Three mosaic hands were created by artists from the Exchange Art Studio at Merri Community Health Services as a contribution to the Recognise campaign. The hands were presented at the NAIDOC Week event at the Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House.
Each hand displays the name of a significant individual in the reconciliation journey: Simon Wonga, William Barak and the Reverend John Green worked together at Coranderrk.
Corranderrk mission was an Aboriginal reserve outside Melbourne near Healesville. The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Board granted it to Aboriginal people in 1863 after Simon Wonga and William Barak had led a group there in search of land where they could settle. The community built up a village of a school, a bakery, a butcher, houses and a successful farm.
Non-Aboriginal settlers on nearby lands grew to see the land as valuable. During the 1870s and 1880s the Victorian Aboriginal Protection Board determined that the Aboriginal people would be moved to another reserve. The Half Caste Act was passed in 1886. This legislation required ‘half castes under the age of 35’ to leave the mission. Very few able bodied people were left to work the land and half of it was taken away in 1893. In 1924, despite protests from Aboriginal people, the mission closed.
The land was sold in 1948. In 1998 with the help of the Indigenous Land Corporation, the descendents of Coranderrk purchased a portion of the land that had been taken from them.
Simon Wonga. 1824-1875. He was the Ngurangaeta or the head person of the Wurundjeri people and the leader of Coranderrk. With the Reverend John Green, he founded and built Coranderrk mission. This was a bold and desperate move at a time when the Aboriginal population was under immense stresses.
William Barak. c.1820s-1903. He was the cousin of Simon Wonga, and at his death in 1875, Barak became the Ngurangaeta and leader of Coranderrk. He led the Wurundjeri people through the chaotic times of the Gold Rush. He walked from Coranderrk to Melbourne to appeal for the rights of his people and spoke at the Royal Commission in 1877. He was also an important Aboriginal artist.
Reverend John Green was the first superintendent of Coranderrk. He was respected by the Aboriginal people and worked with them to develop the mission. He was forced to resign in 1877 and bought a farm adjoining the mission where he remained friends with the Aboriginal people until his death in 1908.
Margaret Bold created the Simon Wonga mosaic hand. She used earth colours to reflect Aboriginal people’s connection with the land. She found the project a great learning process. It taught her a lot about Aboriginal ancestry and history.
Charles Quinn created the William Barak mosaic hand. He was honoured to work on this piece. It was an opportunity to reflect on the owners of the land we live on. As he worked on the hand, he pictured William Barak fighting for equal rights.
Nita Trevor created the Reverend John Green mosaic hand. She learnt about Reverend John Green. He was a really humble person who helped people who were mistreated, in particular, Aboriginal people. She chose blue for her hand to reflect the marine theme of the mural. Nita was honoured to be part of the Recognise project.
- Coranderrk Mission, Simon Wonga – State Library of Victoria resources
- Coranderrk – ABC
- Coranderrk, Simon Wonga, William Barak – Wikipedia
- Coranderrk – eMelbourne: the city past and present
- William Barak: The history of one of the greatest men of this area… by Aunty Joy Murphy
- Broome, Richard. 2006. ‘“There were vegetables every year Mr Green was here”: Right behaviour and the struggle for autonomy at Coranderrk Aboriginal reserve’. History Australia 3 (2): pp. 43.1–43.16.