Coranderrk - Photo by James Henry

Coranderrk – the forgotten fight for land

In The Arts and Expression by LivingNowLeave a Comment

The forgotten fight for land against the Aboriginal Protection Board

Coranderrk premiered to critical acclaim at Belvoir in 2013, enjoyed a 2014 sell-out season at Northcote Town Hall and returns re-written and remounted for the 2017 national tour.

Touring nationally from 18 April to 7 July

Written by Andrea James & Giordano Nanni, Directed by Eva Grace Mullaley. Starring Trevor Jamieson, Mathew Cooper, Ebony McGuire & Jesse Butler.


In the neglected storehouse of Australian history sits this definitive story.  At a Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881, the men and women of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve went head-to-head with the Aboriginal Protection Board. Their goal was both simple and revolutionary – to be allowed to continue the brilliant, self-sustaining farming community they had established on the scrap of country left to them.

William Barak, the Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri

William Barak, the Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri with younger boys at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station.
Photographer: Unknown. Photographed c. 1890
Source: Museum Victoria XP2268

Coranderrk, which premiered to critical acclaim at Belvoir in 2013 and a sell-out season at the Northcote Town Hall in 2014, returns re-written and remounted for a national tour presented by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and Belvoir with Regional Arts Victoria. Coranderrk will tour across Victoria, NSW then to Canberra, Toowoomba and Darwin from 18 April to 7 July.

This incarnation of Coranderrk stars one of Australia’s most recognisable faces of theatre, film and TV, Trevor Jamieson in the lead role, alongside Matthew Cooper, Ebony McGuire and Jesse Butler.

The production, which is inspired by transcripts of the 1881 Inquiry, revives the voices of all those, black and white, who fought for a better compact between the country’s oldest and newest inhabitants – three dozen of them from 136 years ago, speaking for themselves, directly to us, as though the question at hand remains unanswered today.

The Coranderrk station was established 154 years ago in 1863 by surviving members of Kulin clans who had been displaced from their lands by the advancement of European colonisation. They settled outside of present-day Healesville, Victoria and established a thriving farming community. As white farmers began to settle in the area they lobbied to have the people of Coranderrk removed from the valuable farming land they were cultivating.

Family portrait of Caroline Morgan and her sons at Coranderrk

Family portrait of Caroline Morgan and her sons at Coranderrk.
Photographer: Fred Kruger (c. 1876)
Source: Museum Victoria XP1860

Faced with the prospect of being dispossessed of their land again, the men and women of Coranderrk mounted an unprecedented campaign. They wrote letters to Melbourne’s newspapers, petitions to Ministers, and formed deputations to the Chief Minister by walking into Melbourne, appropriating the power of the written word and white political discourse to demand justice, dignity and self-determination. A Parliamentary Inquiry was appointed in 1881 to investigate the management of Coranderrk and decide upon the future of the station and its inhabitants.

This special production pays tribute to the resilience and adaptability of a people who rose to the challenge despite the odds, appropriating the power of the written word to make their own voices ring loud and clear.

A collaboration between leading Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, researchers, education experts and community members, Coranderrk aims to encourage a shared understanding of the past between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Running Time: 70-minutes no interval

About ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

ILBIJERRI is Australia’s leading and longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Company. We create challenging and inspiring theatre creatively controlled by Indigenous artists. Each year we travel to national, regional and remote locations across Australia, and the world. Our collaborative relationships with communities and artists are at the heart of our creative process and all our work empowers and enlightens our audiences.

ILBIJERRI would like to thank Aunty Joy Murphy and the descendants of William Barak and Coranderrk for allowing us to tell their story.

Warnings: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences are warned that this production contains images of deceased persons

Production credits

Sound Designer: James Henry
Audio Visual Designer: Keith Deverell
Original AV Design: Peter Worland
Set Designers: Brynna Lowen & Tegan Evans
Original Set Design: Ruby Langton-Batty & Ralph Myers
Lighting Designer: Tegan Evans
Costume Designer: Brynna Lowen
Production Manager: Sarah Wong
Stage Manager: Brock Brocklesby

Tour dates


18 April 2017 – The National Theatre, Melbourne
20 April 2017 – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat
21 to 22 April 2017 – Whitehorse Performing Arts Centre, Nunawading (SOLD OUT)
27 April 2017 – The Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool
29 April 2017 – Wesley Performing Arts & Cultural Centre, Horsham
2 May 2017 – Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
4 May 2017 – The Cube, Wodonga
6 May 2017 – Riverlinks, Eastbank Centre, Shepparton
9 May 2017 – ESSO BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre, Sale
11 May 2017 – Latrobe Performing Arts Centre, Traralgon
13 May 2017 – Plenty Ranges Arts & Convention Centre, South Morang
16 May 2017 – Cardinia Cultural Centre, Pakenham
18 May 2017 – Altona Theatre
20 May 2017 – Frankston Arts Centre
23 May 2017 – Drama Theatre, Monash University Academy of Performing Arts, Clayton
24 May 2017 – Clocktower Centre, Moonee Ponds
26 to 27 May 2017 – Footscray Community Arts Centre
30 May 2017 – Kyneton Town Hall
1 to 3 June 2017 – Geelong Performing Arts Centre

Australian Capital Territory

14 to 15 June 2017 – Canberra Theatre Centre

New South Wales

17 June 2017 – Orange Civic Theatre
20 June 2017 – Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre
21 June 2017 – Cessnock Performing Arts Centre
24 to 26 June 2017 – The Art House, Wyong
28 June 2017 – Riverside, Parramatta
30 June to 1 July 2017 – Northern River Performing Arts, Lismore


5 July 2017 – Empire Theatre, Toowoomba

Northern Territory

7 July 2017 – Darwin Entertainment Centre

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