Section: Overview
Overview
Key publications
Research funding
Supervising & teaching
Career

Key details

Areas of expertise

  • Indigenous studies
  • Indigenous contemporary art
  • Practice-led research
  • Women's studies
  • Black feminism

Available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

About Paola Balla

Paola is an award winning visual artist, highly commended curator and sought-after community cultural development practitioner, speaker, facilitator and writer. She is a Wemba-Wemba and Gunditjmara woman and PhD candidate who lectures with Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Centre, Victoria University. She teaches Politics of Aboriginal Art, into the Masters of Teaching program and Indigenous Specialisations.

Specialising in contemporary Indigenous art and Aboriginal women's art and practices of resistance and revitalisation, Paola is a Lisa Bellear Post Graduate Research Scholar. She has over twenty years' experience teaching Indigenous studies and contemporary Indigenous art practices, including in primary and secondary setting; education roles at the Botanic Gardens, Equal Opportunity Commission and Melbourne Museum as a Senior Curator in Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre; and co-founding the Indigenous Arts and Cultural Program at Footscray Community Arts Centre and Wominjeka Festival. Her current art and research focuses on black women’s art and activism, and its role in disrupting patriarchal and colonial dominant narratives and spaces. 

She curated Executed in Franklin Street (2016) City Gallery, co-curated Sovereignty (2016) and Unfinished Business; Perspectives on art and feminism (2017) at ACCA. Her writing appears in Oceania, The Lifted Brow, Art Link, Writers Victoria, Freize (UK), SBS and NITV. She is a member of the Blak Brow Collective who edited the Blak Brow (2018) for The Lifted Brow.

Recent group art exhibitions include In Character, Verge, Sydney, (2019) Lucky, Bundoora Homestead, (2018), Next Matriarch (2017) ACE Open for Taranthi Festival, Adelaide, Walan Yinaagirbang -Strong Women, (2017) First Draft, Sydney, State of the Nation, (2016) Counihan Gallery, Smoke and Mirrors, (2016) Art Realm, Melbourne, Unframed (2016) Incinerator Gallery, Melbourne, In Good Company-with proppaNOW, Roslyn Smorgon Gallery FCAC, Melbourne (2016).

Solo art exhibitions include Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius-PhD exhibition (2019) Roslyn Smorgan Gallery, FCAC, Her Stories, Kingston Art Gallery (2016), Kalina Yaryins (2015) at Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide, Born into Sovereignty, Live in Sovereignty (2014) Manningham Gallery, Singin’ Up Country and Western, (2012) Koorie Heritage Trust, Lost and Found (2010) at Trocadero Art Space.

Paola utilises art as sovereign act, in both process and outcome for expressing blak matriarchy and First Nations ways of ‘being, knowing and doing.’

Qualifications

  • MCommunityCulDevPrac, University of Melbourne, Australia, 2007
  • PGDipCommuntyCulDevPrac, University of Melbourne, Australia, 2005
  • B.Ed. (Nyerna Studies), Victoria University, Australia, 2001

Key publications

Year Citation
2018 Thorner, S., Edmonds, F., Clarke, M., & Balla, P. (181101). Maree's Backyard: Intercultural Collaborations for Indigenous Sovereignty in Melbourne. Oceania, 88(3), (269-291).

doi: 10.1002/ocea.5206

2018 Balla, P. (180601). Walking in deadly blak women's footprints. Artlink, 38(2), (22-29).

Research funding for the past 5 years

Please note:

  • Funding is ordered by the year the project commenced and may continue over several years.
  • Funding amounts for contact research are not disclosed to maintain commercial confidentiality.
  • The order of investigators is not indicative of the role they played in the research project.

Research project: cross-cultural encounters during Cook’s voyages
From: Auspicious Arts Inc
Investigators: Ms Clare Land
For period: 2018-2019
Not disclosed
Cross-Cultural Encounters During Cook's Voyages
From: City of Melbourne
Investigators: Ms Clare Land
For period: 2018-2019
Not disclosed

Supervision of research students at VU

Available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

Teaching activities & experience

Since graduating the Bachelor of Education (Nyerna Studies) program in 2001, Paola has taught Indigenous Studies and Indigenous art practices in western suburbs schools, taught at Footscray City Primary, lectured at VU, held education roles at the Botanic Gardens and Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria, been a Senior Curator at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum at First Peoples Gallery, and co-founded the Indigenous Arts and Cultural Program at FCAC and Wominjeka Festival.

