Coming together

YARNING: Aunty Esther Kirby and other health service staff began sewing pieces of the cloak this week.

YARNING: Aunty Esther Kirby and other health service staff began sewing pieces of the cloak this week.

A UNIQUE sharing project taking shape at Kerang District Health is expected to have a positive ongoing benefit within the community.

A traditional indigenous possum skin cloak is being made by a number of interested people under the direction and guidance of local Barapa Barapa elder, Aunty Esther Kirby.

When it is finished, the cloak will have both healing and ceremonial roles.

Aunty Esther, who is also the health service's aboriginal liaison officer, launched the project this week. It began after a suggestion from a group of health service staff. 

Kerang District Health purchased the skins from New Zealand because possums are protected in Australia.

Aunty Esther said that part of the process of making a cloak is the coming together and sharing, talking and making the cloak together.

"It's about the yarning," she said. 

Possum skin cloaks are used as a healing process for aboriginal people - where they are wrapped in the cloak to ward away poor health - but they are also an item of warmth, community spirit and story-telling. The final item will be available for ceremonies or people to use with the support of Aunty Esther or another senior local aboriginal person.

The skins are being cut to shape and stitched together. They will then turned over and burnished or painted with designs that are important.

Kerang District Health director of clinical services, Chloe Keogh said that Aunty Esther welcomed the involvement of other people in the project.

Various staff members either came during their lunch break or on their day off this week to help hand sew the pieces.

The project will continue in the health service's small conference room on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 12 noon and 2pm until it is completed.

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