Rev. John Green and the People of Coranderrk Station

There are stories you find that you wonder how they have ever been kept a secret. The story of Scottish preacher man John Green, described as a

“Devout Christian man, yet a gentle and understanding man. He was a freak, he had almost no prejudices, whether, a black or white or whatever. There were few people around like Green…

He transcended the popular racist mindset, he had full faith in the aboriginal people, their community, their capabilities and what they were able to achieve.”

I discovered John Green in episode three (Freedom For Our Lifetime) of “The First Australians” on SBS online. He is an amazing and inspirational example of an incarnational missionary. He gave his life for the people he loved, the Wurundjeri Aboriginal nation near Melbourne Vic around 1860 and beyond.

Green stood with Simon Wonga and Barrack, leaders of the people whilst they asked for just a portion of their own land back. They gained victory as they were given what they called Coranderrk Station, named after a tree growing nearby. They claimed the land as their own, they set up their own settlement, independent, very unique at the time. Although the government continued to hold their finances and dictate much of what happened on the station they were given local right to govern. The model Green helped them establish was so successful that others began. But none with the same ‘feel’ as Coranderrk station, others were ruled over by white fellas, and you had to ‘convert’ to Christianity before being allowed on the land, Green allowed the aboriginals the right to choose, it was their land wasn’t it?

After some years of very successful lifestyle the government decided to  set up a brewery at Coranderrk, growing the grain and everything on site with promised return of profits into a new hospitalal.

This was the beginning of the end for the settlement because;

1. They put a white fella boss over Wonga, Barack and Green.

2. They refused to pay any money to the Aboriginals for their work.

“The board is under no obligation to pay any aboriginal. They must be attentive and civil to all persons or they will be sent away.”

The government sold the entire project out from under Wonga, Barack and Green and their community and kept the $1m – a promise broken.

The grain gardens drained the energy of the community and of Green. He was forced to resign and struggled as he was the meat in the sandwich between two races of people. Green found himself living just outside the settlement banned from entering by government officials who saw him as a threat, he allowed the aboriginals too much self governing rights, too much freedom!

One aboriginal man says “Green had lost hope with Government officials, he had no friends there. he was a black man on the inside, all his friends were aboriginal. He lived with them and let them live in and run their own community”

By now, the government ruled the town, Wonga dies, some say of a broken hert. His friend Green at his side despite not being allowed there. Coranderrk was a pain to manage for the government as the locals all had tasted self rule and were quite independent thinkers and doers. So they decide to sell the land and just get rid of the problem. After massive appeal to the government the local aboriginals were given the land and their good friend Green back in their community.

In 1886 the “Protection Board” makes a new law that begun what we now know as “The Stolen Generation”, it is called the Half Cast Act. If you were not a full blood aboriginal you were removed from any settlement, more than halving the populations of the communities and the governments budget for them. Children and grandchildren, aunties and uncles mothers and fathers, families were destroyed and torn apart.

The beginning of the end for Corunderrk. This was genocide. Absorbtion of aboriginals into mainstream white Australia. Although at this time Corunderrk was given over to the Aboriginal people, the people, their heart, was taken from them and Corunderrk collapsed.

We hear nothing of what became of Green in these latter years, we hear much of the leader of the Corunderrk people – Barack, and so we should! It seems fitting that the ledgend of this man Green and his ministry to a wonderful people seems to fade away. That the story finished as a tribute the the last great leader Barack as he drags himself, crippled, the 60 mile journey yet again to Melbourne to plead for his people.

At that time in Victoria it is suggested about 300 Aboriginal people remained. Today there are approx        30 000 and traditional ceremony and teachings have begun again as young aboriginals reconnect with the stories of Wonga and Barack…oh and a white fella named Rev, John Green.

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23 thoughts on “Rev. John Green and the People of Coranderrk Station

  1. A true tragic tale of our racist country… it is so great to hear of the persisant light in times of darkness… that pesky light just won’t go away, could it be the breaking though of the Kingdom?

