Posts Tagged ‘Aboriginal Protection Board

03
Oct
21

Text/Exhibition: ‘Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist’ at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Acton, Canberra ACT

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 4th October 2021

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 40.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

In our sight, in our mind

Can you imagine, please, being the first person to step foot on the moon. Or the first person to discover radium. Now imagine being the first Indigenous Australian photojournalist, for the very first time taking photographs of your culture from the inside, photographs that picture the ongoing suffering of Indigenous people but also, as importantly, their strength and joy. Such was the calling of that legend of Australian photography, Mervyn Bishop.

Bishop was the first in a long line of Indigenous photographers who unearth, investigate, picture and honour their community, although interestingly none of the later photographers are photojournalists. Artists such as Tracey Moffatt, Michael Riley, Ricky Maynard, Lisa Bellear, R e a (rea saunders), Michael Cook, Brook Andrew, Bindi Cole and Christian Thompson) follow in his footsteps. Indeed in this posting, there is a photograph by Bishop presumably of the father of the photographer Ricky Maynard, Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania (1975, below), followed by a photograph by Maynard himself of muttonbirding on Dog Island from his series Portrait of a Distant Land. The songlines of place and ancestors are strong in Aboriginal culture, and “show the connectedness between places and the Creation events and ceremonies associated with those places. People born in that country are forever tied to the creation history of their birthplace and have custodial obligations to that place.”

The stories Bishop shares through his images are different from the colonial ones of yesteryear because they come from within the spirit and soul of the communities he is photographing. Less than 20 years before Bishop’s first photographs things were very different. The Australian journalist and writer Stan Grant observes that, “…there are images in our history, of Aboriginal people in chains. Aboriginal people tied together, with armed police standing either side of them.” In an article on The Guardian website we learn that “Neck chains were still being used on Aboriginal people in Western Australia in 1958. Witnesses at Halls Creek in the Kimberley reported seeing Aboriginal prisoners chained to a veranda post of the police station for weeks at a time… At peak periods, from the 1880s to the 1940s, hundreds of Aboriginal people were chained for alleged cattle theft, and marched out of their country, some for up to 400km. Each neck piece weighed 2.4kg.”1 Even in Dawn – A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W. created by the New South Wales Aboriginal Welfare Board and aimed at Aboriginal Australians (running monthly from January 1952 until December 1968) – in which there was an article in February 1965 on a young Mervyn Bishop training to become a photographer (see below) – the forces of colonial assimilation were hard at work, as can be seen on the back cover of the Dawn October 1965 issue, where Leslie Ryan makes her debut at a “Deb” Ball for kindergarten children, where she “seems to be getting a better deal out of life now that (s)he has love and attention.” Now that she has love and attention. Just let that sink in. Today, the dripping irony and sadness of this photograph in relation to what is now known as “The Stolen Generation”2 is apparent, the two young children taken from their families, taken from their culture, dressed to the nines in formal Western attire at such a young age. Remember, this is less than 60 years ago.

As much as Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) was a working photographer making “Documents pour artistes,” declaring his modest ambition to create images for other artists to use as source material, so Bishop was a working photographer who created “Documents for people” at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra from 1974 onwards, where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. As Mervyn himself says, “Photography has been my life, my passion for 60 years: the art and technique, the stories I’ve witnessed and captured. I’m glad to be able to share my life’s work with the public.” There it is in a nutshell… an intimate understanding of the the art and technique of photography (the construction the image plane, lighting, point of view, scale, printing, etc… ) and the stories he wanted to tell. And he tells those stories straight down the line, with no bullshit. When asked in an audio recording in this posting about why his award winning photograph Life and death dash (1971, below) was misunderstood, he says “it has nothing to do with blackfellas, put it that way… people say it’s a nun running away with a little black kid, the Stolen Generation – nothing to do with it! Not a bloody thing! … people interpret their own way. Who would know that I was black? People still go on about it but people are talking through their … whatever… so, you don’t know what your talking about.” There you have it.

Like his personality, Bishop’s wonderful photographs are strong and direct, informed and understanding of the work of Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange. In Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge (1988, above), an Aboriginal mother sits at a kitchen table in a corrugated iron shack and pours tea from a large battered teapot into enamel mugs, one for herself and one presumably for the photographer. Light pours through a hole in the roof. The table is covered in a floral probably plastic table cloth. There are plastic flowers set upon it. The chairs are vinyl. Behind her is an old kitchen unit from the 1950s with a wire screen at eye level, used to keep flies out. To the right are boxes and detritus while to the left a plastic bucket sits on the battered sink. Her child plays next to her oblivious of the camera flash while she stares directly at the camera. Much as Lange’s Migrant Mother, this women possesses her own inner dignity which Bishop captures so well: an unexpected intimacy with the subject in which we confront uncomfortable truths.

Other photographs, such as Children playing in river, Mumeka (1975, below) capture the pure joy of Aboriginal life, or the resoluteness of a people having to survive the trauma of cultures and societies and their complex histories (Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour 1988, below). But let us be clear… this is not a vanishing race, nor an assimilated race but a proud, creative and intelligent race now picturing its own history and future. As Ricky Maynard states, “The contest remains over who will image and own this history. We must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose, as well as the tools used for the telling of this.” Bishop was at the very beginning of this imaging and ownership of Aboriginal history, not by colonial photographers of the past, but from within the community itself, in the present. His photographs are about speaking up about injustice and making sure that Indigenous perspectives were heard and not railroaded by non-indigenous people – Bishop was at the beginning of this – and about how the image speaks truth to power (a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy),

Towards the end of the documentary “The Bowraville Murders”, Stan Grant observes that Aboriginal people are kicked every day… [and this remains] out of sight, out of mind. He reminds us that between 1991 and 2021 there have been more than 470 Aboriginal deaths in custody… and not a single conviction. Out of sight, out of mind. Indeed, “fluidity of memory and a capacity to forget is perhaps the most haunting trait of our species. As history confirms, it allows us to come to terms with any degree of social, moral, or environmental degradation.”3 And this is what we all do. That is, until a photographer and artist like Mervyn Bishop comes along and reminds us through his photographs of the integrity, vitality and presence of Aboriginal people, spirit that stretches back thousands of years – despite our capacity to forget the trauma that Indigenous Australians have endured. This is the purpose of Bishop’s photographs … they bring to the forefront of our knowledge and imagination an understanding of the history and future of Aboriginal people. They remain, in our sight, in our mind.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

    1. Chris Owen. “How Western Australia’s ‘unofficial’ use of neck chains on Indigenous people lasted 80 years,” on The Guardian website Sun 7 March 2201 [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.
    2. The Stolen Generations refers to a period in Australia’s history where Aboriginal children were removed from their families through government policies. This happened from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.In the 1860s, Victoria became the first state to pass laws authorising Aboriginal children to be removed from their parents. Similar policies were later adopted by other states and territories – and by the federal government when it was established in the 1900s. For about a century, thousands of Aboriginal children were systematically taken from their families, communities and culture, many never to be returned. These children are known as the Stolen Generations survivors, or Stolen Children.These children were taken by the police; from their homes; on their way to or from school. They were placed in over 480 institutions, adopted or fostered by non-Indigenous people and often subjected to abuse. The children were denied all access to their culture, they were not allowed to speak their language and they were punished if they did. The impacts of this are still being felt today.There are currently more than 17,000 Stolen Generations survivors in Australia. Over one third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are their descendants. In Western Australia almost half of the population have Stolen Generation links.Anonymous. “Who are the Stolen Generations?” on the Healing Foundation website [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.
    3. Wade Davis. “The Unraveling of America,” on the Rolling Stone website August 6, 2020 [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.

.
Many thankx to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The contest remains over who will image and own this history. We must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose, as well as the tools used for the telling of this.”

.
Ricky Maynard, 2007

 

“Australia in many ways is a crime scene. And the first crime is Captain Cook ordering his men to shoot at Aboriginal people. That’s the shot that we still hear all around Australia. And of course, there are images in our history, of Aboriginal people in chains. Aboriginal people tied together, with armed police standing either side of them. This is what has happened in our country, so it isn’t a great step to go from frontier attitudes of violence to deaths of three children in Bowraville. Because for us, it’s the same thing. It’s a killing that never stops.”

.
Stan Grant quoted in the documentary “The Bowraville Murders” directed by Allan Clarke on SBS on Demand, Australia, 2021

 

 

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia will celebrates Mervyn Bishop, one of Australia’s most prolific and influential photographers, with a new exhibition 5 March – 4 October 2021.

Mr Bishop’s images of culture, politics and people have significantly influenced our collective understanding of Australia’s history. This exhibition is drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection, the artist’s private archive, and enriched by sound and moving image from the NFSA.

Mervyn Bishop features iconic photographs that derive from his career as a photojournalist, alongside personal images of family and friends and intimate portraits of members of the Aboriginal community. Spanning the past 60 years, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Bishop’s life and work.

 

In 1963 Mervyn Bishop left his hometown of Brewarrina, venturing to Sydney, where he successfully applied for a cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald. He became Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer and in 1971 won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph Life and Death Dash, 1971.

