Interview with Libby Connors

Blog by Freja Carmichael

Amanda and I had the pleasure today of conducting a digital interview with Queensland historian and author, Libby Connors for an exciting cultural revitalisation exhibition project. Over the next couple of months we will be interviewing and filming community members, historians and researchers from across South East Queensland to collect digital stories surrounding possum skin cloak traditions for an upcoming exhibition.

Libby has written a number of books including her recent publication Warrior, where there is mention and reference to Aboriginal use of possum skin cloaks in South East Queensland. Her book, Warrior is about Dundalli, a key Aboriginal leader who was a strong resistance fighter during European settlement in South East Queensland. Libby’s research and interest into Dundalli was driven by wanting to uncover the full story, as previously this had not been documented. In portraying this information the life and times of Brisbane and South East Queensland during this period has also been shared.

LibbyConners3

LibbyConners1

In the interview, we discussed the prevalence and use of possum skin cloaks across this region. Libby shared stories and information that she had come across through her research mainly drawn from interactions between Aboriginal people and European settlers. This included discussion on possum skin cloaks use for warmth, evidence of the size of the cloaks that could cover a number of people and the different resources used to stitch the possum skins together.

This information was sourced from Pastoralists’ papers and the manuscript of an interview between Gaiarbau (also known as Uncle Willie McKenzie) and Dr L. P Winterbotham. In the 1950’s Winterbotham recorded a number of interviews with Gaiarbau, and this resource provides a very detailed understanding of Aboriginal culture in South East Queensland during European arrival, and would recommend it as valuable reading. You can find this resource in the SLQ Collection : Some original views around Kilcoy / transcription and notes by Gerry Langevad ; with the editorial assistance of Barbara Langevad.

kuril dhagun is grateful to have Libby’s contributions to this upcoming exhibition and have her share her current research. Next week, Amanda and I will be heading up to Sunshine Coast to interview Uncle Nurdon Serico at Kenilworth, collecting his digital story surrounding possum skin cloak traditions. We are also look forward to our upcoming Brisbane contemporary cloak making workshop for Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community members. The workshops will be taking place over two sessions (November 21 and December 5), please get in touch at kuril.dhagun@slq.qld.gov.au to book your spot or find out further information!

Also, If you would like to contribute to our upcoming exhibition by sharing information, photographs or ephemera regarding possum skin cloaks in South East Queensland, we would love to hear from you!