Australia."

Underneath are inscribed the names of the co-signatories, also marked with a cross:

"Bertdrak [aka Bentorak, Thomas Bamfield and 'Punch'] , Mooney [Clark], Patterson, Katawarmin [Kalawarmin aka Tommy Avoca], [Benjamin 'Lankey'] Manton, Cogle [John Cogie], Worteeilum [aka Gilman], [Orr] Hamilton, [Frederick] Stewart, Ngiaqueon [Ngia Queen aka Terrick], [Samuel] Rowan, [John] Logan, Derrinil [Wyerderm (Dick?) aka Dick Werdurum], Were [Jimmy Weare], Gable [Charles Cable].

Physical description

A handwritten illuminated address - text dictated by William Barak and printed by Messrs. Fergusson and Mitchell of Collins S, Melbourne.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of a handwritten illuminated 'address' on paper, headed "To the Honble (sic) Graham Berry". It is decorated with an illustrated panel of water colour and gold-leaf design along the left hand border, in the centre of which is a circle containing an image of a kangaroo. The body of the text begins: "Melbourne, March 22nd 86", and the first line reads "We have come to see you because you have ...". The address is signed or marked by William Barak and fifteen other residents from Corranderrk.

On 24 March 1886 a group of Kulin men from Coranderrk, led by William Barak, travelled to Melbourne to farewell former Premier Graham Berry (1822-1904) who was returning to England. They presented him with gifts of spears, boomerangs and other artefacts, along with the illuminated 'address' which makes up this collection. The gifts were offered as thanks for his assistance in maintaining the station against the advice of the Aboriginal Protection Board. Born in 1824, William Barak was an Aboriginal leader whose skills as a diplomat were legendary. Renowned as the ngurungaeta or headman of the Wurundjeri clan of the Woiworung people, whose land encompasses the present day city of Melbourne, he was reputedly among those to witness the arrival of John Batman and his party at Port Phillip as a twelve year old child. Like so many of Barak's public gestures, the illuminated address perfectly bridged the two cultures in which he lived, finding the symbolic voice they shared and thus demonstrating his great talent as a mediator. It also demonstrates the Coranderrk resident's sophisticated engagement with the colony's political structure.

Object information

Back to top