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Burnum Burnum
, 1987 (printed 2010)

by Bruce Postle

type C photograph (sheet: 50.6 cm x 36 cm, image: 40.6 cm x 27.8 cm)

Burnum Burnum (1936-1997), Woiworung-Yorta Yorta activist, storyteller and writer, was taken from his family as an infant. As Harry Penrith he spent his childhood at the United Aboriginal mission home in Bomaderry and the Kinchela Home near Kempsey. In the ensuing years he played rugby for NSW, studied law at the University of Tasmania, won a Churchill Scholarship, ran for the Senate and worked as a manager of Aboriginal hostels. In 1976 he changed his name to honour his grandfather, artist Tommy McRae, and to attest to his Aboriginality. The same year he was involved in the ceremonial dispersal of the remains of Trukanini. During the bicentenary celebrations he 'landed' at Dover in England and erected the Aboriginal flag, offering the British a negotiated peace. In 1988 he wrote Burnum Burnum's Aboriginal Australia: A Traveller's Guide. A biography by JM Norst, A Warrior for Peace: Burnum Burnum, was published in 1999.

© Bruce Postle
Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by James Bain AM and Janette Bain 2010
Accession number: 2010.10