Boonwurung Walert (possum skin) Cloak
Boorndup boonwurrung biik weegabeel guleeny ba bargurrk. Honouring Boonwurrung Country and our Esteemed Ancestors.
Cultural practitioner Caroline Martin
Yalukut Weelam of the Boonwurrung
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, every member of every language group wore animal skin cloaks. In Victoria and New South Wales, a possum skin cloak was a highly prized possession. Although they were once abundant, only five historical cloaks remain in existence. Two are held in the Museum Victoria collection: one collected from Gunditjmara Country (Lake Condah) in 1872 and the other collected from Yorta Yorta Country (Echuca) in 1853. The other three are held in international museums.
Today, the revival of cloak-making is once again seeing them abundant and highly prized, with families following our Ancestors’ tradition of celebrating the significance of the Cloak for both warmth and ceremony.
The central feature of my Cloak is a map of Boonwurrung Country, which extends from the mouth of the Werribee River, including what is now known as Port Phillip Bay, to the Mornington Peninsula and along the coast to Wilsons Promontory.
The overall design is a tangible reminder of the legacy of my Ancestors, a story that speaks of a tradition that continues to survive and, in doing so, celebrates 2000 generations of our rich vibrant living culture.
This possum skin cloak, commissioned by the City of Port Phillip, is a significant addition to the Port Phillip City Collection. Council is proud to display this cloak in the St Kilda Town Hall as a highly visible representation of Council’s commitment to supporting issues of importance for the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boonwurrung.
Materials: Possum skins, waxed thread, ochre pigments, glue, sesame oil, 2015-2016