CERTIFICATE III IN THEATRE (ABORIGINAL), 2006 AND BACHELOR OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS, 2015
Ever since she was a little girl, Karla loved acting, singing and dancing. However, during her time at WAAPA she realised that her artistic aspirations were based on a passionate desire to share Indigenous stories.
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 country and culture has inspired every aspect of her work.
“Having been raised by my grandmother in the country surrounded by a huge extended family, stories were always being told,” she explains. “I want to tell those stories so that they are around forever for everyone to enjoy and feel a part of something special.”
She regularly supports and encourages youth, commissioning new Noongar performance pieces and events, as well as facilitating workshops for the Aboriginal Health Council of WA.
She has worked in almost every remote community in Western Australia and many rural areas doing dance and performance workshops at schools.
Due to her commitment in these areas, it is easy to see why Karla was awarded the Aboriginal Award at the 2021 Western Australian of the Year Awards.
Karla set about creating a multi-disciplinary career in the arts. Along the way she added a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts majoring in Contemporary Performance from ECU to her academic qualifications.
“I never, ever think that I can’t do something and I take every opportunity to learn as much as I can,” Karla says.
This ‘can do’ attitude has seen Karla showered with awards that attest to her achievements in theatre, film and radio.
She has been the recipient of a 2011 National Deadly Community Broadcaster of the Year Award; a 2013 WA Emerging Artist Award for Perth Fringe Festival; a 2014 WA Screen Award for Best Short Factual Film for The Magic Quandong, which she wrote and directed; and a 2015 Performing Arts WA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s production of King Hit.
In 2017, Karla won her second NAIDOC Perth Artist of the Year Award, after also receiving the honour in 2009.
“I love acting but you can’t expect to continually get work as an actor, so if you have the talent to apply yourself to different art practices, then you should,” she says. It comes as no surprise then that Karla also won the 2020 ImagiNative Festival and International Award Winner Digital + Interactive Award for Virtual Whatjuk.
For Karla, those different art practices have included managing and performing with the Noongar women’s dance group, Kwarbah Djookian, since2007; being a drive-time presenter for Noongar Radio 100.9FM; coordinating the City of Fremantle’s Wardarnji Festival from 2011 to 2018; and teaching traditional dance and dream time story creation to school students.
As a choreographer, dancer, composer and singer, Karla has performed in consecutive Perth International Arts Festivals: in 2015 with the French street theatre company Royal De Luxe in The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of The Giants to the Streets of Perth; in the 2016 opening event, Home; as part of the 2017 opening, Boorna Waanginy – The Trees Speak; and contributing her vocals to the outdoor aural work, Siren Song, for the festival opening in 2018.
Karla has also been engaged in telling stories through film, developing her skills as a writer, producer and director.
“Even now I’m still learning,” Karla says. “If it will further my career and give me another skill I always just think, ‘Why not?’”
Karla’s most recent productions to air on NITV and SBS on Demand include On Country Kitchen, a 2017 six-part culinary program that she co-wrote and directed, and which has been extended to a second series; Family Rules, a 2017 reality television series based on her original concept that she wrote, co-executive produced, directed and shot, which has a second series due to air in late 2018; and Nyoongar Footy Magic, a 2018 four-part documentary series that she co-wrote and co-directed about the role of Noongar players in the AFL.
“I often think back to when I was lying in my room in my grandmother’s house dreaming of travelling and performing and sometimes I have to pinch myself and go, ‘Gee that little girl from Gnowangerup has come a long way’.”
“But I never stop dreaming about what I can do next!”