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King Plates by Jakelin Troy

This Aboriginal breastplates website is based on Jakelin Troy’s book King Plates: A History of Aboriginal Gorgets. The book was co-published by the National Museum and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in 1993.

In 2009, with the book out of print and the hope of reaching a broader audience, the original book text with minor revisions, was published online. The website included additional objects and information based on the Museum’s growing collection and research.

The version you are seeing here was published in 2020, after the Museum redeveloped its website.

Book cover titled 'KING PLATES. A HISTORY OF ABORIGINAL GORGETS' by Jakelin Troy. - click to view larger image
King Plates cover featuring portrait of Bungaree

In 2009, the decision to publish online created challenges and opportunities. One of the challenges was the need to retype the entire volume — the original digital files used formats and required hardware that were obsolete.

There were also editorial challenges:

  • Terminology: Troy chose to use the terms ‘king plates’ or ‘gorgets’. The Museum prefers the term ‘breastplates’. The Museum opted for compromise: where Troy’s text remains true to the original, new content uses the Museum’s preferred terminology.
  • Physical descriptions of breastplates: Troy chose to use the heraldic convention of assigning left and right from the point of view of a breastplate wearer. See 'Explanation of terms' below for a diagram explaining this. The Museum assigns left and right from the point of view of an onlooker. To avoid confusion we have edited Troy’s text to conform to the Museum’s convention.

The 2020 version of the website has a new structure, subheadings and updated images. It also has a new collection overview and more links between pages and the Museum's Collection Explorer database.

Content by source

  • List of breastplates — 1993 with updates in 2009
  • Collection overview — new in 2020, by David Kaus, 2017 (replacing 2009 Introduction by Michael Pickering)
  • About the book and website — new in 2020 incorporating the 2009 Preface and 1993 Foreword, and Acknowledgements
  • Introduction — 1993 introduction by author Jakelin Troy (replacing an introduction by Michael Pickering in 2009), and the 1993 Explanation of terms
  • Chapters: Introduction (History of king plates in 2009) to Epilogue (Epilogue and bibliography in 2020) — 1993 (Language teacher rewarded incorporated in Service rewards and Bungaree and Matora changed to Bungaree and Gooseberry in 2020)
  • Other Aboriginal breastplates — 1993, moved to List of plates in 2020
  • Epilogue and bibliography — 1993 and 2009, separate pages in 2009, merged in 2020
  • Resources — 2009, moved to Epilogue and bibliography in 2020


We hope Aboriginal breastplates is a valuable resource and that you will help us to improve it. Contact us with suggestions, comments, images, annotations and corrections via our feedback form.


King Plates: A History of Aboriginal Gorgets by Jakelin Troy (1993)

This book began as a consultancy undertaken in 1989, by Jakelin Troy, to catalogue the National Museum of Australia’s collection of Aboriginal gorgets. Curators at the Museum and the then Director, Kaye Dal Bon, decided that enough information was collected during the consultancy to warrant publishing the catalogue. A manuscript was prepared, in 1990, for publication by the Museum.

The book focused on the Museum’s collection rather than the broad sweep of all gorgets. However, in 1991, the Museum decided to produce the work as a book with a broader focus than its own collection and to publish with Aboriginal Studies Press.

Jakelin Troy was brought back on contract in 1992, under the direction of Dr Luke Taylor, Senior Curator, Gallery of Aboriginal Australia, to produce a final manuscript, in coooperation with the editor at Aboriginal Studies Press, Stephanie Haygarth.

The National Museum of Australia and Aboriginal Studies Press produced this book in 1993 as one of the Museum’s initiatives for the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. It is hoped that the book will help promote understanding of and further research into Aboriginal history.

Margaret Coaldrake
National Museum of Australia


King Plates: A History of Aboriginal Gorgets by Jakelin Troy (1993)

Many people, institutions and organisations helped in the writing and production of this book. Sincere thanks are offered to:

  • Peter Aitken (Australian War Memorial)
  • Jacqueline G Beevers (British Library)
  • Ysola Best (Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture)
  • Lesley Broomfield (Australian Museum)
  • Phillip Clarke (South Australian Museum)
  • Sylvia Carr (National Library of Australia)
  • Corinne Collins (National Library of Australia)
  • Helen Cooke (prehistorian)
  • Michael O’Hanlon (Museum of Mankind, London)
  • Kaye Dal Bon (former Director of the National Museum of Australia)
  • Stephanie Haygarth (Aboriginal Studies Press)
  • Kate Irvine (Mitchell Library)
  • Amanda Johnson (National Parks and Wildlife Service, Mudgee)
  • David Kaus (National Museum of Australia)
  • Ron Lampert (Australian Museum)
  • Michael McInerney (Polocara Station, Tilpa)
  • Zoe MacKenzie Smith (Powerhouse Museum)
  • Julie Marcus (National Museum of Australia)
  • Betty Meehan (Australian Heritage Commission)
  • Bill Murray (Erambie Cultural Centre)
  • Helen Morgan (Museum of Victoria)
  • Joan Nichols (Wellington Historical Society)
  • Shirley Purchase (editor)
  • Geoff Smith (Bathurst District Historical Society)
  • Bill Southwell (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Luke Taylor (National Museum of Australia)
  • Shirley Troy (ethnographer).
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