Mapping ‘Place’ in Southeast Australia: Crafting a possum skin cloak | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-4689
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4697



Prior to European colonization, Aboriginal people from the southeast of Australia made cloaks from the skins of possums, a small furry marsupial. The place-stories of their country were inscribed on the back of the skins identifying their personal connection to clan and tribe. By the late twentieth century, it was thought that both the skills of making them and the knowledge of country they held had been lost. However, since the turn of this century, there has been a revival of this craft practice led by Aboriginal artists. This article will present work in progress of a creative research project with Indigenous people from southeast Australian tribal groups led by the author of this article. Each Aboriginal language group in the southeastern state of Victoria has been asked to contribute one possum skin, etched with images that represent their particular ‘country’, or clan’s lands. The ambition is to stitch them together to create a new state map. The article will consider the complex relationship between knowing and making that is evident in the practice of inscribing stories of country on possum skins and will suggest that it provides a timely critique on western mapping traditions. The article will also reflect on the nature of intercultural craft collaborations between non-Indigenous academics and traditional owners and draw connections with a larger project of decolonizing settler place-making practices.


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