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Dank wins record four awards in 2023 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

The winners of the 2023 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced.

Debra Dank’s We Come With This Place (Echo) has taken out a record four awards, including book of the year.

Said the judges: ‘We Come With This Place is an outstanding narrative of outback Aboriginal life, family and traditional philosophy … Born of a generation who literally fled for their lives from frontier violence in the Gulf, Dank gently takes the reader into her Gudanji universe. She writes of growing up cherished by her extended family, and drinking from hidden sweetwater wells, known only to the initiated through ceremonial journeying. She writes of breaking in horses as a child after her correspondence school lessons were done, of hunting crocodile and of living in a caravan which it was then illegal for her hard-working Aboriginal parents to own. There is humour, tragedy, and ceremony too, all told with meticulous care for historical truth and for the reader’s experience.

‘The writing is culturally rigorous and deeply thoughtful. Dank seeks to expand the horizons of the reader in a way which centres, not the author as an individual, but rather her Country and the wider community she has grown within. Most of all, her memoir shows a powerful path forward from colonial trauma towards a space of mutual respect and self-determining futures. Essential reading.’

Dank told the ABC the awards ‘felt like a vindication of the validity, and the value, and the importance and the critical nature of stories from remote parts of Australia’. ‘There is a referendum coming along as to whether or not Aboriginal people have a Voice to Parliament; to have that level of representation,’ said Dank. ‘And I think there’s a particular kind of irony in that, because Aboriginal communities around the Beetaloo have been really struggling to have their voices heard around how fracking is impacting our livelihoods in these places, and we’re absolutely being silenced, and ignored and marginalised.’

Echo managing director Juliet Rogers said the Echo team is ‘beyond delighted at Debra Dank’s amazing success at The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards last night’. ‘The first time I read her manuscript, I knew that this book would become an Australian classic and this recognition, across four different judging panels, all of whom independently selected Deb’s book from incredibly strong shortlists, is the proof,’ said Rogers.

‘In this year of The Voice to Parliament, Debra’s thoughtful, insightful and beautifully written book will help us all understand why change is needed and that this change can only happen if we all care, and we all work together. Deb is a remarkable woman, and it is very special to know that through her book, her voice is now being heard.

Rogers added: ‘We have stock in the warehouse, so re-orders can be filled straight away and we will be back on the presses this week. My thanks to all the booksellers who shared Echo’s faith in this important book.’

The winning titles in each category are:

Book of the Year ($10,000)

  • We Come With This Place (Debra Dank, Echo)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)

  • Women I Know (Katerina Gibson, Scribner)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction ($40,000)

  • We Come With This Place (Debra Dank, Echo)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)

  • The Singer and Other Poems (Kim Cheng Boey, Cordite Books)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)

  • The First Scientists: Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First Peoples (Corey Tutt & Blak Douglas, Hardie Grant Explore)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)

  • The Upwelling (Lystra Rose, Hachette)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)

  • Whitefella Yella Tree (Dylan Van Den Berg, Griffin Theatre Company/Currency Press)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)

  • Blaze (Del Kathryn Barton & Huna Amweero, Causeway Films)

Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000)

  • The Eulogy (Jackie Bailey, Hardie Grant Books)

Indigenous Writers’ Prize ($30,000)

  • We Come With This Place (Debra Dank, Echo)

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize ($30,000 — biennial award)

  • People from Bloomington (Budi Darma, trans by Tiffany Tsao, Penguin Classics)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5000)

  • We Come With This Place (Debra Dank, Echo)

The People’s Choice Award ($5000)

  • Every Version of You (Grace Chan, Affirm)

Special award

  • Bankstown Poetry Slam.

Said senior judge Jane McCredie: ‘This year’s awards celebrate the courage, diversity and sheer brilliance of contemporary Australian writing. Our judges assessed a record 856 entries exploring a huge range of style and subject matter. It’s exciting to see so many debut works recognised this year, and we look forward to hearing more from these writers in the future.’

Changes to the awards this year include the $30,000 Indigenous Writers’ Prize now being offered annually; the prize money for the Multicultural NSW Award being increased from $20,000 to $30,000; and the people’s choice award now including $5000 prize money.

The winners were announced on 22 May from shortlists announced in March.


Category: Awards Local news