Jane Harrison (playwright)
A descendant of the Muruwari people of New South Wales, from the area around Bourke and Brewarrina, Harrison grew up in the Victorian Dandenongs with her mother and sister. She began her career as an advertising copywriter, before becoming a playwright, novelist, writer and researcher. Her best-known work is Stolen, which received critical claim and has toured nationally and internationally.
Harrison's latest play, The Visitors, premiered as a full production in January 2020 as part of the Sydney Festival.
The Visitors was initially developed as part of the Melbourne Theatre Company Cybec Electric series and the Melbourne Indigenous Festival in February 2014, directed by Leah Purcell, after being work-shopped at the Yellamundie Festival in 2013. The Visitors re-imagines the arrival of the First Fleet from the perspective of seven senior law men meeting on the shores of the harbour.
Stolen premièred in 1998 at Playbox (now Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne) followed by seven annual seasons in Melbourne, plus tours to Sydney, Adelaide, regional Victoria, Tasmania, the United Kingdom (twice), Hong Kong and Tokyo, with readings in Canada, New York City and Los Angeles. In Sydney, it was performed at the Sydney Theatre Company, directed by Wayne Blair. Stolen is a play about the lives of five Aboriginal people from the "stolen generations". For Stolen Harrison was awarded the Australian Writers' Guild AWGIE Nomination, was co-winner of the Kate Challis RAKA Award, and received an Honourable Mention in the CACS National Awards Individual Category for "An Outstanding Contribution to Australian Culture". Stolen has been studied on the Victorian VCE and NSW HSC English and drama syllabi.
Rainbow’s End premièred in 2005, and toured Melbourne, Sydney, regional Australia, and Japan in 2007. Harrison was awarded for Rainbow’s End the Drover Award (Tour of the Year) and a Helpmann Awards nomination for Best Regional Touring Production. It is studied on the NSW HSC syllabus. Rainbow's End tells the simple, yet convoluted story of three generations of Aboriginal women; young Dolly, her mother the happy-go-lucky Gladys, and the wise and stern Nan Dear, living in their shanty perched on the flats of the Goulburn River in 1950s regional Victoria. The play was directed by Wesley Enoch.
On a Park Bench
On a Park Bench was created through workshops at Playbox and the Banff Playrites Colony. The play was a finalist in the Lake Macquarie Drama Prize.
Blakvelvet won the 2006 Theatrelab Indigenous Award. On a Park Bench was Finalist, Lake Macquarie Drama Prize.
Novels and short stories
Becoming Kirrali Lewis
Harrison's latest novel, Becoming Kirrali Lewis, won the State Library of Queensland 2014 black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship, and was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2016. Becoming Kirrali Lewis is a coming-of-age teen fiction novel about the search by Stolen Generations member Kirrali Lewis for her biological parents, which turns stereotypes on their heads. Becoming Kirrali Lewis was published by Magabala Books in 2015.
Short story, Born, Still, was published by the State Library of Queensland in Writing Black: New Indigenous Writing from Australia, launched in May 2014. Born, Still is a gentle reflection on the death of a daughter before birth.
Born, Still was subsequently re-worked as a play, premiered at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2018.
Indig-curious; Who can play Aboriginal roles? published by Currency House explores the issues raised by Aboriginal identity in theatre.
Harrison also contributed a chapter to Many Voices, Reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, which was published by the National Library of Australia, Canberra. This work was also related to the theme of the stolen generations.
Harrison is Festival Director of Blak & Bright - First Nations Literary Festival in Melbourne.
- J. Harrison (2000) Stolen. Strawberry Hills (NSW): Currency Press (Author’s biography on 1st page)
- J. Harrison (2007) Rainbow's End published in Contemporary Indigenous Plays Currency Press (Author’s biography)
- Medical Journal of Australia 2010; 192 (10): 556-557.
-  Stolen
-  Contemporary Indigenous Plays Rainbow’s End
-  Medical Journal of Australia Healing our communities, healing ourselves
-  Currency House Indig-curious; Who can play Aboriginal roles?
-  La Trobe University Not one size fits all: Understanding the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal children
-  National Library of Australia Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation