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National Museum acquires historic document

12 FEBRUARY 2009

The National Museum of Australia has acquired an important historic document presented by an Aboriginal leader to a former Premier of Victoria in 1886.

The document, an illuminated address*, was presented by William Barak, a Wurundjeri Elder to former Victorian Premier Graham Berry at the Treasury Building in Melbourne in1886 to mark Berry's return to England.

As Premier, Berry earned the trust and confidence of the Wurundjeri people by supporting their move to secure their right to live at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station near present day Healesville.

The Wurundjeri Elder, William Barak was well aware of the elaborate etiquette of colonial era and used the illuminated address as a gesture of thanks to the departing Premier as well as a powerful political message to his successors.

"William Barak today stands as a monumental figure of his time, a diplomat and communicator who was called on to operate in a European world while defending the rights of his people," said Craddock Morton, Director of the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The National Museum is delighted to present a reproduction of the Barak illuminated address to Wurundjeri Elders in the Executive Council Chambers of the Old Treasury Building, Spring St, Melbourne, at 1pm today.

The presentation will happened in the same room where Barak presented the original document; descendants of the Wurundjeri men who were present in 1886 will be present on the day.

* An illuminated address is an elaborately scripted and illustrated written 'address' which was popular in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s to present to dignitaries on special occasions such as retirement or anniversaries. Barak's illuminated address perfectly bridged the two cultures in which he lived.

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