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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer

4

Wombail Oouthenang, Chief of Shannon Vielle

2004.0079.0010

Wombail Oouthenang, Chief of Shannon Vielle

Object information

Description

Shannon Vielle was the station of J.P. Robinson. It was located about 160 kms north of Armidale on the Mann River, northern NSW.

Physical description

A crescentric, slightly convex brass breastplate, obverse engraved 'WOMBAIL OOUTHENANG / CHIEF / OF SHANNON VIELLE', with a male figure on the left and woman and child on the right. The breastplate includes two holes to fit a neck chain.

Statement of significance

This collection is comprised of seventeen Australian Indigenous breastplates (also known as king plates or gorgets). They come from a collection accumulated by L. Richard Smith, a noted collector of medals and porcelain. The breastplates are associated with Indigenous people from Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. The breastplates are all metal, of varying size, and are generally crescent shaped. Each is inscribed with the recipient's name, and many include an associated region and an honorary title such as 'king', 'queen' or 'chief'.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, government authorities and settlers gave breastplates to Indigenous people for a variety of reasons. They were used as a way of selecting and identifying local elders to act as intermediaries between settlers and local Indigenous people. They were also given out in recognition of service and/or assistance (for example to Aboriginal stockmen or for saving people from ship wrecks). As such, they are significant cross-cultural objects that document early interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in different regions of Australia. They often record the names of Indigenous people, and the station or region with which they are associated; people who are not otherwise represented in historical records. The collection is also significant in expanding the geographical scope of the National Museum's existing breastplate collection.

Object information

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