Possum cloak project helps create young healthy minds in Newcastle
14 girls from Newcastle High School joined together in a unique activity that brought them closer to their culture—and each other.
As part of the Wesley Young Healthy Minds program, the girls created a traditional possum skin cloak. Along the way, they also developed a renewed sense of confidence, and a deeper connection to their heritage through this culturally rich, hands-on activity.
Wesley Young Healthy Minds was launched in August 2015 to help young people facing challenges such as unsafe housing, lack of connection to community and school, and living with a parent who is experiencing mental illness or addiction.
The program has been at capacity since it began, with hundreds of young people and their families being positively impacted, including the 14 girls who participated in the possum skin cloak project.
In Aboriginal tradition, a mother would work together with her wider family to make a waterproof possum skin cloak for her infant, which became a lifetime ceremonial coat, a covering, and a burial garment. Today, there are only a few original possum cloaks remaining.
At the end of their time together, the girls presented their completed cloak to the high school principal and spoke proudly and publicly of their experiences.
“I felt like I was part of something important and of great significance,” said one of the girls. Another was overwhelmed by how capable and empowered the activity made her feel, reporting to organisers that it was the first time she ever felt truly proud of herself.