Ros Moriarty and John Moriarty, founders of Indigenous design studio Balarinji, have been inducted into the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) Hall of Fame, for their contribution to enriching Australian graphic design, communication, and cultural activism.

Founded in 1983, Balarinji has continually depicted the Indigenous narrative in a profound manner. Best known for the Balarinji-Qantas Flying Art Aircraft collection that has spanned three decades, the practice’s cultural design principles have transformed many major infrastructure projects nationally.

AGDA Hall of Fame Committee member, Graham Rendoth, says the pair are deserving recipients of Hall of Fame status.

“Through four decades John Moriarty and Ros Moriarty have built a ground-breaking practice that uniquely reflects their partnership, and which has enriched the experience of Australian graphic design and communication.”

Balarinji Chair and Co-Founder and proud Yanyuwa man, John Moriarty says both he and wife Ros are greatly honoured.

“We could never have imagined when we started out nearly 40 years ago, that our desire to celebrate our children’s belonging to my Yanyuwa people as well as to mainstream contemporary Australia, would grow to resonate so strongly as a contribution to our nation’s design identity,“ he says. 

“Our vision was to celebrate the heritage and identity of our three children - Tim, James and Julia Marrayelu. This was the philosophy that evolved over time into a statement about identity for all Australians.”

The Moriarty’s 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 teach him about his Yanyuwa heritage. Called Balarinji, after the skin name of their two sons, Tim and James Djawarralwarral, the studio was born from these simple beginnings. 

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.

Ros Moriarty, Balarinji Managing Director and Co-Founder says both she and her husband are proud and grateful to be inducted into the AGDA Hall of Fame.

“It is such a privilege to be acknowledged alongside a cohort of talented, visionary graphic designers. For us, graphic design is the rich, exciting discipline that has given us the platform to bring together ancient culture and contemporary Indigenous voices, in celebration of Australia’s founding Aboriginal narrative.”

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. She has dedicated her professional life to working with Mr Moriarty in partnership, and with their team, to grow and share their aspirations for Australia’s founding cultural identity.

Balarinji is recognised for its unparalleled contribution to building bridges of best practice participation between Aboriginal communities, businesses and the broader community. 

Balarinji’s design projects have been awarded many honours. Most recently a UNESCO Achievement Award in June 2021, a 2020 Good Design Award for the Aboriginal artwork project for Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre, a Silver in the 2020 Sydney Design Awards for an Aboriginal art installation in Redfern, a Gold in the 2019 Sydney Design Awards for the Balarinji-Qantas Emily Kame Kngwarreye Dreamliner, and as a finalist in the 2019 Urban Developer Awards in the Excellence in Community Engagement category.