Arts & Skills Development


Participants were encouraged to bring in stories to be stitched into the quilts

Providing arts programs that also promote health and well being have proved very successful in Aboriginal communities – particularly among our Elders. We have been running ‘Stitching’ workshops across the Mid North Coast since 2009. The projects’ focus is for community members to develop textile skills, as well as enhance social well being, build creative capacity and strengthen community.

What we didn’t predict from this program was the economic potential for participants through the development of a social enterprise.

Stitching workshops continue to run in community and some groups are forming their own small businesses to earn commercial income through their work.

“What I loved best about this project was the connection to community and friends as well as learning new skills to express my culture.”  Cheryl, Birpai Workshop 2012

Case Study | 2012 Stitching Workshops

Following the highly successful Stitching Memories program that Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance ran in 2009/10, four of our Aboriginal communities requested we continue running textile workshops in their communities in 2012.  Through funding provided by Regional Arts NSW’s Regional Arts Fund, we were able to deliver another twelve weeks’ worth of stitching workshops in Birpai (Port Macquarie), Kempsey, Bunyah (Wauchope) and Forster.

A textile artist worked with each community, running workshops once a week for a 12 week period at the Local Aboriginal Land Council.  Expanding on the original Stitching program, communities created quilts, pillowcases, bags and other household items during the workshops while developing their skills in sewing, stitching and design.  Over 33 community members participated in the project; for some participants it was their first time sewing. 63% of participants were over the age of 55 and said that the project has contributed to their overall wellbeing by allowing them to get out of the house and achieve goals.

Providing arts programs that also promote health have proved very successful with Aboriginal communities. The workshops were catered with simple and healthy food options and an emphasis was placed on health and wellbeing as this proved particularly successful from the original Stitching program.

Participants included key benefits of the program as being creating a product, learning new skills, working in a group and practicing skills.  Survey results show that 100% of participants felt that the project contributed to their overall wellbeing, strengthened their creative skills and was important for their community.  When asked what could be improved, the overwhelming response was “more time”, “to run for longer” and “more funds for materials”.

Participants were encouraged to continue producing items that can be sold at markets and other events, providing opportunity for social and economic enterprise. As many participants are from regional/remote areas, the ability to work from home and earn income is vitally important.

The communities have really become engaged in textiles since starting this program. The Kempsey stitching group has sourced other funding to continue on with the program and plan to take a stall at the 2013 Saltwater Freshwater Festival to be held in Taree on Australia Day (26 January 2013). They met with Miimi Creations from Bowraville to get ideas for a clothing line, and the group has now created their own brand name to use on their products.   The group will continue creating textile products through until June 2013 to sell at their local NAIDOC week celebration.

An exhibition of the work from all workshops will be displayed at the 2013 Saltwater Freshwater Festival.


  • 32 participants
  • 4 communities involved
  • Learning over 10 different product designs
  • 1 community creating a new business


  • Created new partnership between organisations
  • Social inclusion through a weekly coordinated group: connection
  • Learning new creative skills
  • Enhance health and overall wellbeing of participants
  • Increased pride and self esteem
  • Forum for expressing Aboriginal culture
  • Provide long-term potential income stream for participants


“We need this twice a year please, please, please.”

Angela Roberts, Bunyah workshop

“A lot of community involvement brings harmony among people.”

Jacklywne Travers, Bunyah workshop.

“I made things I didn’t think I could.”

Marilyn O’Brien, Bunyah workshop

“We needed this in Wauchope, so bad.”

Angela Roberts, Bunyah workshop


Regional Arts NSW’s Regional Arts Fund

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