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William Barak (ca. 1866) sourced from Wikimedia commons.
William Barak William Barak i(A94853 works by) (a.k.a. William Beruk)
Born: Established: ca. 1824 Victoria, ; Died: Ceased: 15 Aug 1903
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal ; Aboriginal Wurundjeri / Woiwurung
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William Barak was a highly respected artist and elder of the Wurundjeri people. He was also known as Beruk or King William, last chief of the Yarra Yarra tribe. Barak was related to Indigenous Victorian leaders Billi Belleri, Captain Turnbull and Jakki Jakki. His early childhood was spent around the Yarra and Plenty Rivers but he was moved from his country when Melbourne was settled. From 1837 to 1839 he was educated at the Reverend G. Langhorne's mission school. He also was a member of the Native Police Force run by Captain Henry Dana.

After marrying his first wife, Barak moved to Acherion in 1859 but in 1863 moved to Coranderrk after her death. At Coranderrk, he undertook studies of a religious nature after which he was baptised and confirmed. In 1865 Barak married his second wife Anne, who, after giving birth to two infants (both died shortly after birth), died of consumption.

'In the late 1870s when management of Aboriginal affairs came under vigorous public criticism Barak emerged as a respected spokesman. Until his death he was the acknowledged leader at Coranderrk and a liaison between officialdom and the native population. His contact with such people as Graham Berry, Alfred Howitt, Mrs Ann Bon and Alfred Deakin, his petitions and public appearances were important spurs to action, especially the government inquiry of 1881. He outlined a plan for autonomous communities under Coranderrk's first manager, John Green: "give us this ground and let us manage here ourselves ... and no one over us ... we will show the country we can work it and make it pay and I know it will". His white champions did not share this faith and the scheme was never fostered, although Coranderrk was retained.'

Source : Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
Sighted: 28 October 2009

Most Referenced Works


  • See also the full Australian Dictionary of Biography Online entry for William Barak.
  • See also the entry for william Barak on the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll:

Personal Awards

2012 inaugural inductee
Last amended 21 Jun 2016 10:20:19
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