Possum-skins bring cultural comfort to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
A possum-skin cloak that was hand-crafted two years ago, at the first ever possum-skin cloak workshop at Northern Health, is now proudly on display at the Northern Hospital Epping main entrance.
The 2020 workshop was open to staff and members of the public to participate in, and resulted in the creation of two items of great significance for our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community; a possum-skin cloak and a possum-skin baby wrap.
Possum-skin items play an important role in connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander with their culture and are used for spiritual healing. Once an everyday item for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in south-eastern Australia, possum-skin cloaks were originally worn for warmth, used as baby carriers, coverings at night, drums in ceremony and for burial. Only a handful of possum skin cloaks made prior to 1900 still exist today, preserved in museum collections held across Australia and overseas.
“We are looking forward to the Aboriginal community having the opportunity to wear this possum skin cloak, which will enable them to heal spiritually and connect to culture, community and country while they are a patient at Northern Health,” said Northern Health Koori Maternity Service’s Joanne Quinn.
Belinda Austin was the first Indigenous patient at Northern Health to use the possum skin baby wrap, swaddling her newborn daughter, Emilie.
Belinda said that this experience was an honour, as her family has a strong history of creating their own traditional possum-skin cloaks.
“I wanted my daughter to feel protected and to know that her ancestors will always be watching over her. It was a beautiful way to connect her with our culture, so that she grows up feeling proud of her heritage and who she is,” said Ms Austin.
Joanne says the possum-skin wrap has been embraced by families, as it allows them to connect to their culture and provides spiritual healing.
“Our Koori Maternity Service families absolutely love the possum skin wrap; it allows them and their babies to connect to their culture and provides spiritual healing. We have had families so enriched by the experience they have purchased their own possum skins for when they take baby home,” she says.
The possum-skin cloak and baby wrap are available for any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander inpatients at the Northern Hospital by emailing KMS@nh.org.au