VACCHO Launches Men’s Possum Skin Cloak, Embracing the Power of Aboriginal Culture in Cancer Care 

May 6, 2024

VACCHO is proud to launch a special Men’s possum skin cloak in a groundbreaking initiative aimed at supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients on their healing journey. 

Developed in collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre, this initiative demonstrates the profound benefits of embedding Aboriginal knowledge, empowerment, and innovation into modern medical environments. 

Possum skin cloaks hold deep cultural significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria, serving as a symbol of the rich and powerful connection Communities have to Country, Culture, families, and ancestors. 

Featuring artwork created by four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in various stages of their cancer journey, the art is testament to their resilience and wisdom. Each piece of artwork on the cloak showcases personal stories, knowledge, and Aboriginal culture. The eagle placed in the centre of the cloak symbolises the nurturing and supportive environment surrounding patients in all stages of their cancer journey.   

To promote cultural connection and holistic healing, the Men’s cloak will sit alongside the Women’s cloak at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The cloak will be available to all Aboriginal men to wear or place over their beds while receiving treatment at Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

VACCHO Acting CEO Jim O’Shea says the launch of the men’s possum skin cloak demonstrates the transformative impact of championing Aboriginal culture in healthcare.  

“Possum skin cloaks have been integral to storytelling and have also protected and helped Aboriginal Communities heal for tens of thousands of years. The launch of the Men’s cloak is a celebration of the healing power of 65,000 years of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, and doing.” 

“This initiative has been guided by some of the key strategic objectives outlined in the Victorian Aboriginal Cancer Journey Strategy 2023-2028, which prioritises enhancing self-determination, and fostering deeper cultural connections.” 

“Today’s launch marks the beginning of an exciting journey. Our vision is for a possum skin cloak to be available to assist with healing for all Aboriginal patients in all major health services across Victoria.” 

“We are immensely proud of the Men’s possum skin cloak, and the generosity shown by the artists in sharing their stories, wisdom, and culture in bringing this exciting initiative to life. Through strong partnerships, commitment and action, this initiative showcases the power of Aboriginal culture in enhancing health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.” 

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.