Jirra Lulla Harvey

Posted 18 Jul 16

Jirra Lulla is the Founder and Director of Kalinya Communications. She established Kalinya because she believes everyone benefits from access to cultural knowledge, a sense of connectedness and stories of resilience.

Jirra means Kangaroo in the language of the Gunaikurnai people. Jirra was named after the Kangaroo because they are the only Australian species that has increased in numbers since colonisation, to her mother the Kangaroo is a symbol of strength. Lulla is her Grandmother’s name. Lulla Morgan, a Yorta Yorta woman from Cummergunja married Alfred Bamblett, a Wiradjuri man from the Narrandera Sandhills, and together they had 14 children and from them, over 500 descendants. Lulla raised her children and grandchildren to respect education, family and community. For 25 years Jirra’s Father, Lionel Bamblett, has been the head of a peak Aboriginal education body and so Jirra grew up playing under boardroom tables. Her Mother, Kate Harvey, is a passionate advocate for the rights of women, and would take Jirra out of primary school to attend one of the early Koorie women’s University courses that she wrote and taught with women from across the state.

Jirra was a National Scholar at the University of Melbourne where she studied Media and Communications and now guest lectures on representations of race and sexuality in Australian pop culture. In her early twenties she was awarded a Centenary Medal for creative contributions to Australian Society.

Jirra says there have been three pivotal moments that have shaped her career.

“When I was introduced to the work and life of artist Tracey Moffatt. Seeing a Koorie woman push boundaries, define her own identity and pursue a career in NYC, it expanded my own ideas about the kind of life I could live.

When I met young Indigenous journalists at a Youth Forum in the Philippines. They told me about their offices being stormed by military, their computers smashed, and yet they kept writing. At that moment I believed, stronger than ever, in the importance of self-representation.

When I graduated an Indigenous Arts Fellow in Marketing from the National Gallery of Australia, I found the confidence to start Kalinya and build a life that is authentic to me and my dreams.”

Kalinya is a Yorta Yorta word, meaning good, beautiful and honest. These are Jirra’s guiding business principles.

Today she splits her time between Melbourne working on the projects that inspire her and travelling the world seeking beauty, art, music, and learning from other cultures and community initiatives that challenge adversity through self-determination and creative thinking.

Photo: Eliza Harrison