Yumi Olgeta

 Crafting a More Inclusive Democracy

yumi olgeta you and me together


Yumi Olgeta (pronounced 'Yumi Olgeda')  means 'you and me, together' in Bislama language (pronounced 'Bishlama').  This was the way that the Australian South Sea Islanders, kidnapped from over 80 islands of the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, communicated with one another during the blackbirding period of 1847 and 1908.  Through Yumi Olgeta we are hoping to raise awareness of Australia's Slave Trade History and improve the lives of the descendants of blackbirding now and in the future.

Click on this chain stitch photo to hear a short U-Tube video of Bislama language being spoken....

Our first Workshop

On Saturday the 17th August, 2019 Yumi Olgeta:Crafting a More Inclusive Democracy Workshop was held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra. 

Yumi olgeta workshop museum of australian democracy canberra

Along with the incredibly dynamic Waskam Emelda Davis, the Chairwoman of the Australian South Sea Islanders - Port Jackson who has blackbirding heritage from the islands of Tanna, Ambae and Santo and proud Torres Strait Islander woman Aunty Lydia George, also with blackbirded heritage from Penticost, Solomon Islands and Lifu, I conducted a Chain Stitch workshop for participants to help them learn a new skill while digesting truth telling and the history of the Australian Slave Trade.  Craft is a great way to relax and take in information in a gentle way that can be easily digested.

We were also lucky enough to have the company of three women visiting from Vanuatu under a scheme funded by the Vanuatu Government.  Josephine, Anna and Aveline work in Port Vila for the Vanuatu Connection - Arts and Krafts and are very skilled weavers.  They were accompanied by Danny Togo from Sydney, who is on the Board of ASSI-PJ.  Emelda, Josephine, Anne, Aveline and Danny were initially dressed in traditional clothing and right from the start spoke with passion and openness about their history and its impact on them, their families and communities.  There was story-telling,  singing, dancing, tears, laughter, hugging and gift-giving  - it was a truly magical and unforgettable event that taught us all so much.

Participants of the workshop were invited to complete the following design in chain stitch to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Commonwealth recognition for the Australian South Sea Islanders being a distinct cultural group.  The anniversary was on Sunday 25th August, 2019 a week after the workshop.  With the wise assistance of Emelda and Aunty Lydia I came up with this design depicting the custom of blowing the conch shell used to bring the community together on the islands. The doted lines represent the trade routes between islands and Australia.  There were over 800 voyages during the blackbirding period with a total of 62,500 people kidnapped, traded and coerced.

chain stitch embroidery block quilt


To show the possibilities of simple chain stitch, I completed the block using our selected colours from the Australian South Sea Islanders - Port Jackson logo. We are encouraging participants to consider their skill level.  Simple chain can be used effectively for a flat all over finish using the colours provided in the workshop.  

However, participants can also branch out using the instructions given to try 8 other chain stitch styles.  There are approximately 100 different types of chain stitch so there's plenty to learn.  I will be offering demonstrations via Instagram and Facebook over the next few months to show how the 9 stitch types are worked as shown on the sampler below.

chain stitch thread embroidery sampler
Click on the photo above to read an article about the Yumi Olgeta Workshop written by Waskam Emelda Davis, Chairwoman of ASSI-PJ

Project 1: 25th Anniversary ASSI Commemorative Quilt 

Aim: To further include ASSI in conversations about Australian history by placing a craftivism object in the MoAD collection.  

Due to the enthusiasm of Yumi Olgeta Workshop participants to contribute their blocks to a Craftivism object, we have decided to open up the project to anyone around the world to be all inclusive.  The finished blocks, due by 1st February 2020 will become a beautiful border for a textile work that will be donated back to the Museum of Australian Democracy for their private collection to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Australian South Sea Islanders gaining Commonwealth Government recognition as a distinct cultural group.  This means that ASSI will be further included in the conversations about Australia's democracy which is very significant to them.

And you can join in the fun too!  If you would like to contribute to this Yumi Olgeta Project the Museum of Australian Democracy have published my Absolute Beginner Instructions along with more complex Chain Stitch Instructions and the thread colours to be used.They have also given you the Embroidery Design as well.   I will also be posting instruction videos on Instagram and Facebook. 

To join in, you will need to do the following.

  1.  Find a piece of sand coloured linen, cotton or calico and cut it to at least size 20cm x 20cm.  If you use pinking shears the edges will fray less quickly.

  2. Download the Embroidery Instructions (Absolute Beginners to Advanced) from the Museum of Australian Democracy Website by clicking on the photo below and scrolling down.

