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Mickey Johnson, c. 1896

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph (image: 13.6 cm x 8.6 cm)

Mickey Johnson (1834-1906) was an Indigenous leader in the Illawarra district of New South Wales. Reputedly from the Clarence or Richmond River districts in northern New South Wales, Johnson moved to the Illawarra in the 1860s with his employer, landowner EH Weston. After working for Weston for several years, he left to live on an Aboriginal reserve in Kangaroo Valley with his wife, Rosie, a Dharawal woman. By 1883, he was living at a Berawurra, established by the NSW Aborigines' Protection Board at Lake Illawarra. The Board's annual report for 1894-95 noted that Johnson had instigated various improvements to the reserve. For his enterprise, he was designated 'King' of the Illawarra in a ceremony at Wollongong Showground in January 1896, and presented with a breastplate donated by a local politician. Johnson took advantage of his profile to gain influence with the non-Aboriginal community, seeking certain privileges, and speaking out on matters relating to the treatment of Aboriginal people. Some later photographs of him were made into postcards by the Government Printing Office. Moving away away from the Lake Illawarra reserve in his sixties, he died at a camp on the Minnamurra River. He was remembered in one obituary as a well-liked man who 'knew and was known by almost everybody throughout the length and breadth of the South Coast.'

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.109

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Mickey Johnson (age 62 in 1896)

Subject professions

Indigenous identity

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