The Federation Tapestry: Cavalcade

This panel, which forms the eighth in the suite of tapestries which make up the Federation Tapestry, is a powerful summary of the themes underlying the whole suite.

Federation Tapestry: Cavalcade


As the title suggests, the Cavalcade panel presents an historical procession from before the arrival of Europeans, through various voyages of discovery to the first white settlement of Australia. It continues through the nineteenth century, culminating in the political movement towards Federation. For this panel the Tapestry’s designer, Murray Walker, used the contemporary work of cartoonists Bruce Petty and Ron Tandberg, as well as older images drawn from a range of other sources.

Figures included in the procession from upper left to right (bottom) are:

  • Norman Lindsay’s caricatures of Mr and Mrs Wowser
  • Figure from Hoyle’s print trade advertisement, early 20th century
  • Satirical figure of Alfred Deakin by Norman Lindsay
  • Caricature portraits by Bruce Petty of Nellie Melba, Daisy Bates, Edmund Barton, Henry Lawson, Henry Parkes and Nellie Stewart
  • Catherine Spence
  • Louisa Lawson
  • Trademark containing the figure of a swagman
  • Photograph of a swagman c.1901 from the Kerry Collection, State Library of N.S.W.
  • Detail of three figures in possum skin cloaks from a painting by William Barak titled Dancing scene of figures with boomerangs and people in possum skin cloaks c.1880s from the collection of the State Library of Victoria
  • Portrait of John Batman
  • Detail of a photograph of William Barak
  • Detail of William Buckley ‘the wild white man'
  • Detail of A Man of Van Diemen’s Land by John Webber, engraved by J.W.Hullmann, drawn in January 1777, from the Mitchell Library (PXD 59f.64b)
  • A satirical engraving about transportation from the late 18th century by William Heath (Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia U7173)
  • Portrait of Bungaree by Augustus Earle, c.1826 (Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia)
  • Portrait of Governor Phillip 1786 by H.Macbeth-Raeburn (National Library of Australia HS4824)
  • Cartoon by Ron Tandberg
  • Sculptural memorial of Captain Cook in Sydney, c.1878

Murray Walker chose William Buckley, Bungaree, Tommy McRae and William Barak as important examples of men who moved between Indigenous and settler communities, pleading for tolerance and acceptance.

In the upper area of the panel, Bruce Petty’s timeline features a central map of the old world. The people boarding the sailing ship represent convicts, the accompanying soldiers (depicted as the Rum Corps) and free settlers on their way to Sydney Cove. On the left-hand side of the ship under the five stars of the Southern Cross, the disembarking figures represent various aspects of the early settlement of the colony of N.S.W. Five different timelines are illustrated.

Federation Tapestry: Cavalcade. Detail of William Buckley.

Detail of William Buckley

The design was complex and presented many challenges, so weaving this panel required a high degree of artistic and technical skill. As the portraits and figures were drawn from a number of different sources – photographs, sketches, art works, trade marks, and cartoons – it was important that they were unified in the tapestry panel but could also be read individually. To achieve this the weavers used a limited palette of blues and greens for the figures at the base of the panel. Only two – Bungaree and Captain Arthur Phillip – reflect the colours of the original art works. While the weavers simplified the details of these images, they also had to ensure that the portraits could still be recognised by those viewing the tapestry.

This panel, which is central to the Federation story, has links with several others. The colour used for the background is the same as for The Heidelberg School panel, which hangs nearby. Bruce Petty’s central cartoon in that tapestry panel is treated in a similar manner to the small medallion portraits in this panel.


Designer: Murray Walker with contributing artists Bruce Petty and Ron Tandberg, selected images by Norman Lindsay and William Barak (LaTrobe Collection, State Library of Victoria). Selected works from British artists John Webber (Mitchell Library PXD 59f64b), William Heath (Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library Australia U7173), Augustus Earle (Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia T305) and H.Macbeth-Raeburn, (National Library of Australia S4824). Other images are sourced from various publications, State and National archives, and the Mitchell Library and include photographs, trademarks and details from artworks.

Size: 200 x 472 cm

The Victorian Tapestry Workshop acknowledges the support of Aboriginal communities for the use of the Barak images.

The Victorian Tapestry Workshop acknowledges the support of the Estate of Norman Lindsay for the use of images.

The Federation Tapestry was supported by the Commonwealth Government through the Federation Fund.

Further Reading

Latreille, Anne and Walker, Murray 2001. The Federation Tapestry: one people united in peace. Catalogue available from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop and the Melbourne Museum Shop.


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