The caption on this stark painting on scrap board reads ‘Frank – Last Survivor of Ballarat Tribe. Died 22 – 09 - 1896.’ Notably, the day after Frank’s death, another Watha Wurrung (or Wathaurong) man, William Wilson or ‘King Billy’, died at Ballarat Base Hospital having also been considered ‘the last of the Ballarat tribe’. In any case the portrait reflects a trend in the late nineteenth century towards capturing images of Indigenous Australians as souvenirs of a race that was thought to be on the verge of inevitable extinction.
Three years after Frank’s death, anthropologists Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen wrote
the time in which it will be possible to investigate the Australian native tribes is rapidly drawing to a close, and though we know more of them than we do the lost Tasmanians, yet our knowledge is very incomplete, and unless some special effort is made, many tribes will practically die out without our gaining any knowledge of the details of their organisation or of their sacred customs and beliefs.
For the Wathaurong people, the gold rushes brought displacement and exposure to the devastating effects of introduced diseases. While some Indigenous peoples found pastoral employment or relocated to protectorate stations, others survived on the outskirts of Ballarat, trading with miners and settlers.
Coloured painting of an Indigenous man on wood. Caption Reads: ‘Frank - Last survivor of Ballarat Tribe. Died 22 -09 -1896.’ 27.5cm x 19.8cm
Prepared by: Ben Mountford
Created: 26 October 2006, Last modified: 8 November 2006