Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekly drawing 71: William Barak the ngurungaeta (leader) of the Wurundjeri

28th March 1881, William Barak, the Ngurungaeta leader of the Wurundjeri people,
lead 22 Coranderrk men on the long walk to 
Melbourne to try and save his community from the poor policy
choices of the Aboriginal Protection Board.
This week's drawing is based on the insightful documentary series 

Melbourne was originally Wurundjeri land, but within 30 years of white settlers arriving in the area 
the Wurundjeri people found they "…have no place to hunt kangaroo or maintain they way of life they have developed over so many years", 

Watching this documentary highlighted the implications of the government system at the time called a 'land grab'. This policy allowed free settlers to claim land for a home and farm. Ironically this is system was also used to effect by the Wurundjeri when they chose Coranderrk on the banks of the Yarra river in 1863. However their claim was only 1% of what they already owned. To me it's an extremely generous compromise and the most peaceful outcome given the fact that we'd pushed them off their own land.

"…It's a refuge and a place for them to work the land and show 
the white people they could make it a success." 

Coranderrk was an extremely successful community that quickly prospered. Unfortunately the government red tape tore holes in their thriving community. I feel very sorry about the way it all ended up. The Aboriginal people of Coranderrk really tried to work within our system and we let them down. It would have been amazing to see it still running today, it sounded like it was an wonderful place.

Oddly enough, the documentary made me think of John Macarthur, who around the same time claimed 5000 acres of prime pasture land (Camden Park) and got stinking rich. When his ancestors decided to reduced their land holdings, they sold it back to Australian people, and made even more money. History can be so cruel.

For more information watch episode 3: "Freedom of our Lifetime"

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