You are here

Korin Gamadji Institute helps Tarni to design in style

Tarni Jarvis front-cropped.jpg

Young woman wearing traditional wear of brown colour, the lower section covered in feathers.
Tarni Jarvis wears what she creates (Photo courtesy of Richmond Football Club)
19 Mar 2019

Tarni Jarvis was a ‘mentally struggling’ teenage girl. Disconnected and down on confidence, she was attending school just twice a week.

Now as a Year 12 graduate, she is preparing to have her own creation, an Indigenous dress titled Parramal Puna Punai, or Little Emu Girl, on display at the Melbourne Museum as part of the annual Top Designs Exhibition.

The dress’s stellar score in her Year 12 product design course attracted attention.

Now she is one of only 9 Victorian Certificate of Education students selected in the product design and technology category of Top Designs.

She credits her change to the Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership (REAL) program run by the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI).

‘I went from a kid that most my teachers thought wouldn’t make it to Year 12, to one that was in the top 10 students in the state for a subject,’ she said.

‘KGI pushed me, and to be honest kind of shaped me.  I became a different person by the end of the program. I made a lot of really big changes and they were all thanks to KGI.’

‘I was transitioning schools from Loretto College (an all-girls school in Ballarat) to Ballarat High when I first joined the program and it really helped me to figure it all out and to build enough confidence.’

Amazingly, after completing the REAL program, Jarvis had a 100 per cent school attendance rate and a determination to engage her passion.

 ‘Design has always been a little passion of mine,’ she explained.

‘I have been dancing since I was eight and I have always been a part of making the props and costumes.’

‘We always used to just wear plain black dresses, so I thought ‘why don’t I make something a bit more, cool’.’

Tarni decided on the cultural design of the dress with help from Indigenous community members, photographs and demonstrations that were made available from the Koorie Heritage Trust.

The dress took over 100 hours to complete, which is not surprising given the felting of the Emu feather and Possum fur made up the bulk of her design.

Included in the many exhibitors that will enjoy the display of Indigenous culture are the friends Tarni made throughout the KGI program.

‘I keep in contact with a lot of them and see them around. We all have a group chat on snap chat and have been speaking in that for the past two years,’ she said.

‘It’s a great thrill to have the dress in the display, but I also cannot wait to dance in it once I get it back.’

Tarni will continue her design hobby on the side whilst completing a traineeship at WorkSafe where she has taken up a Certificate 4 in work health and safety.

Find out more

Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth are on a pathway to educational and career success is a major priority of the Australian Government.

Its Indigenous Advancement Strategy supports the REAL program with funding through its Children and Schooling Programme.

Youth wanting to participate can register using the REAL Nomination Form.

Share this