  3. Download and save the Embroidery Design from the Museum of Australian Democracy website by clicking on the photo below and scrolling down.  Once saved, print the image.  Then reduce the image to 69% of the original image and it will be exactly the right size of 14 cm x 14 cm.

  4. Transfer the image to your fabric using a light box or window using a pencil or Iron off pen like a flexion pen found at Office supply stores for $3-4. 

  5. Find or purchase your DMC 25 Embroidery Cotton in the colours outlined on the last page of your Instruction Sheets.

  6. Find an Embroidery needle that has a large enough eye to easily thread depending on your skill level.

  7. Start to fill in the design using colours from the chart. You can use any combination of these colours using any type of chain stitch.  The instructions only list 9 but there are plenty more to chose from!  You are welcome to include applique but please stick to the colours outlined on the colour chart.  You can fill in the background or leave it blank.  It is completely up to you.

  8. Watch my instruction videos on Instagram and Facebook for more information about how to do the 9 Chain Stitch types on my Sampler.

  9. Post your progress shots and finished work under #yumiolgeta.  Feel free to send me your photos and I will endeavour to post them on my page if you wish.

For the Chain Stitch Instructions and the Embroidery Design CLICK on the chain stitch image below:

Returning Your Completed Embroidery

Once you have completed your block to your liking, please send it via registered post to 

Helen Fraser Artist, 139 High Street, Prahran, Vic, 3181 Australia 

Don't forget to include the following:
  1. Full name
  2. Email
  3. Address
  4. Contact number
  5. Short statement about what inspired you to contribute to this project
  6. What you have learnt from your involvement  

Due date: extended to 31st July 2020.

What will happen to your embroidery?

Then from Mar - May 2020 I will collaborate with the Australian South Sea Islanders and the women from Vanuatu Arts and Krafts to design and stitch a centrepiece/s for the quilt.  To keep an organic feel to the finished work the quilt will be hand pieced and hand quilted during June-July 2020.  The finished work will be presented to the Museum of Australian Democracy during the celebrations leading up to the 26th Anniversary of the ASSI recognition on 25th August 2020 which is a dream come true! This means the whole process will have taken a year to complete, highlighting the slow nature of stitching and the power of the group taking one step - or stitch - at a time, together in the spirit of Yumi Olgeta. 

Your contribution is deeply appreciated.  If you have any questions, concerns or tips about this page please don't hesitate to contact me.  And if you cannot afford the materials, let me know and I will see what I can do to support as we want everyone to be included in this project.

Future Craftivism Projects

If you would like to register your interest in future craftivism projects with Yumi Olgeta to help in truth telling about this important history and supporting the needs of the descendants of the Australian Slave Trade, please CLICK on the following Chain Stitch image.

chain stitch embroidery slavery history

About the Australian South Sea Islanders - Port Jackson (ASSIPJ)

australian south sea islanders vanuatu

Australian South Sea Islanders (Port Jackson) (ASSIPJ) was formed in Sydney NSW with the support of an elder’s council and younger ASSI community leaders in 2010. The purpose of ASSIPJ was to build on past and continue the much-needed advocacy work that will eventually see the truth told of a history that is challenging, conflicting and very complex for the descendants of Australia’s Blackbirding trade.

The ASSIPJ journey has been one of both extreme frustration and heartache as well as breakthrough and joy as we worked for the recognition of some 60,000 Melanesian men and women that were stolen, culturally kidnapped and displaced from the eighty islands of Vanuatu and Solomons. This included many children who were not documented on ship-logs. These people were forced into a Sugar Slave trade and worked alongside First Nations peoples in pastoral, maritime and other industries that established the economic base of our country.

Today, some 172 years later, the work of ASSIPJ and many ASSI organisations continues to advocate for inclusion, with minimal progress. This in a country that prides itself on Diversity and Inclusion through Multiculturalism as part of the great Australian narrative.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the recognition of Australian South Sea Islanders by the 1994 Keating Government as suffering severe discrimination and racism. The recognition by that Government of the community as a ‘distinct cultural group’ who valued our islands of origin and cultural heritage promised greater inclusion in programs and services.


To make a Donation to ASSIPJ

Commonwealth Account BSB 062020  Account No: 10251466

ASSI-PJ are a registered charity with ANCN. Go to for details.

You may like to become an Associate Member of ASSI-PJ or follow them on Social Media.  You can do this via their website - just clink on the photo above and the social media links are at the bottom of their website along with the member registration form download.
Any support is greatly appreciated as they are running their organisation with low funding at this stage.