Bishop went on to work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974 where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. This included his iconic image from 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]
Nd

 

Indigenous Australians in neck chains

 

Indigenous Australians in neck chains. Historical records say they had been chained after killing an animal. Neck chains were used by police across Western Australia from the 1880s to the late 1950s. Photograph: State Library of Western Australia

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory' 1975, printed 1999

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory
1975, printed 1999
Type R3 photograph
30.5 x 30.5cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop/ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Gurindji strike (or Wave Hill Walk-Off) led by Vincent Lingiari

On 23 August 1966 200 Gurindji stockmen, domestic workers and their families walked off Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory and refused to keep working for the station owners. The disagreement over wages and land ownership lasted for seven years. In 1974 some of the Gurindji people’s homelands were returned to them. This influenced the first legislation, passed in 1976, that allowed Aboriginal people to claim land title. In September 2020 the Gurindji claim for native title to Wave Hill station was granted, 54 years after the walk-off that helped to spark Australia’s Indigenous land rights movement.

 

Why did the Gurindji people strike?

In the 1960s Wave Hill station was owned by an international company called Vestey Brothers. Vestey Brothers paid the Gurindji people working on the station very low wages. On 23 August 1966 the Gurindji people stopped working and walked off Wave Hill station in protest. They were led by elder Vincent Lingiari.

In 1967 the Gurindji set up a camp at Daguragu (also known as Wattie Creek). It soon became clear that the Gurindji did not simply want fair wages. More importantly they wanted the government to return some of their land. For seven years the Gurindji stayed at Daguragu and sent letters and petitions to the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government asking that their land be returned to them.

How was the dispute resolved?

In 1972 the Labor Party led by Gough Whitlam came to power. The Whitlam government was interested in establishing Aboriginal land rights. Around the same time, Vestey Brothers finally agreed to hand over a small section of Wave Hill station around Daguragu to the Gurindji people.

In 1975 Prime Minister Whitlam visited Daguragu and in a ceremony he returned the land to the Gurindji people. Whitlam famously poured a handful of soil through Vincent Lingiari’s hand and said, ‘Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people’. …

The Gurindji strike helped to make the Australian public aware of Aboriginal land ownership claims. It also influenced the first legislation in Australia that allowed Aboriginal people to apply for ownership of their traditional lands, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

Text from the National Museum of Australia website [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

 

“I bin thinkin’ this bin Gurindji country. We bin here longa time before them Vestey mob.”

.
Vincent Lingiari, 1966

 

“We originally took the picture under the shade of a bough shed and it didn’t have a nice look about it.”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

What’s the backstory to your famous land rights photograph?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

 

An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off

On the prime ministerial jet that morning, public servant turned Aboriginal affairs adviser H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs urged Whitlam to keep his speech short and invest the day with a sense of ceremony.

Coombs recounted a story told by anthropologist Bill Stanner: how Wurundjeri elders had formalised their people’s 1835 land treaty with encroaching settlers at Port Phillip by placing soil into the hand of explorer John Batman. Hearing Coombs’ suggestion that the PM might reverse the gesture with Lingiari, Whitlam revised his performance plan for Daguragu on the spot.

When it came to his turn to speak, Whitlam congratulated the Gurindji and their supporters on their victory after a nine-year “fight for justice”. Promising that the Australian government would “help you in your plans to use this land fruitfully”, his speech concluded with the words:

Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hands this piece of the earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.

.
In finishing, Whitlam handed Lingiari the new deeds to the Gurindji’s land, now officially dubbed NT Pastoral Lease 805. Then, to the joy of assembled photographers, he stooped down, grabbed a handful of red earth, and poured it into Lingiari’s open palm. …

Lingiari – who according to one reporter was struck with a case of nerves – responded to Whitlam and the crowd in his own language:

The important white men are giving us this land ceremonially… It belonged to the whites, but today it is in the hands of us Aboriginals all around here. Let us live happily as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… They will give us cattle, they will give us horses, and we will be happy… These important white men have come here to our ceremonial ground and they are welcome…

You (Gurindji) must keep this land safe for yourselves, it does not belong to any different Welfare man. They took our country away from us, now they have bought it back ceremonially.

.
After Whitlam gave the old man even more dirt for the benefit of the press, photographer Mervyn Bishop’s images of the “handover” became some of the most recognised in Australian political history. The power of the photos rested in the symbolism of Whitlam’s gesture, made on behalf of millions concerned by Aboriginal dispossession.

The handover implicitly acknowledged the moral rightfuness of the Gurindji’s stand, and the historical injustices done to them by the Europeans on their country. It was by dint of the Gurindji’s hard slog at Wattie Creek that they had successfully brought all this to the nation’s attention. The handover day was the old Gurindji men’s finest hour, and their victory.

Charlie Ward. “An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off,” on The Conversation website August 21, 2016 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

 

 

Mervyn Bishop: pioneer, artist, and source of inspiration

Hear from National Film and Sound Archive of Australia curator Tara Marynowsky as she describes the ‘insider’s knowledge’ visitors to the Mervyn Bishop exhibition will receive, and how his story brings together those of the famous faces he captured.

 

 

In this excerpt from ABC series art+soul curator Hetti Perkins talks with artist photographer Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), Canberra
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA 1 - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), Canberra
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition entrance

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition entrance
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA, featuring images and footage of boxer Lionel Rose. See Bishop’s photograph Lionel Rose at his press conference (1968, below)
Photographs by Grace Costa

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lionel Rose at his press conference' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lionel Rose at his press conference
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

Mervyn Bishop cameras

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing some of his cameras
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop with camera

 

Mervyn Bishop with camera
Courtesy NFSA

 

 

Teenage Mervyn had already in a sense begun his career in the mid 1950s. He started to take documentary family snaps on his mother’s Kodak 620, followed by a more expensive fifteen pound Japanese 35mm of his own in 1957. He was encouraged by with the help of a Church of England Bush Brother [priest] Brother Richard and Vic King a local photographer who had a dark room that Merv frequented. He then began to hold backyard slide nights of his family and neighbourhood snaps.

By the beginning of the 1960s the search for the exotic authentic had shifted from the south-east to northern Australia. Although Australian painters such as Russell Drysdale and Arthur Boyd had created images from their trips to western NSW post WWII, photographer Axel Poignant and US Life magazine photographer Fritz Gorro both visited Arnhem Land in the 1950s to document and ‘compose’ their subject matter. …

‘Merv Bishop Graduates from Photographers’ Course’, Dawn magazine’s headline said. After leaving Dubbo High in 1962 he spent a year as a clerk with the ABC before starting as a cadet photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1963, (the first Aboriginal photographer ever hired by the paper) and entered the first photographic course at the Sydney Technical College, Broadway Sydney, graduating in 1966, Next year was the important year of the referendum concerning Aboriginal people and ‘the state’…

Djon Mundine. “Brewarrina Boy,” on the Australian Museum website 12/07/2021 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

Mervyn Bishop media call 4 March 2021 - Curator Coby Edgar and Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop media call 4 March 2021 – Curator Coby Edgar and Mervyn Bishop
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop in a recreation of his darkroom at the exhibition media call

 

Mervyn Bishop in a recreation of his darkroom at the exhibition media call
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing at left, Pool game, Burnt Bridge (1988, below); at second left, Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads (1974, below); at centre Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge (1988, below); and at right, Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour (1988, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pool game, Burnt Bridge' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pool game, Burnt Bridge
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads
1974
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

“I don’t think there were even Indigenous journos in those days. As my friend said: ‘You were the lone ranger'”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

How diverse was your photographic subject matter?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge' 1988, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge
1988, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
40.0 x 30.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing at middle, Elders, Amata (1977, below); and at right, ‘Bob’s catch’ Shoalhaven Heads (1974, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Elders, Amata' 1977, printed 1991

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Elders, Amata
1977, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
29.9 x 40.5cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) ''Bob's catch' Shoalhaven Heads' 1974, printed 1991

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
‘Bob’s catch’ Shoalhaven Heads
1974, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing in the bottom photograph, Life and death dash (1971, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

 

“People say it’s about the stolen generations, but it’s got nothing to do with that – not a bloody thing.”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

Why is ‘Life-and-death dash’ misunderstood?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Life and death dash' 1971

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Life and death dash
1971
Gelatin silver photograph
40.4 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Far West Children's health clinic, Manly' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Far West Children’s health clinic, Manly
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Alan Judd, ABC trainee radio announcer, Sydney' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Alan Judd, ABC trainee radio announcer, Sydney
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lois O'Donoghue CBA, AM, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lois O’Donoghue CBA, AM, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal
1974
Gelatin silver photograph
30 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Lowitja Lois O’Donoghue Smart, AC, CBE, DSG (born Lois O’Donoghue; 1 August 1932) is an Aboriginal Australian retired public administrator. In 1990-1996 she was the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) (dismantled in 2004). She is patron of the Lowitja Institute, a research institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (/ˈʊdɡəruː ˈnuːnəkəl/ UUD-gə-roo NOO-nə-kəl; born Kathleen Jean Mary Ruska, later Kath Walker (3 November 1920 – 16 September 1993) was an Aboriginal Australian political activist, artist and educator, who campaigned for Aboriginal rights. Noonuccal was best known for her poetry, and was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Photography cadets with model, Sydney Morning Herald' 1967

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Photography cadets with model, Sydney Morning Herald
1967
Gelatin silver photograph
29.8 x 40.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina' 1966

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
30 x 40cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Roslyn Watson' 1973

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Roslyn Watson
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children playing in river, Mumeka' 1975

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children playing in river, Mumeka
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 29.9cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children playing in river, Mumeka' 1975 (detail)

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children playing in river, Mumeka (detail)
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 29.9cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled. 2 Boys posing, Tony Mundine's gym, Redfern' Nd

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled. 2 Boys posing, Tony Mundine’s gym, Redfern
Nd
35mm black and white slide
2.5 x 3.5cm
Mervyn Bishop Archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'H Thomas, C Dixon, K Smith ACT' 1976

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
H Thomas, C Dixon, K Smith ACT
1976
35mm colour slide
2.5 x 3.5cm
Mervyn Bishop Archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Murray Island' 1977

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Murray Island
1977
35mm colour slide
3.5 x 2.5cm
Mervyn Bishop archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Exhibition dedicated to photographer Mervyn Bishop opens in Canberra

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) to showcase work of award-winning artist from 5 March – 1 August 2021.

