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Bungaree, late chief of the Broken Bay tribe, Sydney

William Fernyhough1836

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
Canberra, Australia

Bungaree (c. 1775–1830) was the best-known Sydney Indigenous identity of the early nineteenth century. A man of Guringai descent, Bungaree arrived in Sydney from Broken Bay in the 1790s and, as Bennelong had done, used acquaintanceship with the British to bolster his own status and as an opportunity to explore new territory. In 1799, he travelled as far north as present-day Brisbane with Matthew Flinders and joined him again in 1802 as a member of the Investigator expedition, thereby becoming the first Aboriginal person to circumnavigate Australia. In 1817, Bungaree took part in the surveying voyage led by Phillip Parker King, who considered him ‘sharp, intelligent’ and ‘of much service to us in our intercourse with the natives’. Governor Lachlan Macquarie also valued Bungaree as an intermediary and hoped that he would act as an example to his compatriots. To this end, Macquarie set aside land for Bungaree and his people, hoping to encourage the adoption of ‘civilised’ ways. As explained by the Russian explorer, Faddei Bellingshausen, who visited Sydney in 1820, Macquarie gave Bungaree ‘a specially built little house with a garden’, as well as a fishing boat, clothes, and farming equipment to ‘turn the natives of New Holland from their nomadic existence and to accustom them to a fixed abode’. Bungaree became well known for his wit, mimicry and his practice of extending a welcome to ships entering Sydney Harbour. He was typically seen wearing a second- hand military hat and jacket, and the gorget – inscribed ‘Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe’ – given to him by Macquarie in 1815. Bungaree was the subject of several portraits, created by artists including Charles Rodius and Augustus Earle, whose circa 1826 painting of Bungaree was the basis for the first lithograph printed in the colony. This portrait is from A Series of Twelve Profile Portraits of the Aborigines of New South Wales, published soon after the arrival in Sydney of printmaker William Henry Fernyhough (1809–1849) in 1836. Portraits such as these catered to the curious but not uncommon belief in theories of physiognomy and phrenology and were therefore valued as ‘accurate’ depictions of the characteristics of their subjects. They would also have appealed to colonists as affordable souvenirs of colonial life.

Details

  • Title: Bungaree, late chief of the Broken Bay tribe, Sydney
  • Creator: William Fernyhough
  • Creator Lifespan: 1809 - 1849
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Date Created: 1836
  • Physical Dimensions: w18.6 x h26.6 cm (Sheet)
  • Provenance: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Gift of Dr Robert Edwards AO 1999 Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
  • Type: Prints
  • External Link: Further information
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

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