A true Aussie hero

This article has photo gallery Published on SQNLDR Nicola Frost (author), CPL Ben Dempster (photographer)

Topic(s): Charities, Fundraising & Community

Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to the Middle East region, show-case their quilts and laundry bags, produced and delivered by over 200 volunteer quilters in Australia, as part of Aussie Hero Quilts. (photo: CPL Ben Dempster)
Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to the Middle East region, show-case their quilts and laundry bags, produced and delivered by over 200 volunteer quilters in Australia, as part of Aussie Hero Quilts.

On operations today, someone's day just got better. They have not only received some post from Australia but they have received a parcel from an unknown, deeply talented and caring person who makes quilts or laundry bags for deployed Australian service personnel.

Time and time again, deployed personnel are surprised and amazed when they receive an unexpected gift such as this.

Founder of Aussie Hero Quilts (and laundry bags), Ms Jan-Maree Ball, began the project back in 2011.

She said there were three main reasons for embarking on her mission.

"First, I felt the need to do something to give back to our Defence Force as I hated the way our Vietnam veterans were treated, and that can never happen again," she said.

"Secondly, I heard of a seriously wounded Aussie soldier given a quilt by the Americans in the German hospital he was being treated in and I felt ashamed that there was not an Aussie quilt for him.

"He now has one of ours and I have since met him and his wife and they have become good friends.

"They tell me that he uses his quilt all the time.

"Finally, I just felt that we, the Aussie public, needed a way to say thank you to our Defence members for their service."

Jan-Maree, a former Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force officer, recruited some merry men and women through her quilting network and by the end of December that year, it was obvious that there was enough support throughout the quilters' network in Australia to turn it into an Australia-wide proposition.

Jan-Maree Ball, the founder of Aussie Hero Quilts at the Australian War Memorial. Volunteers with Aussie Hero Quilts provide their time, skills and effort to manufacture highly valued quilts and laundry bags for personnel deployed on operations.

Jan-Maree Ball, the founder of Aussie Hero Quilts at the Australian War Memorial. Volunteers with Aussie Hero Quilts provide their time, skills and effort to manufacture highly valued quilts and laundry bags for personnel deployed on operations.



"On 1 January 2012, I launched the dedicated blog at http://www.aussieheroquilts.blogspot.com.au followed by the Facebook page," said Ms Ball.

Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry bags) has continued to grow steadily.

Incredibly, the 150-200 strong team of stitching fanatics have sent over 5,000 quilts and 7,400 laundry bags in under four years – that is three quilts and five laundry bags a day!

"These days, quilts and laundry bags are mailed in response to requests received from serving members or their loved ones."

Requests can be emailed to friendsofAHQ@gmail.com with some suggestions that can personalise the items such as, hobbies, job role, favourite colours, sport teams, nicknames or initials.

The team cannot promise that all items will be personalised but most are in some way. The member's PMKeyS or personnel number, deployed postal address and their approximate return to Australia date, helps make sure each member receives their parcel on deployment.

While Ms Ball does not expect donations, she is always humbled when people give something back.

Ms Ball has received donations in the form of material, quilt patches, spotlight vouchers, or bank deposits.

Some even join up to become quilters themselves!