Barak preparing his corroboree painting for the Governor Sir Henry Loch
In the years following white settlement, Barak played a major role in advocating for Aboriginal rights and protecting his people’s culture. He painted artworks depicting traditional ceremonies, welcomed non-Koorie visitors to the Coranderrk reserve to learn about Aboriginal culture, and visited Government House to demonstrate boomerang throwing and fire-making.
He also struck up friendships, working relationships and diplomatic links with a number of influential non-Koories, including Governor Sir Henry Loch, anthropologist Alfred Howitt, Swiss Consul Baron Guillaume de Pury, lay preacher John Green and settler Anne Bonn. The red-haired Scotswoman and her station-owner husband met Barak while he was doing itinerant farm work, and Anne later proved a loyal friend and supporter in his struggles to protect Coranderrk from closure.
Sharing his expansive knowledge of culture, land and history, Barak acted as a primary source when Howitt compiled his 1903 book The Native Tribes of South East Australia. The two men remained in touch for many years.