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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

William Barak at work on a drawing at Coranderrk, 1902

Johannes Heyer

gelatin silver photograph, sepia toned on paper

William Barak (c. 1824–1903), Wurundjeri elder, was born at Brushy Creek in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. Named Beruk by his parents, he was given the name William upon joining the Native Mounted Police in 1844. A respected leader of the Aboriginal settlement of Coranderrk, established in 1863 by the Board for the Protection of Aborigines on a site chosen by Indigenous elders, Barak was an articulate upholder of his people’s culture and rights. Barak made many drawings during the last decades of his life. Most of his drawings depicted ceremonies, and they served to record and communicate aspects of his peoples’ culture as it was manifest prior to European settlement. Barak’s drawings were collected by museums in Europe from the late nineteenth century; Australian institutions’ interest came later. His drawings continue to be displayed in exhibitions in Australia and abroad.

Johannes Heyer, polymath, was born in Victoria and studied theology in Edinburgh and Leipzig. He took this photograph shortly after being called to the parish of Yarra Glen and Healesville in 1900.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with the assistance of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society 2000

Accession number: 2000.33

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Johannes Heyer (age 30 in 1902)

William Barak (age 78 in 1902)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

King Barak, last of the Yarra Tribe, 1899
King Barak, last of the Yarra Tribe, 1899
King Barak, last of the Yarra Tribe, 1899
King Barak, last of the Yarra Tribe, 1899

Barak, respected elder

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman, 2009

Dr Christopher Chapman looks at the life of Wurundjeri elder William Barak through the portrait painted by Victor de Pury in 1899.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.