award-winning filmmaker, actress and radio personality
- 2021: West Australian of the Year, Aboriginal category.
- 2020: ImagiNative Festival and International Award Winner Digital + Interactive Award
for Virtual Whatjuk
- 2017: NAIDOC Artist of the Year, Perth
2015: Indigenous Filmmaker Award, West End Film Festival
- 2015: WA Performing Arts Award, Best Supporting Actress
- 2014: Best Short Film Factual, WA Screen Awards
- 2013: Emerging Artist Award, Perth Fringe Festival
- 2011: National Deadly Award, Community Broadcaster of the Year
- 2009: NAIDOC Artist of the Year, Perth
Karla Hart is a multi-award-winning artist, filmmaker, actor, musician, performer, speaker and
teacher who is as passionate about sharing her Noongar culture as she is about shining a light
on other First Nations creatives.
A proud Noongar woman, Karla was raised on Goreng country in WA’s Great Southern,
surrounded by her large extended family and with deep cultural knowledge. Her connection
to her county and culture has inspired every aspect of her work.
Karla has not only established herself as a leader in many aspects of the arts, she is
committed to self-determination n the telling and sharing of First Nations stories.
While studying at the WA Academy of Performing Arts and Edith Cowan University, Ms Hart
was determined to use her talents to bring Noongar stories to the fore, something she has
done in myriad ways including via broadcasting, lecturing, writing and creating original
content for event curation, dance, stage and screen.
As a presenter for Noongar Radio, Ms Hart introduced the first Noongar language program
and received a national award for her broadcasting. She co-wrote and starred in Black as
Michael Jackson, a series of skits exploring Noongar identity. This spawned Fifty Shades of
Black which had a sell-out Perth Fringe Festival season. Written and co-created by Ms Hart
for Yorga Waabiny Productions, the theatre company she co-founded, the performance
earned her an emerging artist award.
Ms Hart was recognised with an award for her roles in Yirra Yaakin’s King Hit, which told the
story of Noongar boxer Geoffrey Narkle and growing up Indigenous in WA in the 1950s and
60s. Aside from performing as a singer and dancer at multiple Perth festivals including singing
a Noongar lullaby to wake the little girl giant up from Perth International Arts Festival to over
a million people, recording Noongar song for Siren Song and recording Noongar song and
dance for Boorna Waanginy and has travelled to China and the United States twice to
perform Noongar dance and song.
Ms Hart has managed and performed with the Noongar women’s dance group Kwarbah
Djookian (Beautiful Sisters) since 2007 and has taught thousands of people Noongar dance
and song since then to schools across WA, community groups and corporate places. Karla
still does call outs for Noongar women who don’t have family access to cultural activities to
bring themselves or their children to learn and dance with her. Karla was a role model with
Role Models Australia and worked in almost every remote community in Western Australia
and many rural areas doing dance and performance workshops at schools.
She is in her tenth year as artistic director of the Wardarnji Festival of which was changed to
a full dance festival in 2015 an original concept of Karla’s. Not just a festival but the biggest
Noongar corroboree on the yearly calender with over 100 dancers every year and around
60% made up of children and young adults. The festival draws thousands of people and has
record crowds every year, went on to open the Fremantle Festival for many years and
included a translated Noongar speech from Karla delivered by Fremantle Mayor Brad Petit.
The festival includes a contemporary section with other dance styles mixed with traditional
and every year youth perform for the very first time their own choreographed work in front
of thousands of people and their Noongar community. Wardarnji has become iconic to
Fremantle, Perth and the Noongar community as a celebration of Noongar song, dance and
storytelling which draws huge crowds to Fremantle each year bringing together of one of the
biggest mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous together. Karla has also used Wardarnji to
grow Indigenous business through encouraging community members to go into business with
their skills and this has grown from having one or two stalls of arts and crafts to 15 to 20
stalls of arts, crafts, food and clothing all Indigenous owned and managed. The festival now
also has a regular story telling section with puppets and is led by a professional puppeteer
and a Noongar artist and made by local Indigenous people who also perform with the
puppets – the story are local dreamtime stories.
