Possum Skin Cloaks

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William Buckley wearing possum skin cloak



During the cold months of the year Aborigines of Southeastern Australia covered themselves with possum skin cloaks. The fur was worn on the outside and fastened in front by skewers or pin made from bone. The inside often had exquisite geometric designs which served to make the skins more pliable. The possum skins used to make the cloaks were dried on sheets of bark, fastened by wooden pegs. When dry, soft incisions of geometric designs were made to the skin making it more pliable. Sinew was used to stitch the skins along holes made with a bone-point needle.

More than 50 pelts were generally sewn together to make a possum skin rug. Holes were made into the skins with a bone needle, and they were sewn together with animal sinew. [1]

It is believed that engraved cloaks were made by men and worn with the designs on the outside only on special occasions such as encounters with other groups. Women and children often had cloaks with simple line patterns to make them more pliable. [2]



Very few examples of possum skin cloaks have survived. The main designs created on wooden weapons, carved trees and possum skin cloaks suggest the primary concern was to display personal or group identity and the relationship of people to the land. [3]

See Also

Indigenous Tools & Technology

William Buckley

Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register

Aboriginal objects and heritage places are irreplaceable, non-renewable resources and can include traditional and spiritual sites of significance. The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register (VAHR) was established by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 is an important administrative tool and holds the details of all known Aboriginal cultural heritage places and objects within Victoria, including their location and a detailed description. Places or objects are recorded by cultural heritage advisors on forms which are approved under the Act. The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register is not a publicly accessible register because it contains culturally sensitive information. Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) play a key role in the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Register holds information of each Registered Aboriginal party, their area of responsibility and contact details. [4]

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 requires that the discovery of Aboriginal cultural heritage places or objects on any public or private land in Victoria be reported to Aboriginal Affairs Victoria - see http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/indigenous/aboriginal-cultural-heritage/information-for-landowners/reporting-a-possible-aboriginal-place-or-object

If you are the custodian of a Victorian Aboriginal object or place you are encouraged to document it on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register by contacting Aboriginal Affairs Victoria to arrange to complete the form located at http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/35607/Victroian_Aboriginal_Heritage_Register_Form_Sept_2008.pdf.

How to care for and register Aboriginal objects and heritage places is further explained via an 11 minute video available at http://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/the-aboriginal-object-collection-at-dunkeld-museum/

Recommended Reading


  1. Coutts, P.J.F., Readings in Victorian Prehistory Vol 2: The Victorian Aboriginals 1800 to 1860, Victorian Archaeological Survey, 1981
  2. Sibtain, Nancy (Ed) Aboriginal Australia, Australian Gallery Directors Council Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, p35.
  3. Sibtain, Nancy (Ed) Aboriginal Australia, Australian Gallery Directors Council Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, p35.
  4. http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/indigenous/aboriginal-cultural-heritage/Victorian-aboriginal-heritage-register

Further Reading

Sibtain, Nancy (Ed) Aboriginal Australia, Australian Gallery Directors Council Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales.

External Links





--C.K.Gervasoni 13:49, 14 August 2012 (EST); --PMDonovan 14:04, 12 September 2013 (EST)

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