Her current research focuses on black women’s art and how it disrupts patriarchy and colonialism. She curated Executed in Franklin Street (2016) City Gallery, and co-curated Sovereignty (2016) and Unfinished Business; Perspectives on art and feminism (2017) at ACCA. Publications include: Oceania, The Lifted Brow, Art Link, Writers Victoria, Freize (UK), SBS and NITV. She is a member of Blak Brow Collective, who edited The Blak Brow (2018) The Lifted Brow.

Currently, Paola is Unit Convenor for Politics of Aboriginal Art AEK2205 as part of the Aboriginal Yulendj elective units. She also teaches into the Masters of Teaching, College of Arts and Education. 

Paola is completing her PhD at VU as the inaugural Lisa Bellear Indigenous Research Scholarship recipient. Her PhD is a Creative Project Thesis, titled Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius, situating the way Aboriginal women artists disrupt dominant colonial and patriarchal narratives in public spaces. It situates Aboriginal women's art and practices of resistance, matriarchy, healing and activism.

Key academic roles

Dates Role Department / Organisation
Jan 2014 - Jun 2020
Aboriginal Lecturer Researcher
VU
Dates Role & Department/Organisation
Jan 2014 -
Jun 2020
Aboriginal Lecturer Researcher
VU

Key industry, community & government roles

Dates Role Department/Organisation
Jan 2012 - Jun 2020
Indigenous Advisory Group
Footscray Community Arts Centre
Feb 2008 - Jun 2010
Indigenous Community Advisory Board
City of Melbourne
Feb 2010 - Jun 2014
Founding round selection committee
Creative Victoria
Feb 2002 - May 2004
Indigenous Community Education Officer
Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria
Jan 2004 - Jan 2005
Classroom Teacher
Footscray City Primary School
Feb 2012 - Aug 2012
Senior Curator, First Peoples Gallery
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum
Jan 2002 - Jan 2004
Teacher
Botanic Gardens
Jan 2001 - Dec 2002
Customer Service Officer
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Dec 2015 - Mar 2017
Curator of Sovereignty exhibition
ACCA
Dec 2016 - Mar 2017
Curator of Unfinished Business; perspectives on art and feminism
ACCA
Jan 2010 - Nov 2012
Indigenous Creative Producer
Footscray Community Arts Centre
Dates Role & Department/Organisation
Jan 2012 - Jun 2020
Indigenous Advisory Group
Footscray Community Arts Centre
Feb 2008 - Jun 2010
Indigenous Community Advisory Board
City of Melbourne
Feb 2010 - Jun 2014
Founding round selection committee
Creative Victoria
Feb 2002 - May 2004
Indigenous Community Education Officer
Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria
Jan 2004 - Jan 2005
Classroom Teacher
Footscray City Primary School
Feb 2012 - Aug 2012
Senior Curator, First Peoples Gallery
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum
Jan 2002 - Jan 2004
Teacher
Botanic Gardens
Jan 2001 - Dec 2002
Customer Service Officer
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Dec 2015 - Mar 2017
Curator of Sovereignty exhibition
ACCA
Dec 2016 - Mar 2017
Curator of Unfinished Business; perspectives on art and feminism
ACCA
Jan 2010 - Nov 2012
Indigenous Creative Producer
Footscray Community Arts Centre

Awards

Year Award
2007

Besen Family Foundation Scholarship, VCA - Besen Family Foundation

2004

Trevor Nickolls Student Award - Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts & Cultural Development, Victorian College of the Arts

2001

Nyerna Studies, Bachelor of Education Community Service Award - College of Arts and Education, VU

Keynote and invited speeches

Year Title/Description
2019

Why Should I Suck My Belly In?

Stella Prize Award Ceremony, Arts Centre, Melbourne (2019) My talk was published at SBS and NITV online: https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2019/04/09/why-should-i-suck-my-belly?fbclid=IwAR3_FVjWWx53P2e87F-3Npvg1Ulu0i-UussKDL7Fioru4o-pfCJdPgtHNJw

2019

KIN Conversations

Spoke and facilitated 3 public dialogues in collaboration with artist, filmmaker and academic researcher, Genevieve Grieves (AUS) and artist, choreographer and researcher, Emily Johnston (USA) for the NO Series at Performance Space New York, New York City, East Village, USA https://performancespacenewyork.org/shows/first-nations-dialogues-kin/

2018

De-colonising Arts and Arts Research

Performance Space New York, COIL Festival (2018) New York City East Village, New York, USA https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56c3021c3c44d8211ead749b/t/5cbe81a8085229312627b45e/1555988916194/FIRST+NATIONS+DIALOGUES+-+NEW+YORK+2018+-+BlakDance+Summary+Report.pdf

