New South Wales
WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
These are the breastplates annotated in King Plates: A History of Aboriginal Gorgets by Jakelin Troy (1993) as well as breastplates that have come into the National Museum of Australia's collection since the publication of the book. More breastplates will be progressively added.
We welcome feedback about any of the breastplates and/or additional breastplates.
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King Billy, King of the Barwon Blacks
1985.59.365 Edmund O Milne Collection
208 x 125 x 4
This gorget is sand-cast brass and has the founder's initials, E.G., incorporated into the casting on the posterior surface in the upper right horn. The simple emu and kangaroo design is naïve, almost crude. However, the piece is well proportioned and skilfully executed and the maker has taken the trouble to embellish the inscription and design with an infill of glossy black pitch. The style of the design and lettering is early twentieth century which is reinforced by a comment made by the collector, Edmund Milne (nda), which claimed that the gorget was 'modern'. King Billy was well known to Jimmie Barker whose memories of Billy are discussed in the text.
> Reactions of Aboriginal people to gorgets - memories of King Billy discussed by Jimmie Barker
Billy Kelly, King of Broadwater
1985.59.367 Edmund O Milne Collection
150 x 113 x 6
Billy Kelly's gorget is notable in that the style in which the emu and kangaroo motifs are drawn suggest the work of a graphic artist. The kangaroo is almost comically alive, scratching its side in a true-to-life kangaroo gesture. The slightly surprised-looking emu is also drawn in an animated fashion. Once again a xanthorrhoea is the token of Australian flora. The gorget is well executed with neatly bevelled edges. The style of the lettering and decoration suggest late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century manufacture.
> Creation of Aboriginal kings - more details about Billy Kelly
Charley York, Chief of Bullangamang
1985.59.370 Edmund O Milne Collection
198 x 131 x 12mm
This gorget is one of only two in the Museum's collection which has a coronet incorporated as part of the shape of the gorget. The coronet rises above the centre of the crescent like a crest above a coat of arms. The popular kangaroo and emu motifs support the crown and an escarbuncle or sunburst divides the inscription. This gorget is crudely shaped and worked. It was sawn and forged and suggests the work of a bush-trained blacksmith rather than a skilled craftsperson. The inscription is also rough and whoever executed the lettering almost ran out of space when writing Charley York's title: he began comfortably with a widely spaced 'Chief of' but ran into trouble and cramped the end of 'Bullangamang'. However, the well-worn and scratched appearance of the surfaces and the suspension holes suggest that the gorget was frequently used and handled.
Edmund Milne noted that the gorget was a 'very old plate, one of the first issues' and he obtained it from O Bruce Ryrie.  The style of lettering, design and generally aged appearance suggest Milne was correct in his assessment: 'beyond the fact that "Charley York" was one of the Upper Murrumbidgee Chiefs in the very early days, nothing can be gleaned'. 
On the Faunce blanket distribution list for Molonglo in 1841 there is an Aboriginal man listed who may be the same person: '"Charley Jock" native Name "Prongar" aged 45 with one wife'. Bullangamang is likely to be 'Bullanamang' which was the station of W Bradley, in the district of Murrumbidgee, New South Wales.  Hancock  has multiple references to William Bradley (died 1868) who owned a large section of the best grazing country in the Monaro, upper Murrumbidgee in the mid-nineteenth century.
1 E Milne Jr, Health Museum Breast Plates, list, manuscript, National Museum of Australia, EO Milne Collection file no 35/310, folio 165, nd.
2 E Milne Jr, nd.
3 WH Wells, A Geographical Dictionary; or Gazetteer of the Australian Colonies, 1848, The Council of the Library of New South Wales, Sydney, 1848, p. 100.
4 WK Hancock, Discovering Monaro: a Study of Man's Impact on His Environment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1972.
