Video: Aboriginal possum-skin cloaks

By Sarah Rhodes November 29, 2013
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Monash University Professor Henry Atkinson, an elder of the Yorta Yorta Nations, talks about possum-skin cloaks.

In this video Monash University Professor Henry Atkinson, an elder of the Wolithiga Clan of the Yorta Yorta Nations, talks about the issue of sustaining culture for younger generations in south-eastern Australia and how possum-skin cloaks have played a role.

IN 1999, WHEN
Lee Darroch and Vicki Couzens began trying to revive the art of possum-skin cloak making, there just five known cloaks. Historically, they were made by Aboriginal people in southern Australian states for warmth. They started as small cloaks for children and then progressed to adult garments that became so important that people were buried in them. There are now at least 80 cloaks; they all mean different things to different people, but they represent the chance to revive old practices and make new meanings with them.

They are now used in ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies and as parts of everyday life. Photographer Sarah Rhodes followed the women reviving the movement and the elders that keep the cloaks to see the varied responses to these historic items of clothing. 

See the VIDEO of Boonwurrung elder Carolyn Briggs, the director of the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture and an indigenous language specialist, talking about possum-skin cloaks and the role of language in shaping identity. 

Find out more about the traditional Aboriginal art of making possum-skin cloaks from the Culture Victoria website.

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