William Barak

(c. 1824—1903) Australian Aboriginal leader

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(1824–1903) became known and respected as a spokesman on Aboriginal affairs and was given the title of the ‘last king of the Yarra Yarra tribe’. Barak (or Beruk) was from the Woiworung people of the Kulin nation. As a boy, he witnessed the signing of Batman's ‘treaty’; after some schooling at Langhorne's mission, he served in Dana's Native Police Corps, where he was given the name William. Barak moved to Coranderrk reserve in 1863, and remained there as leader until his death. Although Barak was never fully initiated, anthropologists, notably A.W. Howitt, drew upon Barak's extensive knowledge of Aboriginal life. Increasingly recognised for his corroboree paintings, Barak is one of the central artists in Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century (1994). A memorial to him, erected in Healesville by the Australian Natives Association (1934), now stands in the Coranderrk Cemetery.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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