In 1943, Barrett Reid and Laurence Collinson were completing their high school education at Brisbane State High School, South Brisbane. Concerned that Australia's youth were not adequately represented by contemporary literary magazines, they founded the Senior Tabloid. Five issues later, the name was changed to Barjai, a magazine offering a publishing opportunity exclusively to writers under the age of twenty-one. Initially a small, type-written publication, Barjai was professionally printed from 1944, going through several changes of size in its short life.
Reid and Collinson attracted an enthusiastic group of young writers to Barjai, organising regular meetings at the Lyceum Club where guest speakers such as Judith Wright, Tom Inglis Moore and Paul Grano were heard. At these meetings members were also given the opportunity to read and discuss their own work. To encourage new work, writing competitions were conducted, employing judges such as C. B. Christesen and Rex Ingamells.
In addition to Reid and Collinson, other contributors to Barjai included Grace Perry, Thea Astley, Cecel Knopke, Barbara Patterson and Mary Wilkinson. The age of each contributor was clearly displayed and the range of ages often appeared in editorial comment. An idea of the poetic influences on this group of young writers is revealed in the poll conducted to find the most popular poets of their subscribers. The top three were Christopher Brennan, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Robert Browning. The only other Australian writers included among a large group of English poets were Rex Ingamells and John Shaw Neilson. But, despite the popularity of poets who employed traditional forms, Barjai welcomed and encouraged experimentation.
By 1946, the energy of the Barjai group was beginning to weaken. Laurence Collinson had moved to Sydney and others had left for teaching posts outside of Brisbane. In addition, Barjai experienced fiscal difficulties when the long-term financial support of the medical practitioner and patron of the arts Dr J. V. Duhig was withdrawn after he experienced tax problems. Unable to afford production costs, the editors reverted to a less expensive broadsheet format for the twenty-third number. But after failing to pay the printer for this number Barjai faltered, winding up production in 1947.