Plaster Cast

History Trust of South Australia1836-02-19/1836-12-28

History Trust of South Australia

History Trust of South Australia
Adelaide, Australia

View of seated sovereign with attendants. Significant not as an objects in itself, but rather what it represents, this plaster cast of the Great Seal of England represents the recognition of the country’s Aboriginal inhabitants and their continued rights to the land by King William IV (reigned 1831-37). This was the first time Aboriginal rights had been granted in Australia’s colonial history. Attached to the Letters Patent signed 19 February 1836, the seal authorised the establishment of the South Australian province, which was to be erected on unoccupied lands fit for the purposes of colonisation:

“Provided always, that nothing in these our letters patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own Persons or in the Persons of their Descendants of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives.”

Colonisation of the new province of South Australia proceeded with little regard for the words of the Letters Patent relating to Aboriginal rights to land, and over time its Aboriginal inhabitants were progressively dispossessed. In the twenty-first century, the Letters Patent is a source of discussion and controversy, some Aboriginal groups arguing that the document, and its Sovereign seal, conferred and recognised rights on Aboriginal inhabitants which survive, despite the actions of the colonists.

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  • Title: Plaster Cast
  • Creator: History Trust of South Australia
  • Date Created: 1836-02-19/1836-12-28
  • Provenance: Plaster cast of King William IV's seal attached to the Letters Patent which established the Provence of South Australia, signed on 19 February 1836. Transferred to the History Trust of South Australia from the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of the Historical Relics collection.
  • Subject Keywords: British
  • Rights: History Trust of South Australia, CC-0, photographer: Kylie Macey