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Collecting for the Nation: The Australiana Fund

The rich and varied artistic history of Australia was for many years little recognised, and certainly not able to be appreciated by those other than the owners of the various pieces or objects, purchased or inherited; artworks which encompass cabinet and furniture making, ceramic and pottery, fine art and sculpture.

It was not until Mrs Tamie Fraser, AO, wife of Malcom Fraser, the then Prime Minister of Australia, visited the White House during an official tour in 1976, seeing first-hand the rich and impressive collection of Americana in the nation’s capital, Washington.

At that particular time, the four official houses of the Governor General and Prime Minister of Australia, lacked a great deal in the way of pieces which reflected the wealth of talent in Australia, with which to showcase the culture and history of the country.

Funds were not readily available to purchase works of art: taking inspiration from the American model where funds were raised by The White House Historical Association, established by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, the Australiana Fund was formed. The intent was to establish a collection of items to be considered as working pieces, which were to be used to grace the four official residences, which is now considered, forty years on, to be one of the finest artisan collections in Australia.

This book is in many ways a tribute to the fund, the vison of Tamie Fraser and the many people, Australia wide who have given items, raised funds to help purchase others and worked tirelessly to ensure the collection remains held in Trust for the Australian people.

Broken into several segments the first, Houses, landscapes and people walks through the history of the establishment of Canberra as the nation’s capital, after Federation in 1901, the purchasing of what were then ‘grand’ estates, owned by wealthy landowners, to their eventual conversion to the residences that are now used by Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove as well as Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and his wife Lucy, to welcome and entertain visiting dignitaries.

Each of the Houses is introduced by different authors, as is section two, The Australiana Fund Collection, which breaks the years of early to modern Australia down into sections such as, Terra Australis, The colonial period through to Modern Australia, which encompasses a wealth of information on this young and fledging country, as well as the craftsmen and women who came here and created such wonderful, unique and inspirational pieces, that have gone on to become national treasures.

The book is in many ways a compilation of Australian history, the creating of a new style of design and art, political history and so very much more. It documents the coming of age of a country which was in its early days, very much influenced by the British style of the day.

For those people fortunate enough to have visited one of these beautiful, quirky, residences on an Open Day, some of the pieces photographed in the book will be familiar, for others this could be considered as an introduction to an aspect of Australia and Australian politics, which was previously unknown.

Each of the pages has been carefully constructed by the authors of the sections, the text easy to follow and written in a manner of pride in the achievements by the artists and artisans whose work is now used to celebrate the history of Australian Art and Design in such unique settings.

Collecting for the Nation – The Australiana Fund is a tribute to a vision, as well as a wonderful and accessible documentation of pieces, which may be considered as ranging from the sublime to the magnificent, but all most definitely Australian, as is introduced by a loveable pair of sulphur-crested Cockatoos, created by Minton (1860, British) in majolica, familiar to many, and proudly pictured on the pages of Contents.

Authoredited by Jennifer Sanders
PublisherNew South Publications
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedAugust 2017