John Moriarty and Ros Moriarty began their design journey after the birth in Melbourne of their first son Tim Bundyan, creating turtle images that they screen-printed onto his bed linen to keep him connected with his Yanyuwa heritage. Naming their design enterprise Balarinji, after the skin name of their two sons, Tim and James Djawarralwarral, the studio was born from these simple beginnings.
“Our vision was to celebrate the heritage and identity of our three children – Tim, James and Julia Marrayelu. We began to realise over time that our family’s personal identity journey could resonate with Australia’s broader search for a unique belonging in the world,” commented Mr Moriarty.
Balarinji’s philosophy is deeply inspired by Mr Moriarty’s history. Born in the late 1930s to a Yanyuwa mother and Irish father in Borroloola, a remote community in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory, John was taken from his home at the age of four as part of the Stolen Generations, a government strategy to assimilate paler Aboriginal children. The policy’s purpose was to eliminate cultural practice and language. It was not until 1968 at the age of 30, that John was able to return to Borroloola to reunite with his family, culture and Country.
Growing up in Tasmania, Ms Moriarty spent much of her childhood around the island’s mountains and lakes, and knew the calm and regeneration of time in pristine landscapes. As a young researcher in Central Australia, then on family visits back to Borroloola, she began to understand something of the deeper meaning of Country to Aboriginal people.