By: Emma Grahame
The Australian Bicentennial of 1988, and the protest it inspired among Aboriginal and other activists, had far-reaching effects on all forms of cultural production in Australia, including quiltmaking. I examined a variety of written sources, and many Bicentennial quilts to ascertain what the effects were on quiltmaking. My study of the publications of the various states’ Crafts Councils 1982-1989, the magazine Down Under Quilts 1988-1992, The Template, journal of The Quilters’ Guild Inc., 1987-1992, and the Guild’s extensive clippings files 1985-1989, revealed that the Bicentennial precipitated enormous activity in quiltmaking at every level from local to national. This greatly boosted the popularity, skills base, organization, sophistication, and public visibility of quiltmaking in Australia. Individual and group quilts made to mark the Bicentennial show clear trends in design and content which reveal some of the national, local, and historical images important to Australian quiltmakers in that year. National events such as the first National Quilt Symposium, and the national exhibition Quilt Australia 88, gave Australian quiltmaking a focus and cohesion which might otherwise have taken years to develop. The benefits of the 1988-inspired expansion of quiltmaking are now manifested in Australia’s vibrant quiltmaking subculture.