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) is celebrating Mervyn Bishop, one of Australia’s most prolific and influential photographers, with a new exhibition opening in Canberra tomorrow Friday 5 March. Mr Bishop himself will present a floor talk on opening day, at 12pm.

Mr Bishop’s images of culture, politics and people have significantly influenced our collective understanding of Australia’s history. This exhibition is drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collection, the artist’s private archive, and enriched by sound and moving image from the NFSA.

Mervyn Bishop features iconic photographs that derive from his career as a photojournalist, alongside personal images of family and friends and intimate portraits of members of the Aboriginal community. Spanning the past 60 years, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Bishop’s life and work.

NFSA Acting CEO Nancy Eyers said: ‘We are pleased to bring the work of Mervyn Bishop to Canberra and share his story with our audiences. Mr Bishop’s photographs present us with a wonderful combination of history, artistic excellence, and self-representation. In addition to the striking prints from the AGNSW, the NFSA’s audiovisual collection will bring a new dimension to the exhibition.’

‘This comprehensive exhibition was developed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), but there are new additions from the NFSA collection for Canberra audiences. It’s been fantastic working with them; there are not many exhibitions that combine photography with mixed media, and I think visitors will be amazed by this combination.’

AGNSW Curator Coby Edgar added: ‘Working with Mervyn Bishop and the NFSA to build this show has been a truly collaborative process with the aim to present Australia through Mervyn’s eyes. He has captured many of our country’s most pivotal moments politically and socially, and this exhibition is a celebration of his life and practice and the Australian peoples and cultures that he has documented.’

In 1963 Mervyn Bishop left his hometown of Brewarrina, venturing to Sydney, where he successfully applied for a cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald. He became Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer and in 1971 won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph Life and Death Dash 1971. Bishop went on to work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974 where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. This included his iconic image from 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner. Bishop’s childhood, his life experiences and career will be explored by former Reuters journalist Tim Dobbyn in an upcoming biography tentatively titled A Handful of Sand.

Mervyn Bishop said: ‘Photography has been my life, my passion for 60 years: the art and technique, the stories I’ve witnessed and captured. I’m glad to be able to share my life’s work with the public.’

An AGNSW touring exhibition, presented in collaboration with NFSA.

 

About Mervyn Bishop

Born and raised in Brewarrina, New South Wales, Mervyn Bishop was encouraged by his mother to take his first photograph. After witnessing the ‘magic’ of the developing process, he became passionate about photography. In 1963 he successfully applied for a four-year cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald and completed a Photography Certificate Course at Sydney Technical College during these years. Bishop continued to work for The Sydney Morning Herald and was Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer. In 1971 he won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph, Life and Death Dash, 1971.

Bishop started work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974, in the early years of an important era in Indigenous self-determination. Here he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, including the historical moment in 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner. This image – representing the Australian government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights – became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography. In 1989 Bishop received his Associate Diploma in Adult Education at Sydney College of Advanced Education and went on to teach photography at Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe, Sydney and the Eora Centre TAFE (Technical and Further Education) in Redfern, Sydney.

Bishop’s diverse career, combining journalistic and art photography, was celebrated in 1991 in his solo exhibition and accompanying monograph, ‘In Dreams: Mervyn Bishop Thirty Years of Photography 1960-1990’. This important exhibition was curated by Tracey Moffatt and opened at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, before touring nationally and internationally. The timely and intimate photographs celebrate Bishop’s contribution to Australian art and photojournalism. In 2000, Bishop was presented with the Red Ochre Award from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council, in recognition of his pioneering work and ongoing influence.

Biography by Jonathan Jones, first published in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014.

 

Mervyn Bishop’s journey to be one of Australia’s best-known photographers is paved with triumphs, setbacks and tragedy. Bishop left Canberra in 1979 to return to The Sydney Morning Herald in a career choice that ended with his departure in 1986. While looking for work he was befriended by people from the Sydney arts scene, leading to his first solo exhibition in 1991, the In Dreams show. But this victory is forever linked to the death of his wife Elizabeth on the same day as the exhibition’s opening. His later work is dominated by portraiture that demonstrates his ability to put people at ease and a sympathetic appreciation for the human condition.

Synopsis from the upcoming biography A Handful of Sand, by author Tim Dobbyn.

Press release from the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Fisherman Charlie Ardler, Wreck Bay' 1975, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Fisherman Charlie Ardler, Wreck Bay
1975, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Womenfolk, Bowraville' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Womenfolk, Bowraville
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

What is your legacy? And whose work do you admire?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

 

Additional images not in exhibition

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Aborigine Trains as News Photographer," 'Dawn' magazine, February 1965

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Aborigine Trains as News Photographer," 'Dawn' magazine, February 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Aborigine Trains as News Photographer
Dawn magazine, February 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Your Career – Photography," 'Dawn' magazine, October 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Your Career – Photography
Dawn magazine, October 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975) "Untitled [Deb Ball]" Dawn magazine, October 1965 back cover

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Untitled [Deb Ball]
Dawn magazine, October 1965 back cover

 

 

Dawn – A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W.

Dawn was an Australian magazine created by the New South Wales Aboriginal Welfare Board and aimed at Aboriginal Australians. It ran monthly from January 1952 until December 1968. Two issues were published in 1969 before the disbanding of the Aboriginal Welfare Board led to the publication ceasing. The magazine was relaunched in April 1970 under the title New Dawn, published by the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare. It continued to be produced on a monthly basis; production slowed in 1974 and a final issue was published in July 1975.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal children, cousin Helen Bishop, Gibbs children, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1965, printed 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal children, cousin Helen Bishop, Gibbs children, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1965, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bishop Town picnic, Brewarrina' 1966, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Bishop Town picnic, Brewarrina
1966, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lil and Larry Cargill at the rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1967, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lil and Larry Cargill at the rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1967, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'A woman drinks a pint of beer in a Glebe pub on the eve of its closing' 1967

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
A woman drinks a pint of beer in a Glebe pub on the eve of its closing
1967
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Patrons drinking at a pub on the eve of its closure, Glebe, New South Wales' 1967, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Patrons drinking at a pub on the eve of its closure, Glebe, New South Wales
1967, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

''YES' for Aborigines pamphlet' 1967

 

‘YES’ for Aborigines pamphlet
1967
Donated by Janelle Marshall, the child pictured on the pamphlet
National Museum of Australia

 

 

It is 1967.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are citizens, can vote and are as entitled to government pensions as all other Australians.

But they are not formally counted in census returns, and the Australian Government does not have the power to make laws for their benefit.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are subject to individual state controls and laws, rather than uniform national ones, and in several cases the states are not legislating for the benefit of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inhabitants.

To change this situation there needs to be a change to the Constitution, by a referendum, a national vote.

Text from the National Museum of Australia website

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'The Murai tree at the Rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1969, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
The Murai tree at the Rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1969, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.3 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Guests at Lorraine Taylor's wedding at Terrigal, New South Wales' 1973, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Guests at Lorraine Taylor’s wedding at Terrigal, New South Wales
1973, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Warning sign 30 kilometres from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Warning sign 30 kilometres from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

“Do not take picture with camer. If someone take it? The law said, please, when coming in here, take only the park painting, no money, but someone else body is ten dollars and countrie is eleven dollars. This is going all over the world to white men and blacks.”

