William Barak's name is used in the title of the institute to honour the memory of the Aboriginal leader William Barak.
William Barak was born into the Wurundjeri clan of the Woi wurung people in 1823, in the area now known as Croydon, in Melbourne. Originally named Beruk Barak, he adopted the name William after joining the Native Police as a 19 year old.
Barak was an activist, an artist, a cultural ambassador and an educator. In the years following white settlement, Barak played a major role in advocating for Aboriginal rights and protecting his people's culture.
With his cousin Simon Wonga, Barak worked to establish and protect the self-sufficient Aboriginal farming community Coranderrk, near Healesville and when his cousin died in 1875 he succeeded him as clan leader. Despite many negotiations and walks to parliament to plead his case the government took over half of the Coranderrk land in 1893 and by 1923 the people who were still living there were sent to Lake Tyers. At Coranderrk, where Indigenous ceremonies were banned, Barak used his paintings to teach and lead his people, passing on Aboriginal history and customs.
(Information from The Australian Dictionary of Biography)