David Unaipon Award for an Emerging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Writer

2020 Shortlist

Congratulations to the finalists!

'The Space Between the Paperbark' by Jazz Money

Judges' comments

This is a luminous and beautifully sculpted, seamless collection of poems that reflects on place and passion. It makes use of Wiradjuri language in the part titles that offer the structural framework for the volume:  beginnings, longings, distances and endings. The Space Between the Paperbark builds on the growing canon of work by contemporary Indigenous women poets, yet offers a new, fresh perspective on remembering and forgetting. 

About the author

Jazz Money is an award-winning poet, filmmaker and educator of Wiradjuri heritage. Her poetry has been published widely across Australia and reimagined as murals, installation art and video art. Jazz is grateful to live on the beautiful sovereign lands of the Darug and Gundungurra nations.

 

'Valley of Cane and Crows' by Boyd Quakawoot

Judges' comments

'Valley of Cane and Crows' has a strong voice and thematically linked imagery. Set in the coastal Queensland town of Mackay, the novel is a family drama that follows Chris and Dara as they meet and begin an affair. The narrative follows them over the next two years as family, work and life challenges force them to examine who they are and how they must live. Using the seven deadly sins as loose inspiration, Quakawoot examines the fallibility of human nature and its resilience in times of crisis. This novel has a strong sense of place and showcases life in regional Australia deftly and with compassion through its interlinked cast of characters. 

About the author

Boyd Quakawoot is a writer from Mackay in North Queensland who identifies with the Yuwibara people. In 2016 he was shortlisted in the Queensland Literary Awards for the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer for his Manuscript "The Song of Jessica Perkins." The same work was also highly commended in the Black & Write Fellowship for 2016. He has also had poetry published in The Australian Poetry Journal. In 2019-2020 he was a writer on season four of the ABC sketch show "Black Comedy."

 

'Last Rites of Spring' by Mykaela Saunders

Judges' comments

Mykaela Saunders' novel is a brave, breathless, dystopian account of young Indigenous Australian traveller, Thelma, who wakes up in a cell in Krakow, Poland, after a night out with friends that has clearly gone wrong. Saunders takes the reader on a confronting and experimental narrative journey through the damages of the past, an oppressive present and an uncertain future. This novel demonstrated a really ambitious approach to temporality and the emerging speculative/dystopian form.

About the author

Mykaela Saunders is a Koori writer, teacher, and community researcher. Of Dharug and Lebanese ancestry, she’s working-class and queer, and belongs to the Tweed Aboriginal community. Mykaela has worked in Aboriginal education since 2003, and her research explores trans-generational trauma and healing in her community. Mykaela began writing fiction and poetry in 2017, as part of her Doctor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney. Her work has since been published across forms and disciplines, placed in writing prizes, and attracted funding and fellowships.

'Burn' by Melanie Saward

Judges' comments

Burn is the story of Andrew, a teenage boy with a dangerous attraction to fire which has haunted and shaped his upbringing. The narrative moves between his childhood in Tasmania and a front story in Bracken Ridge, Brisbane, where a bushfire has tragic consequences. Melanie Saward has managed the themes of displacement, parental neglect and identity with sensitivity and polish. This emerging author has tackled complex plot lines and multiple narrative timeframes to create an absorbing YA crossover novel. There’s a very well-realised sense of urban place that Saward has described and maintained throughout the work, and the characters feel engaging with both the reader and the landscape.

About the author

Melanie Saward is a proud descendant of the Bigambul and Wakka Wakka peoples. She is a writer, lecturer, and PhD candidate at the Queensland University of Technology. Melanie’s fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Kill Your Darlings, Overland, Scum Mag, and Concrescence. In 2019 her work was highly commended in the Calibre Essay Prize, the Boundless Indigenous Writer’s Mentorship and the Harlequin First Nations Fellowship. She was also shortlisted for the David Unaipon Award in 2018.