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BCNA News 30 Jun 2017

Culture is Healing – possum skin cloak unveiled at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre


The Possum Skin Cloak project creators at the unveiling of the cloak at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

A possum skin cloak handmade by Aboriginal cancer survivors was unveiled at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre yesterday as a symbol of healing and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people undergoing cancer treatment.

Prominent artist Vicki Couzens and breast cancer survivor Aunty Pam Pederson presented the cloak to the cancer centre so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receiving cancer treatment can be physically wrapped in culture.

State Minister for Health the Hon. Jill Hennessy and Peter MacCallum Chair and former BCNA CEO Maxine Morand were also in attendance.

The cloak was made using traditional cultural techniques that have been used by communities in Victoria for centuries. It forms part of a joint initiative between Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and BCNA to create a culturally appropriate space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people undergoing cancer treatment.

Speaking at the launch, BCNA CEO Christine Nolan said her organisation’s mission was to create a better journey for all Australians affected by breast cancer.

‘These partnerships are really important because if women don’t feel culturally safe when they attend hospitals for treatment, they won’t return – but they also won’t spread positive word of mouth to other people in their community,’ Christine said.

‘By having this beautiful possum skin cloak at Peter Mac, we hope to support the creation of a culturally safe space for people affected by cancer,’ she said.

Christine honoured the 15 women who came together to create the cloak.

‘What we know at BCNA is that bringing women together who have a shared experience is a powerful tool,’ she said.

‘They sewed their stories into this cloak. There was laughter and there were tears, and together they have created something that will support other people who are facing their own cancer journey.’

BCNA’s Culture is Healing program has been made possible through Cancer Australia funding. The possum skin cloak’s creation was funded by BCNA and through a bequest to Peter Mac.

Watch a video of the making of the possum skin cloak below.


Tailored breast cancer information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be found on our Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people page.