Coranderrk Petition

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Detail of Coranderrk petition, 1886
Source: Public Record Office Victoria
I much regret to have to inform you that the men are in a state of revolt.

— Rev. F P Strickland, 10 October 1881

Aboriginal people have fought for their land and their rights since the time of European arrival. Residents of Coranderrk Aboriginal Station sent deputations to the Victorian government during the 1870s–1880s, protesting against their lack of rights and the threatened closure of the settlement.

Located 50 km north-east of Melbourne, Coranderrk was established in 1863 as part of the ‘protectorate’ for these original inhabitants. But increasing pressure came from neighbouring farmers wanting the fertile land. From 1886, the government sought to integrate ‘half-castes’ into white society.

Activist William Barak and others sent this petition on behalf of the Aboriginal people of Coranderrk to the Victorian Government in 1886:

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?

Regardless of the residents’ protests, Coranderrk was scaled back. It continued as an Aboriginal reserve until 1924, when the remaining community was relocated to Lake Tyers in Gippsland. Healesville Sanctuary now occupies part of the original Coranderrk reserve.

Image Gallery

Coranderrk petition, 1886 A group of Aboriginal men at Coranderrk, Healesville Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, 1891 William Barak, about 1868

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