Posted: June 21st, 2022
Topic: History Of King Plates – Aboriginal
Pick a current Indigenous issue or a public policy that is related to Indigenous politics and state.
The history of king plate, 2018, describes the use of metal plates to honor Aboriginal peoples who were distinguished from the non-aboriginal population between the nineteenth and early twenty-century Australia.
Aboriginal plates were vital in colonial Australia because they helped foster social relations between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations.
Aboriginal plates were twice as large as the military gorgets.
Troy (1993) says that inscribed plates were presented to aboriginal people as an early practice by the European colonizers.
James Cook, a European Explorer, gave bronze medals along his voyages to the aboriginals. They were to be tied to their necks by ribbons.
Role Of King’ Plates
The wearing of gorgets was a way to be recognized and used as a symbol for authority.
The offering of gorgets was a way to honour the aboriginal people.
The metal plates called “gorgets” (or “king plates”) would be inscribed and worn around the neck with a chord or ribbon.
On the gorgets, honorary titles like “king or queen” might be inscribed.
It was customary to present a Gorget to Aboriginal men in positions of authority or leadership during the 1830’s.
They were also meant to show gratitude to the aboriginal people who helped save lives, guide the exploration parties, or are the last remaining members of a particular tribe.
King Bungaree had one of the oldest gorgets. It dates back 1815.
He was a well-known Sydney personality, so Governor Lachlan Macquarie created a gorget to him and his spouse (Troy 1994).
Macquarie presented more plates for the Aboriginal population to win their favor (McBryde (1989)).
Governor Lachlan had a significant impact on the civilization plans of Bungaree, who was also a key figure in the treatment of the Aboriginal population.
He wanted to show him the benefits of living in civilized surroundings, and he did this to make it easier for the Aboriginal population.
The Creation Of The Aboriginal Kings
The colonial government used the aboriginal communities’ leadership choices to influence the position of Aboriginal people as the dominant group (Babidge 2016).
They selected their leaders, conferred a title of gorget on them and made sure they were respected.
The colonialist’s criteria for selecting Aboriginal leaders was their ability to use the person’s loyalty and usefulness.
Bellingshausen (an explorer) stated that the government would use Aboriginal leaders to search for escape convicts.
Traditional Aboriginal culture did not recognize the importance of chieftaincy or kingship. The senior men were considered superior and capable to command respect.
When colonialists realized that the elder men were highly respected and had influence among their people, it was easy to form alliances with them and label them as chiefs and kings.
Some Aboriginal people were able to participate in the colony’s cash economy, while others ruled their colonies.
Aboriginal chiefs were chosen by non-aboriginal populations to establish various farming communities.
Mickey Johnson, for instance, was the head of New South Wales’ most fertile regions (Reece, 1967).
Billy Kelly received a gorget titled “King Of Broadwater” as a reward for his senior leadership role in the farming community at the Richmond River (Haigh & Goldstein 1982).
He was a leader in the community by leveraging their resources and promoting independence for his family.
He was a leader in his farming community.
Paddy, another leader within a farming community, was also named the “King Boobarrego” title (Haigh & Goldstein 1982).
The gorget was presented to him by a settler wanting to gain the power among his people.
Paddy is remembered for teaching his people how they could steal vegetables from their friend, a settler.
Paddy died in the age of between eighty-ninety and ninety.
His gorget can be found in the National Museum of Australia.
Expansion of the Pastoral Frontier
The expansion of the pastoral frontier during the colonial period in Australia was made possible by “gorgets”, the king’s plates.
The creation of “kings’ breastplates” was critical for gaining cooperation from the Aboriginal population, which was what the pastoralists realized.
Prentis (2011) stated that pastoralists treated Aboriginal people as illegal occupants of their land because they were eager to expand.
The pastoralists tried to force the aboriginal men into cooperating in order to keep peace and avoid any conflicts.
This was the standard way of gaining cooperation, since the gorgets were the primary tools for winning favor with the Aboriginal population.
The practice of creating “kings” and acquiring allies was continued into the nineteenth-century.
James Graham bought a station running into the Yeo Yeo Creek around 1843.