  2. I was flicking through google when I found this. I am currently starting a PhD on John Green and the antecedents of his ability to take Indigenous chn to Corranderrk. I would love to hear from you or anyone regarding the subject. Thanks.
    Cheers
    Kerrie

    1. G’day Kerrie, I work for the Bible Society and an Aboriginal Pastor in Melbourne has asked if there is any Scripture translated into the Wurundjeri language which I believe was the language of many of the people that John Green worked with. I was wondering if, in your research, you have discovered whether Green did any Bible translation?
      Kind regards,
      Paul

      1. Hi Paul,
        I am aware of translations Green made & he did translate some Aboriginal scripture. if you are interested contact me again & we will organize something.
        Thanks,
        Kerrie

  3. The story of Daniel and Janet Matthews at Maloga mission is also very interesting as it echoes the tale of Coranderrk. They too dedicated their life to helping a persecuted people.

  4. Kerrie, I would be happy to hear from you in relation to John Green. John Green was my great great grandfather.

    1. Jan, I would love to speak to you. My friend is William Barak’s Great great great neice and is organising a festival at Coranderrk to showcase its history. I know she would LOVE to be able to speak with you.

      1. Hi Shelley,
        Just catching up & you said your friend is William Barak’s g.g.g. neice. The festival at Coranderrk has that been put on or is it being the one planned for around April 2013? I would be interested in speaking further.
        Thanks,
        Kerrie

  5. Unbelievable Jan,

    Sorry it has taken me so long to email you back.

    I would love to get in touch with you,

    I will look foward to further contact.

    Thanks,

    Cheers,

    Kerrie

    1. Why do you always say “Cheers, Kerrie”?? People know it’s you so why say it??
      Anyway, John Green is an amazing man!! You can quote me on that if need be 🙂
      good luck with your PhD 🙂 but i think it may’ve passed but OH WELL 🙂 i hope you do/did well in it 🙂

      1. J. Green was an amazing man-can you share some more information Selena? would be very interested.
        Thanks,
        Kerrie

      2. Well, Kerrie, glad to hear that you’re interested in what I have to say. 😀 Basically, he was an amazing man because he helped Aborigines. Remember, you can quote me on this 😀 I’d love to be apart of PhD philosophy.
        Cheers,
        Selena

  6. would be very interested in seeing some of the images you locate amongst your search .. there was over 3000 images catalogued once upon a time .. my mob was put in Coranderrk .. would be great to keep up with your work !
    all the best in your studies

    1. Hi Aymmii,
      Thanks!
      Are you refering to the Green family album? These images have been used quite extensively in the past. Have not been able to locate any more authentic diaries, letters or photographs of Green’s or his wife Mary-have you or your family got any ideas?
      Will keep in touch.
      Regards,
      Kerrie

  7. Hi,
    John Green is my husbands G Grandfather. His dad just went to a memorial or some sort of service in Healsville March 2013. Both my husband and I are very interested in John Green’s ventures and his great love for the people of coranderrk. We live in the USA,

  8. Hello Kerrie, Are there any of John Greens Diaries available to read ?.. I am searching for evidence of when my Great Grandfather Phinnimore Jackson was taken to Coranderrk and where he was taken from and with whom .. I know he was born at Mount Hope and was around 13 yo at the time of the 1881 enquiry. Would appreciate any information you may be able to give as I have hit a dead end 😦

    Cheers
    Ursula Jackson O’Brien

    1. Hi Ursula,
      Thanks for emailing me. Unfortunately I came to a dead end with many of my leads as well. Phinnimore Jackson was a very prominent person (child really) in the 1881 enquiry. I have looked & searched for J,. Greens diaries & letters to no avail. Apparently they all were burnt, but I have one more source which I am trying to reach but it takes time. I persume you have copies of the Annual Reports (Central Board Victorian colony) 1859-1870’s & the 1881 enquiry which comes as a separate report. Phinnimore was called to give evidence. I am quite sure, but maybe wrong as it is sometime difficult to check out what you discover is just hearsay or direct evidence that Phinnimore was brought to Coranderrk by J. Green from Mt Hope in the late 1860s-early 70’s. Sorry I have not been much use to you, but I will contact you if anything comes up. Cheers, Kerrie

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