Indigenous Phd Grad Reveals Stories Of Clan And Culture

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17th December 2008, 02:25pm - Views: 827





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Indigenous PhD grad reveals stories of clan and culture 


Artist Treahna Hamm will graduate from RMIT University tonight with a PhD for

research that creatively explored Indigenous history and culture.


For her doctorate award, Dr Hamm created a body of artwork that included several

traditional possum skin cloaks – one of which was worn by the Indigenous Elder

who gave the first ever welcome to country in Federal Parliament this year.


“When I began working on my PhD, there were only several known possum skin

cloaks left in existence from the 1850s, in museums here and in Europe,” Dr

Hamm, a Yorta Yorta woman, said.


“These cloaks aren’t just beautiful to look at and wear, they form a crucial function

by telling stories of identity, of land, of clan and of culture. 


“My PhD focused on retracing family and history, telling these stories through a

range of different media – from traditional possum skin cloaks to digital storytelling,

printmaking, weaving, sculpture, breast plates, glass and painting.”


Dr Hamm explored how stories reflected both individual narratives as well as the

total community experience, examining how artwork could reveal these

connections and strengthen the links between story, language and country.


The six possum skin cloaks she created have been exhibited and acquired by high-

profile museums and galleries in Australia and overseas, including the National

Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the National Maritime

Museum of Australia and the Frankfurt Museum of World Cultures.


Every cloak took several months to make, with Dr Hamm speaking with community

Elders to gather stories and sourcing about 30-40 pelts for each cloak.


“My intention with this PhD was to help connect people in a different way to the

past and to tell our stories. The different projects I did and the different media I

used are all interconnected – just like our culture,” she said.


“It’s up to us now to tell these stories and share our history, to ensure they are not

lost to future generations.”


Dr Hamm completed her doctorate as part of the Koori Cohort of postgraduate

researchers at RMIT’s School of Education, which was set up to develop a high-

profile generation of Indigenous researchers and educators to help protect, restore

and revitalise Victoria’s Indigenous culture.


RMIT’s spectacular Graduation Ceremony is at Telstra Dome tonight at 7.30pm.


For interviews: Dr Treahna Hamm, 0413 952 148.


For general media enquiries: RMIT University Media and Communications,

Gosia Kaszubska, (03) 9925 3176 or 0417 510 735.

17 December, 2008






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