• Jirra Lulla Harvey founded Kalinya Communications to increase the recognition of Indigenous voices in Australia. (Kalinya Communications )Source: Kalinya Communications
It's not just McDonald's and Nike who use clever creative agencies to help spread their message. Two Aboriginal agencies have made it their mission to spread stories to help people heal and challenge racist stereotypes that often exist around Indigenous communities.
Kimberly Gillan

15 Nov 2016 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2016 - 11:22 AM

Prejudice against Indigenous Australians is considered one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination in Australia, with as many as one in five Australians admitting they discriminate against Indigenous Australians in some situations.

That's something that Jirra Lulla Harvey, founder of design, events and public relations company Kalinya Communications, is determined to change. "Our core aim is to increase recognition and acknowledgement of Aboriginal voices and the unique knowledge that is an asset to Australia," she tells SBS Life. "I started Kalinya because there are all these amazing stories happening in our community and I felt like Australia could really benefit from hearing them."

Gilimbaa creative agency in Brisbane is another group working tirelessly to educate Australians about the stolen generation and shine a light on positive Aboriginal stories. "Gilimbaa is made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together sharing stories that need to be told to a broader Australian audience," Amanda Lear, Gilimbaa director of Strategy and Film, tells SBS Life. "Storytelling plays a fundamental role in explaining really complex subjects and connecting the audience."

Here are some of the ways these innovative agencies have sought to get conversations started:

Creative ways of explaining intergenerational trauma

The Healing Foundation's mission is to help Aboriginal people heal by connecting them back to culture, philosophy and spirit. Gilimbaa were engaged to create an animation that explains to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians the story of the Stolen Generation and why healing is so important. "We knew that people would be taking an emotional journey – a lot of the audience didn't know the story and didn't understand the impacts of the Stolen Generation and the effects of intergenerational trauma," Lear explains. "On the other side of the audience were people who had lived this history and it was very real to this day, so there needed to be reverence and great respect handling content like that."

It took six months to complete the script alone, but the impact of the animation was immediately clear. "Within the first three days they had 20,000 hits," Lear says. "It's still used by organisations years later as a fundamental piece to explain intergenerational trauma."

Hip hop for headspace

When headspace, the national youth mental health foundation, wanted to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth, they engaged Gilimbaa to come up with a strategy. "We created a hip hop video clip by travelling around to three communities and shooting, producing and then animating Indigenous hip hop projects," Lear says.

The kids wrote the songs and the lyrics were then used by headspace as key campaign lines.

"It was a great example of the power that comes from giving a voice to the community and letting them take creative control," Lear says. "The lyrics and animation with dancing was so powerful – it went ballistic and was nominated for a few awards."

Designing AFL Dreamtime guernseys

Lulla Harvey says you always need to think creatively to find the best ways to start conversations. One great example is the special guernseys Kalinya designed for the Richmond and Hawthorn AFL clubs to be worn during the AFL Indigenous Round. "I got to work closely with the Aboriginal players to represent their stories through the jumper," Lulla Harvey says. "At every stage we talked about 'What's your connection to culture, to country to family?' then I'd go and do sketches. It took 18 months to get the finished product."

Lulla Harvey says the guernseys created a rare opportunity to get the broader Australian community thinking about Aboriginal culture. "You get to reach audiences you wouldn't ordinarily have access to," she says. "I was on a plane to Brisbane to watch the Hawks play in the Indigenous Round and happened to be sitting next to some die-hard Hawthorn fans. They were so excited to talk to me about Aboriginal culture and I thought, 'I would never normally get to chat to these women about this'. It's creating those pathways for knowledge exchange that really excites me."

Adding Aboriginal elements to conferences

Bringing a unique style to big events is another way Kalinya helps to share important stories. When Kalinya was engaged to work on the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Conference (NATSIEC), they got local Aboriginal artists to create artefacts for gifts plus asked local elders to take delegates on a river tour. "It was an education conference but we were really adamant that education is not only about policy and curriculum but also about cultural and intergenerational knowledge," Lulla Harvey says. "We had a lot of non-Indigenous educators there, so for them to be able to meet artists and elders is really important, because they are setting the agenda for what our young people learn in schools."

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First Contact (season 2) airs on 29 November, 30 November and 1 December 2016 at 8:30pm on SBS. Across 28 Days, six well-known Aussies take an epic journey into Aboriginal Australia. Watch the trailer here, and catch-up on episodes after the program airs via SBS On Demand here.

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