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Burnum Burnum (Harry Penrith)

(1936 to 1997)

Harry Penrith

Source: National Archives of Australia

Burnum Burnum, earlier known as Harry Penrith, of Woiworung and Yorta Yorta heritage, was born at Wallaga Lake on the south coast of New South Wales. He was taken from his family and placed in the United Aboriginals Mission Home at Bomaderry and later at the Kinchela Boys Home.

As a student at the University of Tasmania in the 1960s, Harry Penrith was involved in the campaign for the removal of Truganini's remains from the Museum and their reburial. He was an active participant in the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander conferences, convening an Aboriginal subcommittee in 1968 to seek ways of effectively communicating Indigenous views to government.

In the 1970s, Penrith took the name of his great-great-grandfather, Burnum Burnum McCrae, a Wurundjeri warrior. He is particularly remembered for planting the Aboriginal flag on English soil at Dover and symbolically taking possession of England on behalf of Australian Aborigines, a strategy designed to challenge colonial Eurocentric thinking.

Further reading

John Ramsland, Burnum Burnum, Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2022

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