Eva Johnson

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Eva Johnson
Daly River, Northern Territory
Other namesEva Birrit
Awards1993 Red Ochre Award

Eva Knowles Johnson (born 1946) is an Aboriginal Australian poet, actor, director and playwright.

Early life[edit]

Eva Knowles Johnson belongs to the Malak Malak people and was born in 1946 at Daly River in the Northern Territory.[1] At the age of two, Johnson was taken from her mother and placed on a Methodist Mission on Croker Island and at the age of 10 was transferred to an orphanage in Adelaide.[2]


Johnson worked as an enrolled nurse and studied community development at the South Australian Institute of Technology and a degree in Aboriginal studies at the University of Adelaide.[2]

Eva Johnson has worked as a poet, actor, director, playwright and teacher.[3] She began writing in 1979. Her first poem became the title of the first play ever produced by Black Theatre in Adelaide, When I Die You'll All Stop Laughing.[2][4]

Johnson contributed to the representation of Aboriginal women on the stage.[5] Johnson's writing addresses themes of cultural identity, Aboriginal Australian women's rights, the stolen generation, land rights, slavery, sexism and homophobia.[6] Johnson played the part of Alice Wilson (credited as Eva Birrit) in the fourth segment of the 1981 award winning series Women of the Sun.[7][8]

In 1984 Johnson directed the first Aboriginal Women's Art Festival in Adelaide and wrote a play for the festival entitled Tjindarella.[2] The play examined the oppression of Aboriginal Australians and highlighted the effects of government policy on the forced removal of children from their parents and culture.[5] Tjindarella was also performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 1984.[9] Johnson was writer/director of the First National Black Playwrights' Conference in Canberra, 1987, from which the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust was developed.[9]

In 1989 Johnson's play Mimini's Voices was produced by the Magpie Theatre Company in Adelaide and later restaged in 1990 as part of the Hiroshima Arts festival in Japan where it won the Festival Peace Prize awarded by the Lord Mayor of Hiroshima.[9][10]

Eva continued to write plays into the 1990s, with titles including Heart Beat of the Earth, Two Bob in the Quid, What Do They Call Me and Mimini's Voices. She has received a number of awards for her work. Eva is still living in Adelaide today and continues her work as a guest speaker at various educational institutions.[10]



  • A letter to my mother[11]
  • When I Die You'll All Stop Laughing
  • Faded Genes
  • Mimini's Voices[12]
  • Murras[13]
  • Onward To Glory
  • Tjindarella[14]
  • What do they call me[15]
  • Heartbeat of the Earth


  1. ^ a b Red Ochre Award Archived 1 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d "Eva Johnson". AustLit. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b The Academy literature and Drama website
  4. ^ When I Die You'll All Stop Laughing, Union Hall, Adelaide, SA, 1978 [Event description], 1978, retrieved 5 August 2014
  5. ^ a b Heiss, Anita (2003), Dhuuluu-yala = to talk straight : publishing indigenous literature, Aboriginal Studies Press, ISBN 978-0-85575-444-0
  6. ^ Hammad, edited by Jocelyn Burrell ; foreword by Suheir (2004). Word : on being a [woman] writer (1st ed.). New York: Feminist Press. ISBN 1558614672.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Kalina,Paul "Return to women of the sun" The Age
  8. ^ Women of the Sun: 25 Years Later Australian Film Commission
  9. ^ a b c "Eva Johnson". Playwrights – The Academy. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Adelaide 2012 women's luncheon program". The Long Walk. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  11. ^ Johnson, Eva (1985), A letter to my mother [poem], retrieved 5 August 2014
  12. ^ Mimini's Voices, Odeon Theatre, Norwood, SA, 12 September 1989 [Event description], 1989, retrieved 6 August 2014
  13. ^ Johnson, Eva (1989), Murras, retrieved 5 August 2014
  14. ^ Tjindarella, by Eva Johnson : [theatre program], 1985, Space Theatre, 1985, retrieved 5 August 2014
  15. ^ Johnson, Eva (1991), What do they call me, retrieved 5 August 2014

Further reading[edit]

  • International Women Playwrights Conference (1st : 1988 : Buffalo, N.Y.); France, Anna Kay; Corso, P. J. (Paula Jo), 1957– (1993), International women playwrights : voices of identity and transformation : proceedings of the First International Women Playwrights Conference, October 18–23, 1988, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0-8108-2782-0CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Johnson, Eva (1993), "Aboriginality and feminism: an interview with Aboriginal playwright, Eva Johnson. -by Crowley, Vicki-", Social Alternatives, 12 (1): 13–15, ISSN 0155-0306
  • Klein, Renate; Hawthorne, Susan, 1951– (1994), Australia for women : travel and culture, Spinifex Press, ISBN 978-1-875559-27-5CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]