Dicky, King of Clyde Road
1985.59.375 Edmund O Milne Collection
140 x 100 x 5
This sawn brass gorget is decorated with the common motifs of emu and kangaroo with floral embellishments of xanthorrhoea and what looks like a gum tree. The style of lettering and decoration suggest a mid-nineteenth century date. A letter from Senior Constable M. Keating of Batemans Bay Police Station to Milne stated that Dicky died about 1860, which reinforces the mid-century date for the gorget.
Keating's letter provides all the information found to date about Dicky. Both he and his wife Janie were buried in Christian cemeteries in the Batemans Bay district and their headstones may still exist. Janie came from near Coomee's country and they may have been known to each other. Coomee remembered her grandmother's account of the first English ships to sail along the south coast and Janie remembered her mother's account of the same ships. In addition, Janie remembered the first contact between Aboriginal people and colonists at Broulee. Milne  may have combined Janie's accounts with those of Coomee in creating his dramatic account of the British colonisation of the south coast of New South Wales.
After some considerable time, I have only been able to glean the following about Dickey's history, which I trust will be a little towards your collection. ... Dickey was King of the Clyde River, over 50 years ago, and ruled the country embracing Moruya, Bateman's Bay Clyde River to Braidwood. His term of reign was peaceful, he was of a very peaceful disposition, given mostly to hunting and fishing, and was generally known to the tribe as 'Pretty Dickey'. ... He died over 50 years ago, and is buried on the bank of the Clyde River, near Nelligen, and was somewhere about 90 years of age when he died. Dickeys old Queen, Janie, died here on the 6th of December 1908, and was buried in the Catholic Cemetary [sic] at Batemen's Bay. She used to say that her mother remembered the coming of Captain Cook, and she herself could remember the landing of the first white people at Broulee. 
1 EO Milne, 'The passing of the lithic people: a story of the coming of white wings to Australia', Life, 1 April 1916, pp 300-304.
2 Keating, M, Letter from M Keating, police station on Bateman's Bay, 2 December 1910 to E Milne Esq, National Museum of Australia, EO Milne Collection file no 85/310, 1910.
Tommy, King of Gongolgon
1985.59.366 Edmund O Milne Collection
202 x 128 x 8
Budd Billy II, King of Jarvis Bay
1985.59.373 Edmund O Milne Collection
1975 x 128 x ?; chain approximately 440
This is a simple brass gorget with only an inscription for embellishment. However, it is notable because it is the only gorget from the Museum's collection for which there is a known photograph of it being worn by the person to whom it was presented. In a rustic setting, Budd Billy strikes a semi-formal pose beside his seated wife, Mary Carpenter, both of whom are smartly dressed. Budd Billy holds a club and his wife nurses her dog on her lap. Billy wears his gorget on a chain around his neck and a medallioned fob chain pinned either side of his vest with safety pins. Edmund Milne, who collected Budd Billy's gorget, pasted the photograph into his album with the caption, 'Budd Billy' and his Wangan/Last King and Queen of Jervis Bay 1904'. 
The name 'Budd Billy' is an Anglicisation of madbili meaning 'possum-skin rug'. The word was part of the vocabulary of the Sydney language [2 and 3], and probably other coastal New South Wales languages. The word also entered the vocabulary of New South Wales Pidgin which became an Australia-wide language in the nineteenth century. [4 and 5]
1 EO Milne, Edmund O Milne's photograph album, National Museum of Australia, Milne Library item No. 11, nd.
2 J Troy, The Sydney Language, the author, Canberra, 1993.
3 J Troy, 'The Sydney Language' in McGregor, W (ed.), Macquarie Aboriginal Words: a dictionary of words from Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, Macquarie Library, Sydney, 1994.
4 J Troy, 'Australian Aboriginal Contact with the English Language in New South Wales: 1788-1845', Pacific Linguistics, B-103, 1990.
5 J Troy, 'Melaleuka: a History and Description of New South Wales Pidgin', PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1995.
> text illustration 32