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'Koorramook Yakeeneeyt’ (Possum Dreaming): Cloaks, cultural traditions and wellbeing in Aboriginal communities

PhD thesis by Vicki Couzens

Vicki Couzens’ thesis asks the question: What impact can reviving age-old Aboriginal traditional practices have on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people and their communities? Her project aims to:

  • Conduct a post-evaluation of 70 Aboriginal communities in Victoria, NSW and SA who took part in the cultural revival of possum cloak-making activities between 2005 and 2015.
  • Examine the health and wellbeing impact of reviving the practice of possum cloak-making among more than 1,400 participants who took part in possum cloak-making workshops in Victoria, NSW and SA during this 10-year period.
  • Develop a culturally-appropriate model of health and wellbeing support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities that leverages the lessons learnt from the cultural revival of possum cloak-making practices.

Background

Vicki Couzens is a Keerray Wurrong woman from the Western Districts of Victoria. Vicki says ‘My work is inspired by my culture. It is my passion for the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of our cultural knowledge and practices that drives me and informs the work that I do. The research and creative expressions I explore are drawn from the teachings of our Ancestors, Old People and Elders who guide me through my life. Land, language and identity are who we are… through the use of language, stories and image our culture is made stronger, our connections are made stronger, we are made stronger.’

Vicki Couzens is at the forefront of the contemporary school of possum cloak-making and is highly regarded as a senior cloak-maker and teacher. During the past 16 years, Vicki has collaborated with others (including Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm, Debra Couzens and Maree Clarke) to implement the vision of reviving cloaks and the associated cultural practices across south-eastern Australia. Collectively they have taught cloak-making to over 1000 heirs of the tradition and shared cloaks and stories with thousands more through exhibitions, books, films, public ceremonies and teaching.

Language reclamation and revitalisation is a passion Vicki has inherited from her father Ivan Couzens who was responsible for the first reclamation and revival steps being undertaken in the 1990s. Following on from the publication of the Keerray Woorroong and related dialects dictionary by her father, Vicki has undertaken ongoing and continuing language development work for the past 15 years. This has included the writing of songs and poems, translations of stories and text, delivery of workshops and community teaching/learning opportunities, language use in artworks and a five year ARC research project on revival languages in SE Australia through the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.  Vicki is also a Board member of VACL.

Vicki has a Masters of Art, RMIT.  She has co-authored and published various papers and publications on language and culture.

Created: 05 September 2016 - Updated: 05 September 2016