More recently, Ms Hart came to national attention as the writer, filmmaker, director and co –
executive producer of NITV and SBS’s Family Rules, a series giving insight into the everyday
life of an urban Noongar family which aired in 7 countries around the world. Karla went on to
write and direct On Country Kitchen series 1 and 2 for NITV and SBS, Karla also co-wrote and
directed Noongar Footy Magic for NITV and SBS and wrote and directed, composed Noongar
language song and did voice over for Virtual Whadjuk a virtual reality experience on the
history of Noongar people in Perth. This has since been featured and experienced
by…museums, schools…Karla has written, directed and produced over 70 full length episodes
of television and this grows as she produces a weekly entertainment show currently.
Karla will be a published author for Hardie and Grant in Roots – Home Is Who We Are
released on the 28th July 2021 for a piece she wrote about her family history with Noongar
wailing and grieving processes which was shortlisted from a SBS writing competition with
over 2000 entries and Karla’s is one of the 30 pieces published in the book.
She is the Executive Producer of Yokayi Footy series 1 and now 2, a partnership between
NITV and the AFL, where she uses her platform to include culture and language, as well as
positive role models and community stories. She does all this while juggling numerous other
projects, including working as an attachment director and cultural consultant on the film
adaptation of Tim Winton’s Blueback; finishing post-production for her first drama Tooly,
which uses Noongar language and is based on a Noongar spiritual sign, and is in pre-
production for her second drama, Wirnitj, based on her uncle’s life which is a pilot for a series
to be produced by international company Komixx Films.
Demonstrated contribution to community
- Noongar Radio broadcaster
- TAFE Lecturer
- Founder and Manager, Kwarbah Djookian
- Artistic Director, Wardarnji Festival
- Board Member Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre Company 2013 to 2020
- co-founder, Yorga Waabiny Productions
- Founder and Company Director, Karla Hart Enterprises
- Co-creator, Writer, Director and Producer Family Rules series 1, 2 and 3
- Writer and Director On Country Kitchen series 1 and 2
- Writer and Director Virtual Whadjuk
- Executive Producer, Yokayi Footy series 1 and 2
Ms Hart employs more than 100 local Aboriginal people every year as dancers, actors,
singers, performers, film runners, workshop facilitators and production assistants, as well as
to give the Welcome to Country and conduct smoking ceremonies.
She brings the Noongar community together to perform in front of thousands of people at
the Wardarnji Festival, where she also dances with Kwarbah Djookian, the company she has
taken across the world. She has danced and sung before matches in the AFL’s Indigenous
round, performed and spoken at citizenship ceremonies and helped produce catwalk shows
starring Aboriginal models and featuring fashion from remote community artists.
In 2019, Ms Hart created an event with the Perth Symphony Orchestra, WOWAK, featuring
several Aboriginal dance companies that has spawned further projects. Karla manages Deadly
Funny WA and was a judge at the National Awards this year, has artistically curated Bunuru
Festival at Yagan Square and is currently curating a new event for the City of Fremantle for
Hidden Treasures, a new performance piece for Fremantle International Street Arts Festival
involving Noongar performers, dancers and singers and the Maali Festival for Black Swan
Ms Hart runs weekly dance performance and smoking ceremony in Yagan Square to boost
Perth’s representation of Noongar culture. She regularly supports and encourages youth,
making connections through initiatives facilitating Noongar hip-hop crew Beat Walkers,
commissioning new Noongar performance pieces and events as well as facilitating workshops
for the Aboriginal Health Council of WA.
Through Karla’s work on film she has supported and brought on many Indigenous people to
train and work in production, sound, make-up and styling to increase their career
opportunities and provide other career paths. In Karla’s major productions Family Rules and
Yokayi Footy she insists that Indigenous designers are used for photoshoots and every week
on Yokayi Footy and they get a credit of ‘dressed by’ with their logos on the show.
Ms Hart is a NAIDOC Week regular, both as a speaker and performer, as she continues to
raise her voice and use her gifts to celebrate First Nations culture and shatter stereotypes.