2018

Disrupting and Speaking Back and Blak

Present Tense, RMIT RMIT Design Hub, Melbourne non/fictionLab http://nonfictionlab.net.au An RMIT University research centre for scholars, writers and creative practitioners across forms and disciplines, the non/fictionLab experiments with contemporary realities through critical and creative practice. 'We foster collaborative research projects in partnership with fellow scholars and artists, and with industries and communities, local and international, providing support for emerging researchers and a growing community of research students. non/fiction Lab helps create events, projects, programs and public presentations that feature a diverse range of local and international writers, artists and academics.' https://nonfictionlab.net.au/

2018

Thank you to the Warrior Black Women that Raised Me

Stella Prize Long List Award Ceremony, Spiegeltent, Melbourne (2018) https://thestellaprize.com.au/2017/12/stella-sparks-party-and-2018-stella-prize-longlist-announcement/ My talk was published at SBS: https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/voices/family/article/2018/02/09/thank-you-warrior-black-women-who-raised-me

2018

Sovereign Indigenous Curatorial Practice

MADA Art Forum series of art talks Monash University Art and Design https://www.monash.edu/mada/events/mada-artforum-paola-balla

2017

Aboriginal Women and Resistance

WOW - Women of the World conference (UK), held at FCAC, Footscray, Melbourne in 2017. https://www.wowaustralia.com.au/past-wow-festivals/wow-melbourne-2017

2016

Writing Black to the Future

Part of the Writing and Concepts series, event was held at ACMI, Fed Square, Melbourne My paper was published in: Writing + Concepts 2017 Volume III of Art + Australia's 'Documents' Series, launched at the NGV Art Book Fair 15 - 17 March, 2019. Edited by Jan van Schaik, published by Art + Australia. https://www.acmi.net.au/events/writing-concepts-paola-balla/

2013

Healing and Resistance

Community Development Network Conference, Place and Displacement Conference

Show more invited keynote speeches

Media appearances

01st June 2020

Indigenous art takes over Melbourne's galleries

In studio radio interview regarding Aboriginal art exhibition I co-curated with ABC Melbourne.

01st June 2020

All About Women 2020 Program Announced: Chanel Miller, Lindy West, Yumi Stynes And More

Article detailing the speakers including myself to appear at Sydney's Opera House for International Women's Day on March 8. By Alicia Vrajlal On Monday, the program lineup was announced ahead of the March 8 event, with international and local feminists, changemakers and media personalities set to front various talks and panels on the day. Media outlet: Huffington Post

06th March 2020

Indigenous Females Talk 'White Feminist Movement' And If Women of Colour Have Been Excluded Throughout History

06/03/2020 5:50 PM AEDT | Updated 06/03/2020 6:06 PM AEDT Indigenous Females Talk 'White Feminist Movement' And If Women of Colour Have Been Excluded Throughout History First Nations women are speaking up about the impact of colonialism and whether they’ve been misrepresented through the white women’s feminism movement. By Alicia Vrajlal Huffington Post

16th October 2019

Indigenous offenders in Australia find new life in art

Indigenous offenders in Australia find new life in art Pioneering prison program aims to foster pride and creativity among country's Aboriginal population Media outlet: Nikkea Asian Review DAVID HOPKINS, Contributing writer October 16, 2019 12:09 JST

15th June 2019

Paola Balla: Blak Matriarchy JANA PERKOVIĆ IN CONVERSATION WITH PAOLA BALLA

Assemble Papers 'When Max Delany, artistic director of Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), invited Paola Balla to curate an exhibition of Aboriginal art in 2016, it was the first such undertaking for ACCA in more than twenty years – and a resounding success.'

05th January 2018

'I can't believe we're still arguing this shit'

Interview with arts writer, regarding the feminist exhibition I co-curated at ACCA, by the Sydney Morning Herald

24th October 2017

Next Matriarch A next wave of strong First Nations women are changing the face of contemporary Indigenous art.

Next Matriarch A next wave of strong First Nations women are changing the face of contemporary Indigenous art. By GINA FAIRLEY for Arts Hub Tuesday 24 October, 2017

09th October 2017

Next Matriarch An Ode to Sisterhood

Exhibition review of a group show my artwork featured in. Published on 09 October 2017 by FRUZSI KENEZ

15th December 2016

Female artists and curators making ACCA and NGV 'a little bit blacker'

Article interview based on comments I made at the launch of the exhibition I co-curated at ACCA. Interview appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.