13 May 2019

Ngunnawal women revive ancient craft in act of Reconciliation

| Ian Bushnell
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The Reconciliation possum-skin cloak is on display in the foyer of the Assembly Building. Photos: Supplied.

Ngunnawal women have presented a magnificent possum-skin cloak to the Legislative Assembly in a significant act of Reconciliation.

Speaker Joy Burch said the gift was a significant act of generosity and would be on permanent display outside the entry to the Assembly chamber.

“This prominent position reflects its importance as a symbol of reconciliation and respect between the Ngunnawal People, the Assembly, and the wider ACT community,” she said.

Traditionally, possum-skin cloaks were an everyday item for Aboriginal people. Starting as a single skin to wrap a newborn baby and added to over time, they were illustrated with stories of the life, clan and country of their owner.

Following white settlement, and the introduction of woollen blankets, the tradition of making cloaks was largely discontinued. There are now only a small number of cloaks in existence, although their traditional significance endures.

The cloak presented to the Assembly was made by a group of Ngunnawal women, led by Elder Tina Brown. Together, the 16 Ngunnawal women who were involved in the creation of the cloak have burned their stories into the possum skin.

Unveiling the cloak.

The women include Elders Agnes Shea, Loretta Halloran (Bell), Lillian Bell, Rosyln Brown, Matilda House, Louise Brown, Tina Brown, Glenda Merritt, Wendy Brown, Catherine Kindleysides, Susan Barry, Caroline Hughes, Annette Shea; and Laurie McDonald, Katrina Penfold, and Justine Brown-Bamblet.

Members of the public can view the cloak, which is on permanent display in the foyer of the Assembly Building, Monday to Friday 8:30 am-5:30 pm.

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