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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.

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)

John Bulmer (back row, fourth from left; 1833–1913) came to Australia in 1852 and worked in Melbourne before heading to the goldfields. Shocked by the treatment of Aboriginal people, he volunteered for missionary work in 1855 and helped establish a mission station at Yelta, west of Mildura. In 1861, he travelled to Gippsland and, guided by local Aboriginal men, selected a site for a mission at Lake Tyers. Bulmer commenced work at the station in 1862, building a church and school while also encouraging residents to maintain traditional practices. 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 Lake Tyers families. The Board removed him as manager of the station in 1907, but permitted him to remain there until his death in 1913. It is thought that the central figure in this photograph is a man known as King Billy, although whether he was a Lake Tyers man or the King Billy who resided at the Ramahyuck mission is not yet known. Bulmer’s writings refer to several Lake Tyers men called ‘Billy’ by the Europeans, including Billy Macleod, or Tulaba, who acted as Bulmer’s guide in 1861 and who taught him Kurnai language and customs.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Artist and subject

John Bulmer (age 57 in 1890)

Lake Tyers Community

Subject professions

Religion

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency