Ken Colbung

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Kenneth Desmond Colbung AM MBE (2 September 1931 – 12 January 2010), also known by his indigenous name Nundjan Djiridjarkan, was an Aboriginal Australian leader from the Noongar people who became prominent in the 1960s. He was appointed an MBE and an AM for his service to the Aboriginal community.[1][2][3]


Colbung was born on the Moore River settlement.[4] His mother died when he was six, and he was then taken to live at Sister Kate’s Home for Children.[4] He worked for a time as a stockman.[5] He joined the Australian Army in 1950, and served in Japan and in the Korean War.[6]

He was made a Justice of the Peace in 1980.[7] Amongst his positions, Colbung was also deputy chairperson (1978-1984) and then chair (1984-1990) of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. He also had close links with the Western Australian Museum, and worked with them on their representations of Aboriginal issues for over thirty years.[8]

He died after a short illness on 12 January 2010. He was 78.[9][10]


Colbung campaigned for the recognition of cultural and human rights for Aboriginal Australians, and was involved in the Australian Black Power Movement of the 1960s.[6] He was instrumental in the development of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 for the protection and preservation of material of cultural significance.[6]

Colbung became particularly known for his leading role in ensuring that the severed head of his ancestor, the Noongar warrior Yagan, was repatriated from Britain to Australia in 1997.[11]


  1. ^ Colbung, Ken; Bunbury, Bill (1984), [Interview with Ken Colbung], retrieved 4 April 2019
  2. ^ Beale, Kelly (1982), The land : an interview with Ken Colbung, retrieved 4 April 2019
  3. ^ Colbung, Ken; ABC-TV (Australia) (2004), Ken Colbung, retrieved 4 April 2019
  4. ^ a b Strutt, Jessica (13 January 2010). "Ken Colbung dies". The West Australian. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  5. ^ Thomson, Chris (22 January 2010). "Nyoongar activist Ken Colbung farewelled". WA Today. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Strutt, Jessica (22 January 2010). "Crowd gathers to remember Colbung". The West Australian. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  7. ^ Turnbull, Paul. Hubert, Jane. Fforde, Cressida, 1969- (2002). The dead and their possessions repatriation in principle, policy and practice. Routledge. ISBN 0-203-16577-2. OCLC 1096839733.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Mr Ken Colbung, Fellow of the Western Australian Museum". Western Australian Museum. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  9. ^ Prominent Aboriginal elder Ken Colbung dies, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 13 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Indigenous leader Ken Colbung, the calm amid tumult, dies at 79.(Local)", The Australian (National, Australia), News Limited: 5, 14 January 2010, retrieved 4 April 2019
  11. ^ Barrass, Tony (14 January 2010). "Aboriginal leader Ken Colbung, the calm amid the tumult, dies". The Australian. Retrieved 29 November 2019.


  • Colbung, Ken (1996). "About the Author". Yagan: The Swan River "Settlement". Australia Council for the Arts.
  • Woenne, Susan Tod (1979). "Ken Colbung, The Catalyst". In Hunt, Lyall (ed.). Westralian Portraits. Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-157-6.
  • Abercrombie, Thomas J. (1982). Grosvenor, Melville Bell (ed.). "Fair Winds and Full Sails: Perth". National Geographic. Washington D.C., United States of America.

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