As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, National Indigenous Times is spotlighting the stories of strong, powerful Blak women across the country.
Perina Drummond is creating pathways within the fashion industry for First Nations models all over Australia through her agency Jira Models.
Stylist, model, and founder of Jira Models, Drummond is a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman. Her modelling agency represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models across the fashion industry.
Drummond named the agency after her maternal great-great-grandmother Nara Jira Para, a Wuthathi woman who she said she didn’t get to meet but who she envisioned to be a strong and resilient woman.
“I didn’t get to meet her and didn’t hear many stories, but when I named the agency Jira Models, I imagined the time in which she lived, which wasn’t an easy time, she was such a strong woman that broke barriers and was proud of who she was and where she came from,” Drummond told NIT.
“That’s how I see the talent at Jira, they’re game changers and they’re proud of who they are without changing. Because I feel that’s always been the case, we have had to change for the world. To be able to be ourselves and to be celebrated within the industry is important.”
Drummond describes Jira Models as a two-way opportunity: one for models to access the fashion industry and the other for the industry to find First Nations talent.
“The agency has been up and running since 2017, I’ve been involved in the industry as a model since my teens and transitioned to a stylist about five years ago in Melbourne,” she said.
“A dream of mine moving forward was wanting to work with more Indigenous talent, models, photographers and makeup artists, I just wanted to work with mob.
“A lot of my colleagues at the time were asking me, ‘Where are the Indigenous models? Where can we find that?’ And that was the kind of conversation that sparked this journey, building the agency to what it is today.”
Drummond believes representation and education are a big part of the journey when working in the industry.
“Breaking down those social stigmas and expectations, for example, people think to be a First Nations person of Australia is to have that tall, skinny, dark look like our brothers and sisters might have in the NT or Kimberley,” she said.
“Changing that stigma through representation, allowing the wider community to understand all different mobs and encouraging them to learn our different histories has been a big part of the work we do.
“Those conversations are happening in the industry, interesting and educational conversations that aren’t just work as a modelling agency providing Indigenous talent to clients.
“Jira Models is a point of contact for those who want to engage with mob in the industry meaningfully and respectfully in a culturally appropriate way.”
Drummond added that although the dialogue surrounding representation is recent, it’s happening from the top of the industry down to engagement in shoots and hiring models.
“It’s a big learning curve for everybody, the conversations I have been having and continue to have … the approach is coming from the top-down and is a priority,” she said.
“There’s a push for diversity and support for First Nations fashion on all levels, designers, photographers, stylist, artists and models, there seems to a be a priority of supporting us going forward and creating a diverse and robust industry.”
Now based in the Torres Strait, Drummond has expanded the agency from its humble beginnings in Victoria to the rest of Australia, most recently Queensland and Western Australia.
She is currently recruiting new talent and encourages anyone interested in the industry to join Jira Models.
“We’d love to have more mob on board and to join our community.”
By Darby Ingram