Auntie Joy Wandin Murphy speaks about William Barak
Professor Joy Wandin-Murphy, AO, speaks about her ancestor, William Barak.
Joy Wandin Murphy: Hello, my name is Joy Wandin Murphy.
My name Wandin is my family name.
The tribal name is Wandoon and our relationship to William Barak or Beruk as we knew him is that he is my grandfather, Robert Wandin's nephew.
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 and that I think demonstrates the way in which the movement from Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, um.....manifested.
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.
Barak had met up with this Scottish woman named Annie Bon up at the Acheron Annie Bon actually went on to become part of the Members of Parliament and he would enable people to write how they felt about issues and then he would take those petitions along to Annie Bon firstly and then she would get them into the House of the day.
During those struggled times, there were many leaders but it seemed that Barak was the leader. Leading deputations to the Government in that time was a really big thing. But he knew how to do that in a way that he would get some response.
The issues were about the health of their community, there was a great deal of sickness there.
They certainly had enough food but the cultural activities and being able to continue living in a cultural way was a big issue.
The lifestyle on Coranderrk was a very missionary approach. But the women were very strong about keeping their cultural activities alive.
So at night-time, my grandmother would call the women inside and they'd all go in... into her little house and speak the language.
The men would go off doing their fishing things at night and doing their hunting.
And in the morning, there were prayers. There was a bell that would ring to say everyone must come together and attend the church and have prayer time.
So they obeyed all those rules because it meant that there could be a relationship but also, the people, you know, from being brought from so many backgrounds, so many clan groups, is that they felt that they needed to have that other belonging and a lot of them believed in the Church itself.
So prayers in a way were not something that they were uncomfortable with but they also knew and still were very proud of their own culture.
It became the most self-supporting station in Victoria. In fact, their produce such as bread and milk would be transported down to Lilydale and that was quite an effort in those days from Lilydale, which is about 22km in distance.
And of course, the township of Healesville was supplied with all of that produce as well.
So they made their own bread. Of course, they had cows to milk. They had quite an establishment like a little supermarket where they had their own eggs and so forth.
They also had a beautiful operation with a kiln where they made their own bricks that today is still standing. 'The manager's mansion' as they called it was made of the local homegrown bricks.
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.
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.
You know, I think about the time of his passing and it was, he actually fell into the fire and burned his hand and that in itself is significant to me because I believe that Barak's put the fire back in our belly.
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.
This painting here, we believe it was painted in the late 1800s, maybe early 1900s, and the use of contemporary paint there together with ochre, it depicts a ceremony which Barak was very famous for painting.
It shows you that they wore a headdress, that they had wangooms or the boomerangs which they'd clap because the boomerang for us is our traditional instrument.
The two shaped like horseshoes are fires and incidentally with those two fires was when there was a ceremony, when a neighbouring clan would come to visit, the two ngurungaetas would stand each side of the fires and discuss and make agreements about the neighbouring community and how long they would stay for and what they were able to do and what the protocols were, so the fires were very significant and you can see there's quite a gathering of dancers and the stance of the dance was quite significant and still is today.
The cloaks that the two headmen are wearing here and the bottom which are women, we believe that it was only elders who wore cloaks.
Those cloaks were made of possum skins. And the dress that is worn with the top for young men, we're figuring that that might just be canvasy type things and it's been painted with the contemporary colour and some ochre as well.
I would imagine that that has been a ceremony at some time. I don't believe that Barak has just painted that with a picture in his mind. I believe he painted the living things.
I'm very, very proud and happy that we have this painting back here where it should be, in Australia for a start. And secondly, housed here at the Trust.
Copyright Koorie Heritage Trust