History of Possum Skin Cloaks

Possum skin cloaks are one of the most sacred cultural expressions of south-eastern Aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal people throughout south-eastern and western Australia wore skin cloaks, as these areas were colder than the northern parts of Australia. The cloaks were made from the skins of possums, kangaroos and wallabies.

The cloak was worn by placing it over one shoulder and under the other it was then fastened at the neck using a small piece of bone or wood. The cloaks were worn both with the fur on the outside and on the inside depending on the situation.

The cloaks had many uses including to keep warm, to cradle babies, to sleep on or under, for ceremony, for a drum, for burial and to share stories and language through the designs.

Photo: An original possum skin cloak from the Hunter Region, 1839 – 1840, 
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, www.australiandressregister.org

There are only five traditional possum skin cloaks surviving in the world today and most skin cloaks that people get to see are in museums and locked away from our people. Now that cloak revival is happening, Aboriginal people are now actually able to see, feel and use the cloaks just as our ancestors did a long time ago.