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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.

Woureddy [Wurati], an Aboriginal Chief of Van Diemen's Land, 1835

Benjamin Law

cast plaster, painted

Wurati (active 1830s, d. 1842), was a Nuennone man from Bruny Island, a skilled hunter, boat builder and renowned storyteller who spoke five dialects. In 1829 Wurati decided to join the party associated with George Augustus Robinson (1788–1866), a free settler and lay preacher appointed to the position of ‘Conciliator of Aborigines’ so as to effect the removal of Tasmania’s Indigenous people to Flinders Island in Bass Strait. This strategy had been conceived by the colonial government, amidst escalating hostilities, for the supposed protection of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities alike. Accompanied by a group of Aboriginal leaders who acted as his guides and interpreters, Robinson conducted a series of expeditions – collectively known as the Friendly Mission – between 1830 and 1835, during which the surviving tribes were persuaded into exile. Wurati and his second wife, Trukanini, became Robinson’s trusted assistants, yet remained fiercely proud of their traditions and identity. Wurati refused to adopt European diet or dress and maintained traditional practices, such as the use of ochre and grease for his hair and beard, even while at Wybalenna – the mission station on Flinders Island to which over one hundred Tasmanian Aboriginal people were eventually exiled. Many died there while waiting for the fulfilment of the promise that they would be allowed to return to their country. In 1839, Wurati was one of the fourteen Tasmanians who went to Port Phillip following Robinson’s appointment to the position of Chief Protector of Aborigines in the new colony. He died on his return journey to Wybalenna in July 1842.

Wurati sat for this portrait in Hobart in 1835 having been introduced by Robinson to sculptor Benjamin Law. Robinson recalled that: ‘Woureddy sat for his portrait with great patience and was highly pleased with the model.’ Copies of the bust were available at four pounds four shillings each and, according to Law’s wife, Hannah, were ‘called for not only in all Quarters of the Colony, but are being sent to India, to Sweden, to England, Scotland … and Cambridge College’. This work and the bust of Trukanini, completed by Law in Hobart in 1836, are the earliest known portrait sculptures of Australian subjects.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.135

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Benjamin Law (age 28 in 1835)

Wurati

Subject professions

Indigenous identity

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.

The Conciliation, 1840 by Benjamin Duterrau
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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.