Co-winners announced for 2021 Ernest Scott Prize

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne is pleased to announce the co-winners of the Ernest Scott Prize 2021: Dr Hirini Kaa for Te Hāhi Mihinare - The Māori Anglican Church (Bridget Williams Books), and Professor Grace Karskens for People of the River (Allen and Unwin).

The judges this year were Emeritus Professor Tom Brooking, University of Otago, New Zealand and Professor Emerita Heather Goodall, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.

Professor Brooking said: “There’s so much benefit to be had, whether we're New Zealand or Australian historians, to read the history of each side of the Tasman more frequently and more enthusiastically, and have an opportunity to talk about it more often.”

Hear from our judges

Dr Kaa said: “I am so appreciative to the University of Melbourne for this award and acknowledgement, especially alongside other such great authors and historians.

“This (joint) award is a growing recognition of the importance of Māori and Indigenous historians telling our own stories of our own pasts. Te Hāhi Mihinare - The Māori Anglican Church was an opportunity to tell the other side of Māori engagement with Christianity in the context of colonisation through the voices, sources and worldview of my tīpuna (ancestors) – where all change is loss, and where we could exercise our own deep intellectual capacity and agency to renegotiate our worldview.

“So, I feel both humbled and proud that these stories of my ancestors are recognised in such a generous way, and humbly accept in light of this whakataukī (proverb):

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.

The success is not mine alone, but that of the many.

Professor Karskens said: “I am absolutely delighted to be awarded the Ernest Scott Prize for 2021, also slightly stunned to be chosen from a shortlist of such compelling and pathbreaking books, all of which tell the stories we need to know now.

“I’m also deeply honoured to share this prestigious prize with Dr Hirini Kaa for his fine book Te Hāhi Mihinare - The Māori Anglican Church. This book shares something important with People of the River: the recognition of cosmological and spiritual dimensions of human history, and the profound ways that Indigenous peoples transformed new spiritual ideas in their own ways.

“For Aboriginal people, the whole world was inspirited, all events had supernatural causes. Invasion and dispossession demanded not only resistance, but also cosmological explanations and resolutions. This is one reason cultural and spiritual lenses are essential for a fuller and respectful understanding of frontier conflict in Australia.

“This prize is also a win for regional and environmental history: the real, complex, intimate places where the policies, politics and practices of empire played out – or were completely subverted! The region is where the interweaving and divergent stories of peoples, rivers, forests and creatures can be told. And it is the scale at which truth-telling about Australian history, as proposed by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, can properly take place.”

The $13,000 Ernest Scott Prize is awarded annually to a work based on original research that contributes to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation. The prize is presented by the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.

The Faculty of Arts greatly values the philanthropic support of our alumni and friends in the community. Thanks in part to generations of far-sighted donors, the University of Melbourne is a global leader in research and education.

The 2020 Ernest Scott Prize was awarded to Professor Michelle Arrow for The Seventies: The personal, the political and the making of modern Australia (NewSouth).

Find out more about the Ernest Scott Prize.