Historical information

This coat belonged to Brighton resident Audrey Winifred Pickett (nee Heriot; 1915-2011).

The coat is made from the pelts of rakali, also known as the Australian water rat, a native rodent species similar to an otter. Growing up to 35 centimetres in length, rakali typically live in burrows near water, feeding on fish, insects, yabbies and waterbirds. Throughout the early twentieth century, they were widely considered to be a nuisance and were hunted for their soft and waterproof fur. Demand for rakali pelts increased during the 1930s Depression years, when a ban was placed on the import of overseas furs; rakali fur became a popular substitute for the fur of the American muskrat. The species was placed under a protection order in 1938, although periodic culls were allowed until 1957 due to their perceived destruction of irrigation banks and fishing nets.

Audrey recalled that the coat was made for her by furrier F. J. Ellemor after a large cull of rakali. The coat was displayed in the window of Ellemor's Block Place store.

F. J. Ellemor Pty Ltd was established in 1908 by furrier Francis John Ellemor (1867-1944) and continued into the late twentieth century under the management of his son Wilfred (1801-1972). Francis and his wife Edith lived in Rothesay Avenue, Brighton from the late 1930s.

Physical description

Three-quarter length brown fur coat made of Australian water-rat (rakali) pelts. Wide raised collar and cuffs. Fastens centre front with two large hooks and eyes. Lined with chocolate brown silk satin.

Inscriptions & markings

Label, woven brown on beige silk, centre back neck: created by / F. J. Ellemor / FURRIERS / MELBOURNE