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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.

Aborigines at Oyster Cove, Tasmania, 1858 (printed 1890s)

Francis Nixon

glass plate negative (sheet: 8.2 cm x 10.5 cm)

Trukanini (c. 1812–1876) is arguably nineteenth century Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous leader. A Nuennone woman and the daughter of Mangana, chief of the Recherche Bay people, Trukanini experienced the loss of her mother, sister and intended husband – all as a result of white violence – at a young age. Believing that she might be able to assist in protecting her people, in 1829 Trukanini joined the group of Palawa leaders associated with George Augustus Robinson, an evangelically-inclined free settler who'd been appointed to effect the removal of Tasmania's Aboriginal people to a mission station, Wybalenna, on Flinders Island in Bass Strait. Trukanini remained one of Robinson's most important companions throughout the course of his so-called 'Friendly Mission', the name given to a series of journeys conducted by Robinson between 1830 and 1835. Trukanini went to Wybalenna in 1835, but held to her traditional ways despite the expectation that the Aboriginal people there would adopt European customs and religion. She travelled with Robinson in 1839 to the Port Phillip district, where she later engaged with four others in raids against white settlers. She returned to Flinders Island in 1842; when Wybalenna closed in 1847, Trukanini was among the remaining residents relocated to Oyster Cove, a former convict depot south of Hobart and close to her traditional country. Trukanini died in Hobart in May 1876. As she had feared, her skeleton was stolen from her grave and later displayed at the Tasmanian Museum. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community eventually won the fight to have her wishes honoured: her bones were cremated on the 30th of April 1976 and the following day her ashes were scattered with due ceremony on the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Trukanini was erroneously referred to during her lifetime and beyond as the ‘last Tasmanian’ – a false notion attested to by the many descendants of her contemporaries still living in Tasmania today.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011

Accession number: 2011.89

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Francis Nixon (age 55 in 1858)

Trukanini (age 46 in 1858)

Flora

Mary Ann (age 39 in 1858)

Wapperty

Emma (age 51 in 1858)

Patty (age 61 in 1858)

Caroline

Bessy Clark (age 33 in 1858)

Tippo (age 38 in 1858)

Subject professions

Indigenous identity

Related information

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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 art of conciliation

Magazine article by Gareth Knapman, 2017

Gareth Knapman explores the politics and opportunism behind the portraits of Tasmania’s Black War.

Francis Russell Nixon, c. 1845-55 George Richmond
Francis Russell Nixon, c. 1845-55 George Richmond
Francis Russell Nixon, c. 1845-55 George Richmond
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Sketches and sermons

Magazine article by Jessica Smith, 2009

Jessica Smith looks at the 'fetching' portrait of Tasmania's first Anglican Bishop, Francis Russell Nixon by George Richmond

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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.