Kim Scott, Benang: From the Heart, 1999
Kim Scott's fiction is renowned for its ability to engage readers with the legacies of colonisation in Australia. His 2010 novel That Deadman Dance, which won both the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, interrogates the invasion and occupation of Aboriginal country while also offering the potential for an alternative history of cooperation and mutual recognition. Scott has a remarkable ability to generously provoke readers to reconsider Australia's past while never relying on didacticism. Simply put, he is a great storyteller.
Benang: From the Heart (1999), which won the Miles Franklin Award the year following its publication, brought Scott's fiction to national attention.
The story broadly focuses on the history of the forced separation of Aboriginal children from family and community in Western Australia during the twentieth century. The central character, Harley, attempts to piece together the history of his family, gathering the fragments of a community story to produce a coherent narrative. A. O. Neville, who was the Chief Protector of Aborigines and later Commissioner of Native Affairs in Western Australia for several decades during this time, haunts the novel as the spectre of the 'assimilation' policies that attempted to proactively 'breed out the colour' from Aboriginal people by means of cruel, interventionist policies.
Kim Scott works with the tradition of the trickster and Benang: From the Heart – simultaneously sad, humorous and clever – is a masterpiece.
Tony Birch is the current Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne. He has published three novels: The White Girl, Ghost River and Blood. He has also published five short story collections: Shadowboxing, Father’s Day, The Promise, Common People and Dark as Last Night. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. In 2021 he released a new poetry book, Whisper Songs. In 2022 Dark as Last Night was awarded both the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and the Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection, and was also shortlisted for the 2022 Prime Minister's Literary Award for fiction.