I made this painting in honour of First Nation mothers, whose children were forcibly stolen from them by white governments and institutions, in order to assimilate the children. In Roman Orthodox Catholic art there are early depictions of the Madonna and Child (Jesus) as black people, which continues today. I wanted to hold a mirror up to the hypocrisy of governments that honour the sacredness of a black Madonna and child, while at the same time stealing First Nation children from their mothers.

Julie Dowling


  • What do you see when you look at Badimaya artist Julie Dowling’s Black Madonna: Omega 2004? How does Black Madonna: Omega refer to different cultural traditions? Julie Dowling states that she made Black Madonna: Omega ‘in honour of First Nation mothers, whose children were forcibly stolen from them by white governments and institutions,’[1] including three generations of her own family. How does this information affect what you see and feel when you look at this work of art? Read Dowling’s response to questions from a student to learn more about her art practice.
  • The Westbury quilt 1900–1903 is the oldest work in the Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now exhibition. It was created by Misses Hampson and her seven children at their home in Westbury, Tasmania, between 1900 and 1903. How would you describe the textures, colours, lines and shapes that the family incorporated in their hand-embroidered and hand-appliqued quilt? Which details capture your attention?
  • Compare and contrast The Westbury quilt with Julie Dowling’s Black Madonna: Omega 2004. How do the symbols and imagery reflect the artists’ lives, values and experiences of mothering?


  • Mothering encompasses varied and complex experiences. Ask somebody that you know if they would be willing to record an oral history talking to you about their thoughts and experiences in relation to mothering. The person that you talk to could be a mother, but they do not have to be. They may wish to talk to you about their mother, grandmother or another mother-figure that has been important to them, or they may choose to talk about mothering or not mothering children of their own. Try to ask open-ended questions and practise active listening. Create a drawing or 2D animation inspired by your conversation.

[1] Black Madonna: Omega, Julie Dowling, Art Gallery of Western Australia, https://sc.artgallery.wa.gov.au/20170030-black-madonna-omega, accessed 23/9/20.

Julie Dowling, Badimaya people, Black Madonna: Omega, 2004, synthetic polymer paint, red ochre, glitter and metallic paint on canvas, 120 x 100 cm, Art Gallery of Western Australia collection, Perth, image courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth © Julie Dowling

Misses Hampson, The Westbury quilt, 1900–1903, hand-embroidered, hand-appliqued quilt, 223 x 191 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased through the Australian Textiles Fund 1990