A reality for many startups, trailblazers and innovators is they have to create their own category in business as their idea is totally outside of the box. This was the case for Ros Moriarty when in 1983 she started an Indigenous design business with her husband, Yanyuwa man, John Moriarty. Balarinji was born from a desire to celebrate their children’s Aboriginal heritage. This desire first manifested in screen printing long-necked turtles onto their children’s bed linen. They soon saw an opportunity to start an Indigenous design business.
Balarinji was established at a time when Aboriginal design was rarely showcased or celebrated. For this reason, the first few years in business were tough. It literally took painting a Qantas jumbo jet with Aboriginal artwork for people to start seeing the possibilities and benefits of Balarinji’s ideas.
In addition to forging a new category in business, Balarinji is leading the way to help architects and design teams access and communicate Australia’s Indigenous history and contemporary stories. To do this successfully, Balarinji has developed a world leading, best practice approach for collaborating with Aboriginal custodians and creative practitioners for site-specific stories, design principles and art. Part of this process involves working to build capacity and create economic opportunities for Aboriginal artists, stakeholders and communities.
Balarinji has worked with many well-known brands and organisations, including: Microsoft, Australian Ballet, Australian Paralympic Committee, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Northern Territory Airports, and Stockland.
As Balarinji’s Managing Director, Ros has learned many lessons in developing a new category and from this, has a wealth of insights for other entrepreneurs. This includes building a really committed, cohesive team, because you can’t achieve anything of substance alone, do not be afraid of challenges and always endeavour to be authentic. Balarinji’s design archive is held in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra and Ros and John are dual inductees in the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame for their unparalleled contribution to building bridges of best practice participation between Aboriginal communities, business and the broader community.
Ros is also Managing Director of the Moriarty Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative established in 2011 that enables Aboriginal families and communities in the NT, Queensland and NSW to unlock the potential of their children.
Readers also enjoyed our story Cooee Mittigar.