WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this site contains images and voices of deceased persons.

The Burraga Story

Our respects and thanks

We would like to pay our respects and thanks to the family of Ellen James nee Williams for their consultation and family permission to use Joe Anderson's name and name sake King Burraga.

The Burraga Foundation's establishment is in honour of Joe’s legacy and his work as an activist, leader and proud Aboriginal man. His story and inspiration transcends generations and supports all Australians in finding a greater understanding of Aboriginal Australia.

We would also like to thank Ellen Anderson’s great grandson Shayne Williams (son of Thomas Williams, grandson of Dolly Williams and great grandson of Ellen Anderson)  and Ross Fowler (son of Iris Fowler nee Dixon grandson of Ellen James nee Williams, great grandson of Dolly Williams and great great grandson of Ellen Anderson) who are both actively participating in the governance of the Burraga Foundation.

Joe Anderson - King Burraga

Joe Anderson was one of the first Aboriginal men to use film and the cinema to demand recognition for his people. He was filmed delivering a message to the people of Australia, standing on the banks of a tributary of the Georges River called Salt Pan Creek in 1933. Salt Pan Creek was densely colonised; nonetheless, it provided shelter to a nucleus of indigenous and undefeated people who reasserted their right to be heard in their own country. 

Joe’s mother Ellen Anderson and William Rowley owned the land on which Joe was filmed. There had never been any control by government over this camp nor over the Aboriginal families living on the land. As State Government pressure became ever more oppressive for Aboriginal people across NSW, the Salt Pan Camp became a beacon as a free community, attracting those who refused to live under the Protection Board's control. 

Joes’ message distributed by the 1933 Cinesound News broadcast reached audiences across the nation. Joe Anderson refused to be depicted as a relic from the past, nor did he make any concessions to the British who had invaded his country nearly 150 years before. Instead he made it clear that he was from the very contemporary present. Standing on sovereign land, looking directly at the camera, he began to deliver his dignified and impassioned plea to the audiences beyond: 

“Before the white man set foot in Australia, my ancestors had kings in their own right, and I, Aboriginal King Burraga, am a direct descendant of the royal line…” 

Joe’s forward thinking to utilise the most innovative and modern mediums to empower his people has transcended generations. Most importantly, within Joe’s message, he humbly states to all Australians “there are plenty of fish in the river for us all and land to grow all we want”. 

Joe’s use of modern technology to call on Aboriginal people to come together to be heard and further, to be represented in Federal Parliament is a beacon that still resonates today. Joe’s story and the plight of the Salt Pan Creek camp provides all Australians with insight into the displacement of Aboriginal peoples, the continuing call for Aboriginal people to be represented in parliament and for the acknowledgement of this land's oldest culture to inform and empower future generations.