Paola Balla credits the support and encouragement of VU’s Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit Director, Karen Jackson for helping her develop the confidence to complete her undergraduate degree. She is now a high profile artist and the holder of VU’s new Lisa Bellear Indigenous Post Graduate Research Scholarship.
"I was a young single mother without a stable home. Support from strong Aboriginal women around me, and the director of Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit, helped me complete my degree. Not only did my undergraduate course give me direction, it changed my life. It allowed me to engage with my community and culture, and connect with respected Elders.
After graduating, I worked as a lecturer at Moondani Balluk, as well as in human rights education, and was a senior curator on the ‘First Peoples’ exhibition at Melbourne Museum. I practiced as an artist and established the Indigenous Cultural Program at FCAC (Footscray Community Arts Centre). I’m currently working part-time at Moondani Balluk, and beginning my PhD.
I wish to continue my research into the ways in which Aboriginal women and Aboriginal women artists disrupt and speak back to colonisation both in contemporary art and Australia in general. I aim to speak out on trauma, grief, violence, and patriarchy to create a body of work that articulates this, and my personal journey of trauma, recovery, and healing.
The Aboriginal educators at VU create a space for Indigenous people to deepen their understandings of themselves. They encourage us to consider the historical and social factors that determine the colonised worlds in which we exist. They help us articulate our anticolonial ways of being and working. I’m grateful to be in a cultural space that supports my work and aspirations. I got here through hard work, but also the support of my family, husband and VU’s Moondani Balluk community. I strive to continue to create change for, and with our people."