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'School bus, Yarrabah' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
School bus, Yarrabah
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'The bus stop, Yalambie Reserve, Mt Isa' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
The bus stop, Yalambie Reserve, Mt Isa
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Sawmill workers, Cherbourg' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Sawmill workers, Cherbourg
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal man beside humpy, Yuendumu, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal man beside humpy, Yuendumu, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Woman attend home management course at Yuendumu' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Woman attend home management course at Yuendumu
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Yuendumu is a town in the Northern Territory of Australia, 293 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs on the Tanami Road, within the Central Desert Region local government area. It ranks as one of the larger remote communities in central Australia, and has a thriving community of Aboriginal artists.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Melba Saunders surrounded by stuffed koalas at an Aboriginal craft shop, Brisbane' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Melba Saunders surrounded by stuffed koalas at an Aboriginal craft shop, Brisbane
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 27cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'John Nykamula treating patient Gurrumuru Mala, Arnhemland, Northern Territory' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
John Nykamula treating patient Gurrumuru Mala, Arnhemland, Northern Territory
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bishop and Gurindji men outside the Murramulla Social Club' 1975

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Bishop and Gurindji men outside the Murramulla Social Club
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'An Aboriginal school teacher and two children, Maningrida community, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
An Aboriginal school teacher and two children, Maningrida community, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 29.8cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953; Trawlwoolway) 'Coming Home' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953; Trawlwoolway)
Coming Home
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
33.8 x 52.0cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

Shearwaters, a type of muttonbird, also called yolla or moonbird, are harvested for food (the meat tastes like mutton), feathers for mattress fill, and the omega-3 rich oil, which is squeezed out of the birds’ guts, for medicinal use. Harvesting is a confronting job to outsiders: chicks are pulled from their burrows and their necks are quickly snapped. …

Indigenous people have been catching muttonbirds for thousands of years. “Millennia,” Maynard emphasises. “It’s just evolved. Our old fellas used to go to the rookeries, and get these birds when they were there because they were a great food source; a seasonal tucker.”

Dog Island, where the muttonbirds are harvested in Maynard’s play, is named for Great Dog or Big Dog Island: a 354-hectare granite isle filled with tussock grassland, off the south coast of Flinders Island in Bass Strait, where commercial birding operations have existed for more than 200 years. Maynard’s father didn’t take him muttonbirding on Big Dog, his family’s “spiritual home”, until he was 15, because birding season, which runs late March through late April, clashed with the school term. Maynard, though, takes his eight-year-old son each year.

Maynard is a Trawlwoolway man and descendant of Mannalargenna, a leader of the north-east Tasmanian Indigenous peoples, who led resistance against British soldiers in the early 19th century.

In 1995 the Tasmanian government handed back several sites, including Great Dog and Babel islands, to Indigenous people in an acknowledgement of Aboriginal dispossession.

Steve Dow. “‘I wanted something to celebrate’: Indigenous playwright tackles tradition in ‘The Season’,” on The Guardian website Wed 14 Dec 2016 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Three Aboriginal women holding cakes, Mungundi, New South Wales' 1976, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Three Aboriginal women holding cakes, Mungundi, New South Wales
1976, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Charles Perkins shaking hands with members of the National Aboriginal Congress, Canberra' 1978, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Charles Perkins shaking hands with members of the National Aboriginal Congress, Canberra
1978, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

Charles Perkins (Australian, 1936-2000; Arrernte; Kalkadoon)

Charles Nelson Perkins AO, commonly known as Charlie Perkins (16 June 1936 – 19 October 2000), was an Australian Aboriginal activist, soccer player and administrator. He was the first Indigenous Australian man to graduate tertiary education, and is known for his instigation and organisation of the 1965 Freedom Ride and his key role in advocating for a “yes” vote in the Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals). He had a long career as a public servant.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled (Bellbrook NSW, man leaning on fence)' 4 May 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled (Bellbrook NSW, man leaning on fence)
4 May 1988
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children floating on board, Yirrkala, Northern Territory' 1989, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children floating on board, Yirrkala, Northern Territory
1989, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal Australian Gerard Rice at the Rally, Sydney' 1989, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal Australian Gerard Rice at the Rally, Sydney
1989, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40 x 27cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT 2601

Opening hours:
Daily 10am to 4pm

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia website

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30
Dec
18

Photographs: ‘Australia’ Part 1

December 2018

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales' 1895

 

Anonymous photographer
Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales
1895
Gelatin silver print

 

A German Rönisch piano with a copy of “A Country Girl” above the keyboard (I can’t find any reference online to this song?). To the right, a two-panel screen with Christmas cards, one with the words “Hearty Greetings” and another with the date “1895”.

 

 

The last posting for 2018 features a selection of Australian black and white photographs that belong to a friend of mine, who has kindly allowed me to scan and publish them. The images have been digitally cleaned after scanning. The titles of the photographs are annotated on the back of the images.

The photographs are mainly of pastoral, colonial, outback, station, homestead and mining life, and picture the remoteness of these properties and towns c. 1910s-1950s. They also evidence the nature of white, colonial, patriarchal society much in evidence on pastoral stations during this time period. Hardly a women appears in these photographs, and Indigenous Australians usually only appear as stockmen or trackers.

Of most interest to me are the photographs of Poolamacca Station, c. 1910.

In the first photograph, Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (below) what is going on in the photograph remains a bit of a mystery. A man lies, apparently comatose, on a mattress outside, on the ground, in the strong midday sun (note the short length of the shadows). The man to the right reaches forward to clasp his hand, while other men around clasp each other’s hands to form a circle around the body. Some men look down at the body on the mattress, others stare straight at the camera, smoking cigars. A handsome man with a moustache, on bended knee and wearing a waistcoat, third from left, smiles broadly at the camera. A man at the back of the group rests his head against the stone of the building, eyes closed, as though he is drunk. The length of the exposure can be judged by the several blurred figures, particularly of the man standing and the head of the man at right rear.

Several scenarios are possible: is the man lying on the mattress really ill? Is it some kind of religious play being performed on Christmas Day? Are they all drunk and mucking about? And/or is it some kind of game, a charade? The circle of hands suggests to me it is a type of friendship game for the person lying on the mattress, a bond between them all, a supposition reinforced by the handsome man smiling at the camera. If the situation were serious, he would not be smiling. The second photograph, taken at the same time (before or afterwards?), features the men now accompanied by women, piled high on a cart pulled by four horses. At left behind the front horses can be seen what I believe is the same corrugated iron and building that appears at left in the first image. We can only guess the narrative in the first photograph because we do not have enough clues. Nevertheless, the photograph and its story remain a fascinating mystery.

The third and fourth photographs also tell an enigmatic story. Again, they have both been taken at the same time, as can be seen by the same riveted water tank behind each group in the photographs. The same fair-haired child also appears at right in the first photograph and sitting in his mother’s lap in the second photograph. From the length of his white apron, the white man in the photograph is possibly a cook or butcher at Poolamacca Station. The photographs also put lie to George Dutton’s claim that “in 1910 there was only two boys left” at Poolamacca Station (see extract from The Mutawintji research project report below).

What we have here is, possibly, an interracial marriage or partnership, a frontier marriage? whose Australian

“… boundary-crossing lovers are still omitted from the historical memory of the nation. Despite their long-term, cross-generational legacies, these unions virtually became a secret of state. …

These lovers generated families at the core of the cultural and historical interface that became the Australian nation. However, the young coloniser state did not like it.

From the coming of Federation until the 1960s, love affairs between Aboriginal people and others were severely restricted across all of northern Australia. Queensland moved rapidly to curb courtship and marriage between white Australian men and Aboriginal women. Western Australia and the Northern Territory followed. That didn’t mean that relationships stopped. Love often prevailed. …

Police and missionary enforcers placed white working class men living with Aboriginal women under sexual surveillance, forcing them to either apply for permits or be arrested. Many were fined or jailed. The Chief Protectors, who had the power to decide who could marry whom, regularly refused their written requests to marry.

Although largely untouched by the new laws, magistrates, pastoralists, police and missionaries also fell in love with Aboriginal women. It was not uncommon for cattle station owners and managers to practice a form of cross-frontier polygamy, sustaining relationships with both a white wife and an Aboriginal woman. …

Australian lovers who were willing to cross these punitive marriage bars showed an uncommon courage. Out of this “illicit love” came new generations who carry on the battles for their ancestors and their communities. Some are the very same people who are required today to justify their Aboriginality because of mixed descent. They have to keep explaining who they are and why they are speaking out.1

.
What these rare photographs speak of is a love, an intimacy, and affection within a family unit. Just look at the gentleness as the man holds the child’s hands and the smile on the mother’s face. It is just a gorgeous photograph of love and happiness between white and black, of a smiling women with her children. Passed down through time, it is a privilege to be able to look, to understand, to feel the power of this relationship all of these years later.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All of these photographs have been digitally cleaned. Many thankx to my friend Daniel for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Professor Ann McGrath. “Celebrating white men and their black lovers,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website [Online] Cited 30/12/2018

 

 

1910s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Poolamacca Station

It is situated about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Broken Hill and 174 kilometres (108 mi) north east of Mannahill at the eastern end of the Barrier Range adjoining Sturts Meadows. The station currently occupies an area of 40,000 acres (16,187 ha). The abandoned township of Tarrawingee is situated within the boundaries of the station.

The property was established in the 1860s with the first owners of the run being Messrs Jones and Goode. In 1867 a shepherd staged a hoax with a white quartz gold find that lead to an aborted gold rush to the area. The first property in the area was Mount Gipps Station In 1865 with Corona, Mundi Mundi and Poolamacca being established shortly afterward. Sidney Kidman worked at Poolamacca during the 1870s as a boundary rider and stockman.

