Possum skin tells the story of strengthened tradition, cultural identity, and spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities.
Uniting Vic Tas through its Communities for Children Hume Program collaborated with Hume City Council to run the Parents as Teachers (PAT) Project.
PAT is a home visiting program that engages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with children up to the age of three years. This program also supports parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to identify their strengths and work towards positive personal and interpersonal outcomes. One of these is the Possum Skin Workshop.
In the workshop, parents showcase the significance of their respective possum skins, discuss the symbolism and meaning of the designs, and reflect on how the cloaks strengthen cultural identity and what it means for the next generation.
A proud Kija Bardi woman
Salty’s mum is one of the participants in the program. In this story, she reflects on how Salty will be brought up as a proud Kija Bardi woman just like her mother, her aunties, and her Ja Ja (grandfather).
“The design on the skin tells the story of our land back over in the Kimberley region in north Western Australia. Our Kija mob is represented by the bungle bungles and our totem animal the big red kangaroo. Our Bardi mob is represented by the ocean and the coast with our tribal totem animal—the tiger shark swimming. They are connected throughout the design with footsteps and tracks connecting both our lands. It represents the history, our family’s journey, and the connection between the two mobs. Three symbols through the centre of the piece depict a man, followed by two women standing for Salty’s grandfather, her mother (me) and her. Towards the bottom right is a piece in the design that tributes Salty’s strong female presence in her life representing her grandmother, mother and three aunties.”
Our past, present, and future are always linked
Lia* contemplates her family’s journey and how symbols in the possum skin play an important role in healing.
*Not their real name
Effective July 2022, the PAT Project has transitioned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Engagement Project. It remains to be coordinated by Hume City Council, in partnership with Uniting Vic Tas under its CfC Hume Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.