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Breastplate awarded to a member of the Yuin Aboriginal clan

Date: 1841
Overall: 150 x 175 x 4 mm, 602.74 g
Medium: Copper alloy
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Estate of John Albert Campbell
Classification:Ceremonial artefact
Object Name: Breastplate
Object No: 00045271
Related Place:Batemans Bay,

User Terms

    This breastplate was awarded to a member of the Yuin Aboriginal community for their outstanding bravery when rescuing passengers and crew from the sinking ROVER, wrecked off the coast of Broulee, NSW in October 1841. Breastplates, also known as gorgets or 'King Plates', are highly contentious cultural artifacts. In the past they were avidly sought by European collectors but today are more often viewed as symbols of colonial oppression.

    SignificanceThis is a rare surviving example of a breastplate. It is representative of the wreck of the ROVER and the interaction between Europeans and Indigenous Australians.
    HistoryThe ROVER was a wooden, carvel-built, wooden-framed, single-decked, two-masted schooner of 87 tons built on the Manning River, New South Wales in March- April 1841. The schooner was 20.5 metres (66 ft 6 in) long with a breadth of 5.6 metres (18 ft 6 in) and a height between decks of 2.8 metres (9 ft 6 in).

    During a voyage from Port Jackson, NSW to Port Phillip Bay, VIC with a cargo of coal the schooner sought the safety of Broulee Bay on the south coast of NSW during a terrific gale on the night of 12 October 1841. The 23 passengers and crew on board the vessel, including 11 convicts and their military escort of four members of the 28th Regiment, weathered the gale all night but in the early hours of the morning of 13 October the schooner's anchor chains parted and the vessel was driven ashore among the breakers and rolled over onto its beams ends. With huge waves breaking over the vessel those on board had no choice but to make for the shore a few hundred metres away.

    Of the 23 people on board 11 managed to get to shore, saved by the actions of local Aboriginal people including Hopping Joe, Jerag, Broulee Joey, Boulbee, Paddy Nirang, Billy Lee, Broulee Billy, Wauigal Tosin (Warragal Tom), and Batemans Bay Harry.

    Others to help were European settlers and whalers including Captain Stevenson, Chief Constable John McAlister, whaleman Creighton Fairweather, Donald McKellar Snr, Donald McKellar Jnr, Archibald Duncan and John McKellar who helped form a human chain to drag the survivors out of the surf.

    Four breast plates were later awarded to members of the local Yuin Aboriginal community - Warragal Tom, Jerry 'Chief of Broulee', Broulee Billy and Boulbee - by the local magistrate Captain Oldrey, in recognition of their bravery. The four breastplates were inscribed with the words 'Bale me jarrad' which has been interpreted to mean 'I am not afraid', along with a description of the event and a rough engraving of the schooner and the subsequent rescue.

    Aboriginal breast plates or gorgets also known by the paternalistic and patronising term 'King Plates' are now contentious artifacts. Avidly sought by collectors up until the 1980s they are now more often seen as symbols of colonial oppression and ridicule rather than as awards or status symbols.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Breastplate awarded to a member of the Yuin Aboriginal clan

    Assigned title: Breastplate awarded to a member of the Yuin Aboriginal clan

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