In 1877 the property was put up for auction by the trustees of the estate of Messrs E. M. Bagot and G. Bennett. At this stage the property was approximately 900 square miles (2,331 km2) in size along with a flock of 34,906 sheep. The property comprised ten separate runs including the 64,000 acre Bijerkerno run to the 25,000 acre Torrowangee run.

John Brougham acquired a half share in Poolamacca in 1889 and later secured the lease outright. Brougham remained at Poolamacca until 1915 when he moved to Adelaide. In 1892 approximately 50 Aboriginal people, were moved to Poolamacca station which under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas.

The lease was later split into two properties: Poolamacca and Wilangee in the 1920s. Moss Smith sold the property in 1927 to the Pastoral company of Adelaide following the death of his daughter whose body was found buried in a warren in Poolamacca late the year before after she had gone missing for four months.

In 2002 the property was acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation with the title holders being the Wilyakali Aboriginal Corporation when the property occupied an area of 507 square kilometres (196 sq mi).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sydney Poolamacca map

 

Sydney to Poolamacca map, New South Wales, Australia

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Extracts from The Mutawintji research project

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, the owner of Poolamacca (and brother of John Brougham Jnr of Gnalta station, now part of Mutawintji National Park), describes how the first pastoralists mapped out their original station boundaries by including the best waterholes:

The wild aborigines were a help by following their tracks, as they knew of any existing water away from the river… One old aborigine who claims to be from one of the wild tribes told me the walkabout was a good sign to watch for – at that time a mob were having a hunt for a new hunting ground and had camped about midday. While they were stopped a pregnant woman had a baby there. Next day they were off again, mother and child and went straight to a waterhole, which the white people found by following their tracks (Brougham, K.W.C. 1920, West of the Darling, MS, State Library of South Australia, p. 14)

.
… In 1862, the area north-west of Mt Murchison on the Darling River near present day Wilcannia was still frontier country. Mt Gipps station7, set up in 1865 (Kearns 1982), was the first station in the Broken Hill area. It included the country to the north of Broken Hill and the hill that was to become the Broken Hill mine and city. Mt Gipps was followed soon after by Poolamacca, Corona and Mundi Mundi.

No actual descriptions of the annexation of Mutawintji by pastoralists have been found so far, but as permanent waterholes are few to the north-west of the Darling River, descriptions of the annexure of other important water sources such as Yancannia in the mid 1860s suggest that there was likely to have been conflict. Yancannia station, to the north of Mutawintji, had been established by 1865 and contemporary accounts describe conflict with the local Aboriginal people. By 1872 the Aboriginal people of Yancannia gave the owners “very little trouble” and “a few of them [were] very useful” (Reid in Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 104).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 9-10.

 

It is clear from the Bonney records that people moved backwards and forwards between Yancannia, Momba, Tarella, Wonnaminta, Poolamacca and Gnalta/Mootwingee stations from the 1860s and through the 1880s. Bonney lists about 44 people as living at Momba and Tarella around 1881; some of the people from Momba have been traced and the descendents of some of the people Bonney described are Aboriginal owners of Mutawintji National Park. …

In 1892 about 50 Aboriginal people, including Outalpa George, were camped near Olary. At about this time they moved to Poolamacca station which “under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas” (Mawson, D. and Hossfeld, P.S. 1926, ‘Relics of Aboriginal Occupation in the Olary District’, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 50, pp. 17-25).

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, writes about the 1890s:

[in] 1892 [at] Poolamacca … we were amazed by the number of Aboriginals that were there…. I had a boy mate staying with me and about two hundred blacks were camped in a sort of inlet in the hills of Silverton Hill, as it was called west of the homestead … The Aboriginals were practically in their wild state and did not speak our language (Brougham MS n.d, p.1)

… cotton dresses, high coloured and a great favourite of the [women] went as soon as they were landed, and olive oil for the [women’s] hair, always in demand (Brougham MS n.d, p.2).

[the Aboriginal people] were very handy in the woolshed at shearing time. The [women] did all the piece picking and men on the tables and picking up. The pickers were excellent at their job and all had a good eye, male and female (Brougham MS n.d, p.3)

… At Poolamacca my mother … employed a … girl who was neat and tidy, an extra good worker, and in 1896 she was really good (Brougham MS n.d, p.12)

… [at] Euriowie we had a lot of aboriginals working in the creeks surrounding this country picking up slugs of pure tin and bagging it (Brougham MS n.d, p.23).

.
The APB [Aboriginal Protection Board] minutes recorded between 1890 and 1901 seldom mention the Mutawintji area. The only stations in the far north-west that received help from the APB were Poolamacca, occasionally Sturts Meadows, and the fringe camps at Milparinka, Tibooburra, Wanaaring and Wilcannia. The only station that consistently received rations throughout 1890-1901 was Poolamacca. Sturts Meadows (just to the west of Mutawintji) received rations in 1893, 1897 and 1898. Most stations either managed to fully employ the Aboriginal people living there or provided food and clothing of some sort without asking for compensation. …

During John Brougham’s time at Poolamacca during the 1890s and early 1900s, the station was something of a sanctuary for Aboriginal people but many had moved on by the time the Brougham family left. Some followed the Broughams to Gnalta station (now part of Mutawintji National Park) while others went to stations like Yancannia, where a large number of Aboriginal people lived and worked (Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne). …

According to George Dutton, who was born on Yancannia station, there was a sizeable Aboriginal population at Poolamacca until about 1910, but almost none thereafter. George Dutton told Jeremy Beckett:

“At Poolamacca in 1901 there was a big mob of blackfellas, two hundred men without the women and kids. When I went back in 1910 there was only two boys left and graves all round” (Beckett, J. 1978, ‘George Dutton’s Country: Portrait of an Aboriginal Drover’, Aboriginal History, vol. 2 (1), pp. 19).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 14-16.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Largs Pier Hotel

Largs Pier Hotel is located on the corner of The Esplanade and Jetty Road in Largs Bay, South Australia.

The Largs Pier Hotel opened in 1882 on the same day as the Largs Bay Railway and Pier. Believed to be 23rd of December according to The Port Adelaide Historical Society. From 1882 till around 1892 the Largs Pier was the primary port of call for New Australians travelling from Europe. Many of these immigrants spent their first nights in Australia at the hotel. (Wikipedia)

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia today

 

 

1930s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the Aboriginal police tracker second from left. This could be in the Northern Territory.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

This photograph is possibly from around the Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory of Australia. You can make out the word “gold” on the truck behind the men.

Gold was discovered in the Tanami Desert by Alan Davidson. He arrived in the area in 1898 prospecting until 1901. He took the name Tanami for the region from local Aboriginal people who visited his camp. “On inquiry [he] learned that the native name of the rockholes (from [which the party obtained water] was Tanami, and that they “never died,” he said. Davidson showed the gold specimens to these Aboriginal people, who recognised it and described “mobs of similar stone to the east, together with a large creek containing plenty of water and fish. This they said was “two days’ sleep to the south of east”. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the man crouching at left holding a Kodak box camera, and the folding camera (most probably a Kodak as well) at the feet of the man third from right.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

1950s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Roy Hill Homestead

Statement of significance

Roy Hill Station has strong heritage significance as it has aesthetic, historical, scientific, and social values. It represents more than a hundred years of life on a Pilbara station, and its buildings and structures, reflect an evolutionary pattern of development. Roy Hill Station was the home of Alexander Langdon (Alex) Spring who made an enormous contribution to local government in the region between 1940-70. He was a Councillor for 31 years, and was the first President of the East Pilbara Shire in 1972. He was made a Freeman of the Shire of East Pilbara in 1973. becoming the 13th Freeman in Western Australia.
Roy Hill continues to have significance as a large pastoral station, representing some of the other stations which owners did not want included in the Shire of East Pilbara Heritage Inventory.

 

History

Physical description

Roy Hill Homestead is situated 1km off the main road halfway between Newman and Nullagine. Roy Hill Station consists of a large number of buildings which demonstrate the dynamic process of running a pastoral station over a period of more than a century. There are a number of corrugated iron sheds built at different times for mechanical work and storage of station equipment. Close by is the aircraft directional beacon available for the nearby airstrip if a plane was lost. The original airstrip was approx. 6 miles from the homestead. Part of the very old cattle stockyards still stand next to a disused cattle killing hoist, reflecting a time when pastoralists regularly butchered cattle for their home consumption. The yards were the main trucking yards and general handling yards.

The large main house is one of a number of buildings that have been erected on the station since the turn of the century. It has cement block walls with a corrugated iron roof. Surrounding the large and once gracious home is a wide verandah. The house originally consisted of three bedrooms, a living room, guest room, dining room and school room. Nearby the house is a cluster of older buildings including a ‘Nissan hut’ shaped kitchen and dining room for workers and the old Post Office. Office and General Store.

The Post Office, Office and General Store has corrugated iron walls and a gabled tin roof. Inside the Post Office are the pigeon holes and other associated post office fittings. The service hatch for the Post Office is still visible from the outside. The General Store (to the rear of the Post Office) still has its shelves in place and much of the old equipment that has been collected there over the years gives a feeling of stepping back into another time. In the immediate vicinity of the homestead property are other remnants from the past.

