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John Bulmer and the Aboriginal community of Lake Tyers, Gippsland, c. 1890

an unknown artist

albumen silver photograph (sheet: 23.2 cm x 25.8 cm, image: 13.8 cm x 20.8 cm)

The Rev John Bulmer (back row, fourth from left; 1833–1913) came to Victoria in 1852 and eventually headed to the goldfields, where he became involved in issues concerning the welfare of Aboriginal people. He volunteered for missionary work and in 1861 established a mission station at Lake Tyers, Gippsland – or Bung Yarnda to the Gunai/Kurnai people. Bulmer was guided to the site by local men and is said to have chosen it partly for its isolation from white settlement and ‘auriferous areas’ and because it was a favoured place for hunting and fishing. Bulmer operated somewhat independently of the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines, disagreeing with them over matters such as the Aborigines Protection Act (1886) which threatened to break up mission families. The Board removed Bulmer as manager in 1907 but permitted him to remain there for ‘religious duties’ until his death in 1913.

The inscription on this photograph names the man in the centre as ‘King Billy’. Bulmer’s own writings refer to several men called Billy by the Europeans, including Billy Macleod, or Tulaba, who was Bulmer’s guide around Gippsland in 1861 and who taught him the local language.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.108

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

John Bulmer (age 57 in 1890)

Subject professions


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