Jillibalu Barns-Riley

Metaphorically Speaking

I have explored the journey of a young Aboriginal man drawn to two different worlds.

One world is the bush where he belongs and the other is the busy, rushing life of the city.

The different challenges we are faced with when coming from a secure environment to a competitive, fast moving and judgemental society.



Jillibalu Barns-Riley is a young Aboriginal artist based in Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia.

Just on dawn he was born at Cairns Base Hospital, on the 11th March 1994. His life so far has been filled with activity and adventure.

Jillibalu was given his name from his great grandmother and it means Night owl in Djabuganydji language. He grew up on the old Mona Mona mission with his parents till he moved to Cairns in 2000 to commence year 1. Jillibalu swapped schools quite a bit moving to Seven Day Adventist in 2003 for three years, later moving to Freshwater Primary School after his parents broke up in 2004. Later in 2006 the boys moved out to Mona Mona Aboriginal mission with their dad and use to have to catch a 4wd bus to school every day to Kuranda. Two years past and the three moved to cairns because Jillibalu needed a better education and this was where he repeated grade 8 at Cairns High. Grade 8 was a stepping stone for him this was where he found his passion for dance and where he would spend most of his time learning and developing his skills. He received much support from his teacher Hannah Bliss and she guided a path and a much promising future for him. Jillibalu also participated in sports and art and drama where he flourished with achievements. It wasn’t till 2011 where life began to get harder, he decided to move back with his mother and got himself a part time job. With school, dance lessons, and part time job Jillibalu found it hard to complete assignments, drafts and stay focused in class. He joined a dance crew with his mates which was called Tru Phaze and got the odd gig here and there but unfortunately in year 12 the work load was too intense and the boys used their time elsewhere and things got very tough having to manage time and other activities. Much about his life has been extreme experiencing injury’s from Bike accidents, flesh wounds from Spear fishing a highly passionate hobby and break dancing where he loved the journey of failure and success.  Jillibalu is a strong individual very family orientated and treats his friends as brothers and sisters. though only young he has had his fair shear of hardships and trials, “but such is life, the sun will shine tomorrow', he says.