Concrete pads found amongst the grass are the remains of Aboriginal stockmens quarters and the many rainwater tanks are reminders of the need to collect and store all water needed for consumption. A light aircraft parked near the airstrip is an important vehicle for transport and for mustering.
Today the house stands unoccupied and the owner and any employees live in transportable homes near the old house.

Text from the State Heritage Office, Government of Western Australia website

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Mundiwindi

Mundiwindi just off the Jigalong Mission Road in Western Australia is a locality about 1000km north-northeast of Perth. Mundiwindi is at an altitude of about 575m above sea level. The nearest ocean is the Indian Ocean about 410km north-northwest of Mundiwindi. The nearest more populous place is the town of Newman which is 71km away with a population of around 3,500.

Mundiwindi is a ghost town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The town is around 1,150 kilometres (710 mi) north east of Perth and 124 kilometres (77 mi) south east of Newman, along the Jigalong Mission road. The town was established in 1914 as a telegraph station. The station was closed in 1977. The telegraph station was a link on the Australian Overland Telegraph Line linking the settled regions of Australia to the submarine cable at Broome. A weather station operated at the site between 1915 and 1981. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Stockman (Australia)

In Australia a stockman (plural stockmen) is a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station, which is owned by a grazier or a grazing company. A stockman may also be employed at an abattoir, feedlot, on a livestock export ship, or with a stock and station agency. …

 

History

The role of the mounted stockmen came into being early in the 19th century, when in 1813 the Blue Mountains separating the coastal plain of the Sydney region from the interior of the continent was crossed. The town of Bathurst was founded shortly after, and potential farmers moved westward, and settled on the land, many of them as squatters. The rolling country, ideal for sheep and the large, often unfenced, properties necessitated the role of the shepherd to tend the flocks.

Early stockmen were specially selected, highly regarded men owing to the high value and importance of early livestock. All stockmen need to be interested in animals, able to handle them with confidence and patience, able to make accurate observations about them and enjoy working outdoors.

Australian Aborigines were good stockmen who played a large part in the successful running of many stations. With their intimate bonds to their tribal places, and local knowledge they also took considerable pride in their work. After the gold rushes white labour was expensive and difficult to retain. Aboriginal women also worked with cattle on the northern stations after this practice developed in northern Queensland during the 1880s. A Native administration Act later stopped the employment of women in the cattle camps. Aborigines and their families received the regular provision of food and clothing to retain their labour, but were paid only a small wage.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

For more information on the role and conditions of Aboriginal stockmen, please see the book Aborigines in the Northern Territory Cattle Industry by Dr Frank Stevens, Australian National University Press, 1974.

“Perhaps nowhere in Australia have working and living conditions for Aborigines been so bad as on Northern Territory cattle stations. Though the Aborigines’ skill in handling cattle is acknowledged by their white employers, rarely have they gained recognition in any material way. None were paid full wages, many were fortunate if they received any cash wages at all, almost all lived in appalling conditions, and many were subjected to physical violence.

These facts emerge clearly from Dr Stevens’s thorough research into the conditions obtaining on Territory pastoral properties in the 1960s. During surveys in 1965 followed up in 1967, Dr Stevens questioned employers and both black and white workers in the industry, eliciting some revealing replies. It was apparent that the Aboriginal workers were fully aware of their degraded position and the way in which they were exploited.

Where possible Dr Stevens visited the Aboriginal station ‘camps’, though he met with opposition from some station owners, reluctant to allow him free access. In almost all of them the living conditions were primitive, the best of accommodation being little more than a corrugated iron hut. Few camps had running water or cooking facilities.

In the growing awareness of the Aborigines’ plight in Australia, this book is an important testimony of the conditions in which many lived and worked, conditions that must no longer be allowed to exist.” (Book jacket)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Austin, Western Australia

Austin is an abandoned town in the Murchison region of Western Australia. The town is located south of Cue on an island in Lake Austin and for this reason was also known as Lake Austin and The Island Lake Austin.

The lake and the town are both named after surveyor Robert Austin, who was the first European to explore and chart the area. Austin initially named the lake the Great Inland Marsh but the name was later changed to Lake Austin. The townsite was gazetted in 1895. When Austin travelled through the area he described it as very indifferent but also added the geological features indicate rich goldfields. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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12
Apr
16

Cabinet card: William Bardwell, photographer – Alfred William Howitt, William Barak and unidentified man

April 2016

Caution: Art Blart advises that the subject of this posting may include images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

 

 

William Bardwell. Untitled (Alfred William Howitt, William Barak and unidentified man)' Melbourne, 1880-1888

 

William Bardwell (Australian, active 1858-1895)
Untitled (Alfred William Howitt, William Barak and unidentified man)
Melbourne, 1866-1870(?)
Albumen photograph
Cabinet card

 

 

This cabinet card (above) was offered for sale recently and went for a large sum of money. I have never seen this photograph before and, although I have searched for it on the National Library of Australia Trove website and online, I cannot find it anywhere. But I thought I recognised the figure in the middle of the photograph. Some research ensued…

Firstly, according to Alan Davis’ seminal 1985 book The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900 William Bardwell, photographer, operated from 21 Collins Street East, Melbourne between 1880-88. But Bardwell was at 21 Collins Street from at least 1877, and may well have been there earlier, as he was listed as insolvent there in 1879 before reopening his business. It could have been the case that Bardwell took the photograph in the early 1870s and that he only issued it as a cabinet photograph after he recovered from bankruptcy.

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Secondly, and I might be mistaken, but I thought I recognised the distinctive countenance and piercing stare of that inspirational Indigenous leader, William Barak (c. 1824 – 15 August 1903) in the centre of the image. We can see he is wearing a roughly hewn jacket with waistcoat, stripped shirt and zigzag patterned necktie. His presence dominates the photograph – central, frontal, tallest and flanked by two sitting people, all placed idyllically against a lush backdrop of trees and an Arcadian stone fence. “Those who knew Barak described him unanimously as wise and dignified, with penetrating eyes and firm principles.”

If it is Barak, dating the photograph is something of a conundrum since Bardwell was known to be at 21 Collins Street officially from 1877 onwards but he could have taken this photograph much earlier. If we compare this cabinet card to other images of Barak from 1866 and 1875 and 1876 (see below), Barak’s hair and beard colour, with tinges or grey in the 1866 image and our cabinet card – compared to the grey bearded man in the 1875 images – leads us to the supposition that this image was taken between approximately 1866-1870(?). Florence Ada Fuller’s oil painting of Barak dated 1885 (LaTrobe Picture Collection) also shows his hair as being slightly grizzled but his beard as being fully white. What also supports the dating of the cabinet card to the mid-late 1860s is a comparison of the hair and beard of the other person we definitely know is in the photograph, that of Alfred William Howitt. If you compare Batchelder & O’Neill’s portrait of Alfred William Howitt (below) with the cabinet card, we can see that the hair and beard in both are very similar. Barak did travel to Gippsland in 1882 and 1884 to meet up with Howitt, so it is possible they knew each other much earlier.

My initial identification that the Indigenous Australian in the cabinet card was Barak was made on a comparison of the shape of the beard; the strong flared nose; the fact that the beard comes down over his cheek bones in both the 1866 and cabinet card images; the furrowed shape of the brow which to me is very distinctive; and those penetrating eyes. Admittedly the hair is slightly different and we also cannot see the scar on the right hand cheek of Barak which is present in the 1866 image, because of the size of the enlargement of the cabinet card. But I still stand by my recognition of Barak until we can prove substantially otherwise.

At the time this photograph was taken, Barak would have been anywhere between 42-46 years old, depending on the exact year it was taken.

Ahead in Barak’s life would be leadership, creativity … and heartache. From 1874 onwards, Barak would have been the sole ngurungaeta (clan-head) of the Wurundjeri-balluk clan of Woi wurrung,2 and would lead his people living on the Coranderrk Station, near Healesville. But there were unsettling times ahead. In 1866, sixty people were evicted from the station and the station lost half its land in 1893. So much for the Aboriginal Protection Board, what a misnomer the title of that organisation turned out to be. As Barak famously said, “Me no leave it, Yarra, my country. There’s no mountains for me on the Murray.”

All of this was happening when Barak was going through the most tremendous personal hardship as well. In 1882, his son David (see photograph by Fred Kruger below) fell ill from tuberculosis and arrangements were made to admit him to hospital in Melbourne. These were thwarted by Captain Page, secretary of the Aboriginal Protection Board, and Barak had to carry his sick child all the way from Coranderrk to Melbourne and the home of his supporter Anne Bon. David was admitted to hospital but died soon after, with his father not even allowed to be by his bedside. After David’s death there is a heavy sadness noticeable in Barak’s eyes (see the book First Australians by Rachel Perkins, Marcia Langton, p. 104).

I have much admiration for this man, for the hardships he personally endured and which his people went through, and continue to go through to this day.

.
And thirdly, the pith helmet was the give away to the identity of the person sitting at left in the photograph: Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), explorer, natural scientist and pioneer authority on Aboriginal culture and social organisation. As an explorer, Howitt led the relief exhibition (June 1861) to rescue Robert O’Hara Burke, William Wills, John King and Charley Gray, to find only King alive and bring him back to Melbourne. He then returned a second time to Cooper’s Creek to repatriate the bodies of Burke and Wills (December 1861).

In 1863 he began a distinguished career of thirty-eight years as a public official, twenty-six of them as magistrate. In 1889 he became acting secretary of mines and water supply and in 1895 commissioner of audit and a member of the Public Service Board. But his real passion was as an anthropologist, his work stretching through fours phases between 1861-1907 (see the full biography for details).

“On his expedition to the Barcoo Howitt had met members of the Yantruwanta, Dieri and other tribes while they were uninfluenced by Europeans. He learned, though inexpertly, something of their ecology, languages, beliefs and customs. The experience confirmed in him a dissociation between the Aboriginals as an object of scientific interest and as a challenge to social policy. Family letters show that he went to central Australia sharing the racial and social prejudices of the day. His attitudes softened later but nothing in his writings suggests that he ever agreed with the condemnation of Europeans for their treatment of native peoples expressed in his father’s polemical Colonization and Christianity (1838). Even in official roles – he was for a time a local guardian of Aboriginals in Gippsland and in 1877 sat on the royal commission which inquired into their whole situation – his attitude appears always to have been that of the dispassionate scientist. His view of their problems did not extend beyond charitable paternalism and segregated training in institutions. His dealings with Aboriginals were cordial and appreciative if somewhat calculated, and he had no difficulty in finding long-serving helpers among them in all his inquiries. But he saw them as a people doomed to extinction by an extraordinary primitivity, and this quality aroused his scientific interest…

“More appreciative eyes … now recognise that Howitt greatly widened the base, improved the methods and deepened the insights of a nascent science. He wrote in a careful, informed way on a wealth of empirical topics – boomerangs, canoes, name-giving, cannibalism, migrations, wizardry, songs, message-sticks, sign-language – but most valuably on the kinship structures and intergroup relations of social life.”2

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This is a fascinating cabinet card for its cultural implications… and for what it leaves unsaid of the attitudes and history of the men pictured in this bucolic scene. William Barak was a man, a leader and an elder who kept the flame of his people and his culture alive. Who after all of his travails, turned to creativity and painting to record his culture for future generations. Culture and creativity in any language is a powerful healing force in what is an ongoing story of injustice and persecution. I would have very much liked to have meet this wise man.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Box 1053/2 (b/c), ‘Notes by Howitt on the Kulin nation from information provided by William Barak’ c. 1882 quoted in Ian D. Clark. “The A.W. How Papers,” in La Trobe Journal No 43, Autumn 1989, p. 30 on the La Trobe Journal website [Online] Cited 06/10/2021.
  2. W. E. H. Stanner. “Howitt, Alfred William (1830-1908),” on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website Volume 4, (MUP), 1972 [Online] Cited 09/04/2016.

 

 

Carl Walter (Australian, 1831-1907) 'William Barak - age 42 - Yarra Yarra Tribe' 1866

 

Carl Walter (Australian, 1831-1907)
William Barak – age 42 – Yarra Yarra Tribe
1866
Albumen silver photograph
Approx. 10.0 x 6.7cm
State Library of Victoria

 

 

Carl Walter (c. 1831 – 7 October 1907), also known as Charles Walter, was a German-born botanist and photographer who worked in Australia. Walter was born in Mecklenburg, Germany in about 1831 and arrived in Victoria in the 1850s.

Walter set up a photographic studio in Melbourne, promoting himself as a “Country Photographic Artist” or “Landscape Photographic Artist”. For a twenty-year period starting from about 1862, he would periodically travel to eastern and alpine regions of Victoria with camera equipment and camping gear in a backpack.

In 1866 Walter took 106 photographs of Aboriginal people at Coranderrk east of Melbourne, which were exhibited at the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia in Melbourne in 1866-67.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Fred Kruger (Australian born Germany, 1831-1888) 'William and Annie Barak with their son, David, at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station' c. 1875

 

Fred Kruger (Australian born Germany, 1831-1888)
William and Annie Barak with their son, David, at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station
c. 1875

 

Fred Kruger (Australian born Germany, 1831-1888) 'William and Annie Barak with their son David at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station' c. 1875

 

Fred Kruger (Australian born Germany, 1831–1888)
William and Annie Barak with their son David at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station
c. 1875
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, 9499

 

 

Fred Kruger (born Johan Friedrich Carl Kruger, 18 April 1831 – 15 February 1888) was a German-born photographer noted for his early photography of landscape and indigenous peoples in Victoria, Australia. …

In 1866, Kruger first registered his photography business at 133 Cardigan Street, Carlton, Melbourne, before moving it in August 1867 to High Street, Prahran, Melbourne, continuing there until 1871, then relocating in Preston to High Street and again to Regent Street in that suburb.

During this period, Kruger was achieving international recognition for his landscape photography, including the award of medals from both the 1872 Vienna Exhibition and the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. He became the first photographer to take group photos of the first Aboriginal cricket team in 1866, which became one of his most recognised images, and was subsequently commissioned in 1877 by the Aboriginal Protection Board to create a collection of work including portraits of the Aboriginal residents of the Coranderrk reserve, an Aboriginal reserve run by the colonial government of Victoria, which was made public in 1883. Kruger won more awards; a gold medal for the best collection of landscape views and another, for the best panoramic view of Geelong, at the Geelong Industrial and Juvenile Exhibition in 1879.

In March 1879 Kruger was photographing groups of Geelong residents, ensuring each person could easily be identified in his detailed views, as he did when photographing the Corio Bay rowing crew in November 1879. …

Kruger then settled in Geelong permanently, and his photography studio is registered on 29 December 1887 at Skene Street, in the Geelong suburb of Newtown. He created a collection in 1880 of twelve views of the streets and buildings of Geelong, winning him an award at the Melbourne International Exhibition (1880). The government of Victoria engaged him to photograph the Yan Yean Waterworks for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. Kruger gained commissions from house owners to photograph their homes, most famous of which was from Lady Loch, the wife of the Governor.

Kruger made three visits to the Queenscliff region in 1881, 1882 and 1885, capturing views to include the buildings of the settlement and its marine setting. On 15 February 1888, Kruger died of peritonitis (inflammation of the membranes of abdominal wall and organs). Large holdings of his work have been showcased at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Read more about Fred Kruger:

 

Unknown photographer. 'William Barak' 1876

 

Unknown photographer
William Barak
1876
National Archives of Australia, A1200, L22062

 

 

William Barak (c. 1824-1903) and Coranderrk

William Barak (or Beruk), was the last traditional ngurungaeta (elder) of the Wurundjeri-willam clan, first inhabitants of present-day Melbourne, Australia. He became an influential spokesman for Aboriginal social justice and an important informant on Wurundjeri cultural lore.

Barak was born in the early 1820s at Brushy Creek near present-day Croydon, in the country of the Wurundjeri people… Barak attended the government’s Yarra Mission School from 1837 to 1839. When he joined the Native Mounted Police in 1844, he was given the name of William Barak. He was Police Trooper No.19. In early 1863, Barak moved to Coranderrk Station, near Healesville, Victoria with about thirty others… Upon the death of Simon Wonga in 1875, Barak became the Ngurungaeta of the clan. He worked tirelessly for his people and was a successful negotiator on their behalf. He was a highly respected man and leader, with standing amongst the Indigenous people and the European settlers.

 

Coranderrk Station

Coranderrk Station ran successfully for many years as an Aboriginal enterprise, selling wheat, hops and crafts on the burgeoning Melbourne market. Produce from the farm won first prize at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1881; and other awards in previous years, such as 1872. By 1874, the Aboriginal Protection Board (APB) was looking for ways to undermine Coranderrk by moving people away due to their successful farming practices. Neighbouring farmers also wanted the mission closed as the land was now deemed ‘too valuable’ for Aboriginal people to occupy. Photographer Fred Kruger was commissioned to document the site and its inhabitants.

 

Coranderrk Petition

In the 1870s and ’80s, Coranderrk residents sent deputations to the Victorian colonial government protesting their lack of rights and the threatened closure of the reserve. A Royal Commission in 1877 and a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881 on the Aboriginal ‘problem’ led to the Aborigines Protection Act 1886, which required ‘half-castes under the age of 35’ to leave the reserve.

Activist William Barak and others sent a petition on behalf of the Aboriginal people of Coranderrk to the Victorian Government in 1886, which reads: “Could we get our freedom to go away Shearing and Harvesting and to come home when we wish and also to go for the good of our Health when we need it … We should be free like the White Population there is only few Blacks now rem[a]ining in Victoria, we are all dying away now and we Blacks of Aboriginal Blood, wish to have now freedom for all our life time … Why does the Board seek in these latter days more stronger authority over us Aborigines than it has yet been?”

As a result of the Aborigines Protection Act of 1886, around 60 residents were ejected from Coranderrk on the eve of the 1890s Depression. Their forced departure crippled Coranderrk as an enterprise, with only around 15 able-bodied men left to work the hitherto successful hop gardens. Almost half the land was reclaimed by government in 1893, and by 1924 orders came for its closure as an Aboriginal Station, despite protests from Wurundjeri returned servicemen who had fought in World War I.