Because he believed honoring Aboriginal people would give him safety, he presented a crown to the most important person after he reached the station and acknowledged him as the king.
Graham chose Jemmy Craburma to lead the expedition and gave him the breastplate. (Troy, 1993).
Graham said that it was the only way for blacks to be recognized and gain authority.
Even in late 1800’s, gorgets could be used to maintain and protect relations between pastoralists (Aboriginal people) and pastoralists.
Because Aboriginal leaders were influential, the king plates presented them with added power within the constraints of the colonialists’ society (Troy, 1993).
The wearing of gorgets by the Aboriginal people was treated with authority.
The colonialists did not see this as a real power.
Therefore, Aboriginal people sometimes tended to defer to those who had received the gorgets.
Dawson and Graham, both pastoralists, suggested creating a workforce in the Aboriginal communities.
They had to make sure that the “king” or “chief”, in order for their plan to work, was able to be exploited.
Surprisingly the people bought the idea. He was able then to make them reliable labor sources.
Carl Lumholtz believes pastoral expansion caused the destruction of the Aboriginal population, particularly in Queensland.
Lumholtz first came in contact with Aboriginal people when he was on a trip to Queensland in 1880’s.
The pastoralists, who were hungry, deprived Queensland of the Aboriginal population.
Lumholtz stated that the whole process of creating a king was an attempt by pastoralists on Aboriginal land theft (Troy, 1993).
The gorgets were presented to the kings who were expected to encourage the Aboriginal population in their negotiations over land.
The Pastoralists then provided special privileges, food, tobacco, and clothing to the kings.
They were considered inconsequential nuisances if the kings were not needed anymore.
Lumholtz says that the “king’s plate” served as a meal ticket for Aboriginal people.
The gorgets also protected against discrimination.
Evans (2018). King plates were a proof that Aboriginal people were friendly to the colonists.
One example is William Robertson who was an Aboriginal and received a gorget from a Wellington resident.
The plate was intended to protect Robertson from being moved on or killed by local settlers.
Reactions of the Aboriginal People to the Metal Plates
The “king plates” were received differently by Aboriginal people.
Some believed that the plates represented honor, and that the recipients were heroes (Babidge 2016).
However, others viewed the plates as insults by non-Aboriginals.
Family historians are now trying to find more gorgets, primarily for information about the people and their places.
These gorgets have historical value.
Bill Murray, a Cowra Aboriginal member suggested that the plates of the King were necessary because they documented the names and places of the ancestors.
These gorgets are crucial in maintaining connections with individuals’ past.
Cowra Aboriginals share an ancestor named “Windradyne,” which was identified as a king.
Wiradjuri people are the majority of the population.
Windradyne led resistance against non-aboriginal colonists which led to several events (Evans (2018).
Thomas Brisbane, the governor declared martial law.
After making peace with Windradyne, the governor declared martial law at an annual Aboriginal feast.
Windradyne, who is revered as a leader among his people, was honored with a memorial in 1954. It was to mark his last chief among the Aboriginals.
The “kings’ plates” were a tool of honor, but also of exploitation.
Although the Aboriginals felt safe, it was clear that the non-Aboriginal population took advantage.
Because the king’s plate signifies honor, Aboriginals felt a closer connection to the non-Aboriginals.
The king’s plates were a great historical relic because they allowed for the discovery of other tribes.
The National Museum of Australia now holds plates that have been used to help people and students learn more about their ancestry, and the history of Australia.
The history of the Aboriginal family, the state and their relations.
Brass Crescents’ ‘Kings’.
Determining Aboriginal Labour Patterns in Colonial Queensland.
In Indentured labour in the British Empire (1834-1920), pp.
The Aborigines and New South Wales (Vol.
History of king plates (2018).
Guests of The Governor: Aboriginal residents who live in the first Government House.
Friends of First Government House Site.
Mickey Johnson – Aboriginal King of Illawarra.
The Concise Guide to Aboriginal History.
Feasts & Blankets: The Story of Some Early Attempts at Establishing Relations with the Aborigines, New South Wales 1814-1846.
Oceania: Archaeology, physical anthropology, and anthropology, 2(3), 193-206.
King plates: A history and description of Aboriginal gorgets.
Aboriginal Studies Press.