Barak is now best remembered for his artworks, which show both traditional Indigenous life and encounters with Europeans. Most of Barak’s drawings were completed at Coranderrk during the 1880s and 1890s. They are now highly prized and exhibited in leading public galleries in Australia. His work is on permanent display in the National Gallery of Victoria Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square, Melbourne.”

Text from the “William Barak” and “Coranderrk” Wikipedia web pages.

 

Fred Kruger. 'David Barak at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station' c.1876

 

Fred Kruger (Australian born Germany, 1831-1888)
David Barak at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station
c.1876
Museum Victoria

 

 

“This small, carte de visite sized photograph says more to me than most of the other photographs in the exhibition put together. It is almost as though the photographer had a personal attachment and connection to the subject. This poignant (in light of following events) dark, brown-hued photograph shows the son of elder and leader William Barak about the age of 9 years old in 1876. In 1882, David fell ill from tuberculosis and arrangements were made to admit him to hospital in Melbourne. These were thwarted by Captain Page, secretary of the Aboriginal Protection Board, and Barak had to carry his sick child all the way from Coranderrk to Melbourne and the home of his supporter Anne Bon. David was admitted to hospital but died soon after, with his father not even allowed to be by his bedside. After David’s death there is a heavy sadness noticeable in Barak’s eyes (see the book First Australians by Rachel Perkins, Marcia Langton, p. 104).

Unlike other photographs of family groups taken at Coranderrk, Kruger places David front on to the camera in the lower 2/3 rds of the picture plane on his own, framed by the symmetry of the steps and door behind. David glasps his hands in a tight embrace in front of him (nervously?), his bare feet touching the earth, his earth. The only true highlight in the photograph is a white neckerchief tied around his throat. There is an almost halo-like radiance around his head, probably caused by holding back (dodging) during the printing process. Small, timid but strong, in too short trousers and darker jacket, this one image – of a child, a human being, standing on the earth that was his earth before invasion – has more intimacy than any other image Kruger ever took, even as he tried to engender a sense of intimacy with the environment.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan. Review of “‘Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes” at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne” on the Art Blart website 01/07/2012 [Online] Cited 08/04/2016.

 

Fred Kruger. 'Aboriginal cricketers at Coranderrk' c.1877

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Aboriginal cricketers at Coranderrk
c.1877
albumen silver photograph
13.3 x 18.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

Unknown photographer. '[A group of Aboriginal men at Coranderrk Station, Healesville]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
[A group of Aboriginal men at Coranderrk Station, Healesville]
Nd [perhaps c. 1895-1900 looking at the age of Barak]
Silver gelatin photograph
15.6 x 20.1cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

 

Studio portrait of sixteen Aboriginal men, five standing, five seated on chairs, the rest on the ground, all except two full face, wearing European dress. Barak back row 2nd left. Information provided by Aunty Joy Murphy, Wurundjeri Senior Elder confirming that Barak is correctly identified. Preferred title supplied by the Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Museum of Victoria.

 

Talma & Co. 'Barak, Chief of the Yarra Yarra Tribe. [Barak drawing a corroboree]' c. 1895-98

 

Talma & Co. (1893-1932) 119 Swanston St. Melbourne
Barak, Chief of the Yarra Yarra Tribe [Barak drawing a corroboree]
c. 1895-98
Gelatin silver photograph
13.3 x 8.5cm., on mount 22.7 x 16.5cm
Inscribed in ink on mount l.l.: From Mrs. A. Bon, / “Wappan”.
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

 

Barak working on a drawing attached to the wall of a vertical slab hut. There is a wooden picket fence at the right hand side.

 

William Barak (Yarra Yarra chief, 1824-1903) 'Aboriginal ceremony' c. 1880 - c. 1890

 

Barak (Yarra Yarra chief, 1824-1903)
Aboriginal ceremony
c. 1880 – c. 1890
Brown ochre and charcoal on cardboard
73.2 x 55.5cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

William Barak (Yarra Yarra chief, 1824-1903) 'Aboriginal ceremony, with wallaby and emu' c. 1880 - c. 1890

 

William Barak (Yarra Yarra chief, 1824-1903)
Aboriginal ceremony, with wallaby and emu
c. 1880 – c. 1890
Brown ochre and charcoal on cardboard
73.0 x 56.0cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

 

Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908)

Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), explorer, natural scientist and pioneer authority on Aboriginal culture and social organization, was born on 17 April 1830 at Nottingham, England, the oldest surviving son of William Howitt and his wife Mary, née Botham. He was educated in England, Heidelberg and University College School, London. In 1852, under the press of family needs, he went with his father and brother Charlton to Melbourne where they had been preceded in 1840 by William’s youngest brother Godfrey. A reunion was one purpose of the visit but William and his sons also intended to try their fortunes on the new goldfields. They did so with modest success at intervals in the next two years. The experience turned the course of Alfred’s life. He learned to live with confidence in the bush, and its natural phenomena, so strange and as yet so little studied, stimulated his mind to their scientific study. In 1854 his father and brother returned to England but Howitt elected to remain, thoroughly at home in the Australian scene.

Young and handsome, of short and wiry build and notably calm and self-possessed, he fulfilled his mother’s prophecy that ‘someday Alfred will be a backwoodsman’. For a time he farmed his uncle’s land at Caulfield but, unattracted by the life, turned again to the bush and as a drover on the route from the Murray to Melbourne made the passing acquaintance of Lorimer Fison. An experienced bushman and ardent naturalist, Howitt was sent in 1859 by a Melbourne syndicate to examine the pastoral potential of the Lake Eyre region on which Peter Warburton had reported rosily. He led a party with skill and speed from Adelaide through the Flinders Ranges into the Davenport Range country but found it desolated by drought and returned to warn his sponsors. His ability as a bushman and resourceful leader came to public notice when, after briefly managing a sheep station at Hamilton and prospecting in Gippsland, he took a government party through unexplored alpine country to gold strikes on the Crooked, Dargo and Wentworth Rivers. He was an obvious choice as leader when in 1861 the exploration committee of the Royal Society of Victoria decided to send an expedition to relieve or, as the worst fears sensed, to rescue Robert O’Hara Burke, William Wills, John King and Charley Gray. Howitt’s discharge of this assignment was exemplary. Without blunder or loss he twice led large parties on the long journey to Cooper’s Creek. He soon found King, the only survivor, and took him to a public welcome in Melbourne but avoided the limelight for himself. Then, at request, he returned to bring the remains of Burke and Wills to the capital for interment. On the second expedition he had explored a large tract of the Barcoo country.

For his services Howitt was appointed police magistrate and warden of the Omeo goldfields, and in 1863 began a distinguished career of thirty-eight years as a public official, twenty-six of them as magistrate. In 1889 he became acting secretary of mines and water supply and in 1895 commissioner of audit and a member of the Public Service Board. He retired in January 1902 on a pension but served on the royal commission which in 1903 examined sites for the seat of government of the Commonwealth, and was chairman of the royal commission on the Victorian coal industry in 1905-06.

Such a career would have sufficed an ordinary man but Howitt attained greater things within it. Physical and intellectual fatigue seemed unknown to him. ‘What are they?’ he asked drily at 75 when Fison inquired if he never felt the infirmities of old age. In his long magistracy he travelled enormous distances annually (in one year, it was said, 7000 miles [11,265 km]) on horseback throughout Victoria. He read while in the saddle and studied the natural scene with such assiduous care that from 1873 onward he began to contribute to official reports, scientific journals and learned societies papers of primary value on the Gippsland rocks. He pioneered the use in Australia of thin-section petrology and chemical analysis of rocks. His fundamental contribution was his discovery and exploration of the Upper Devonian series north of Bairnsdale. He also made important studies of the Lower Devonian volcanics in East Gippsland and compiled magnificent geological maps of the area. In botany his Eucalypts of Gippsland (1889) became a standard authority and he collected hundreds of varieties of ferns, grasses, acacias and flowering plants. But his greatest eminence came from his work in anthropology, which was his main interest and relaxation after 1872…

Read the full biography by W. E. H. Stanner. “Howitt, Alfred William (1830-1908),” on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website Volume 4, (MUP), 1972 [Online] Cited 09/04/2016.

 

Alfred William Howitt c. 1861

 

Alfred Howitt, the leader of the party to rescue Burke and Wills, circa 1861, from William Strutt album illustrating the Burke and Wills exploring expedition crossing the continent of Australia from Cooper’s Creek to Carpentaria, June 1861, DL PXX 3

 

Batchelder & O'Neill. 'Alfred William Howitt' c. 1863

 

Batchelder & O’Neill
Alfred William Howitt
c. 1863
Albumen silver carte-de-visite
9.0 x 5.2cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

 

Howitt full length in the photographers’ studio, leaning on a button-backed chair, wearing a three-piece winter suit, with a watch-chain and holding a pair of gloves in his right hand.

 

Batchelder & O'Neill. 'Alfred William Howitt' Nd

 

Batchelder & O’Neill
Alfred William Howitt
Nd
Albumen silver carte-de-visite
on mount 10.7 x 6.5cm approx.
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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