Kate Challis RAKA Award

2021 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Tara June Winch for The Yield

Penguin

What's in a word? Tara June Winch's The Yield gifts the words of Wiradjuri ancestors not only to her readers but also her protagonist, August Gondiwindi, who is returned home from overseas to the township of Massacre Plains. August's story is told in two languages, in which the past and the future is always visiting upon her present. Poppy Albert's dictionary records 'all the words I found on the wind' and those words prove to be the sounds of ancestors, the memories of his life and a key for August who finds herself fighting still for the future of the Country to whom these words belong.

baayanha is the 'things you give to, the movement, the space between things.' And between the words of The Yield we find worlds that are ancient, and new, and always being made. The space between is Country. The space between is life. yama-ndhu gulbarra?

Read the announcement

Commended

Tony Birch for The White Girl

UQP

The selection committee commends Tony Birch's The White Girl as an evocative account of small-town life in pre-1960s Referendum Australia. It explores the tender and fiercely protective relationship between Odette and her granddaughter, Sissy, the White Girl of the title.

Birch masterfully creates a constant emotional veil of psychological anxiety. There is a palpable tension that the main characters carry throughout, an underlay of trauma emanating from their disempowerment. The book's heroines are resilient survivors, but they only can do so when they are successfully ignored by the authorities who are ostensibly there to 'protect' them. The book features a supporting cast of authorities (both malevolent and incompetent), and supporters (both obvious and surprising) of Odette's and Sissy's quest.

The White Girl is a masterstroke of family and social dynamics of a people who are dispossessed, and under guardianship of a state that has little understanding or interest in them.

Melissa Lucashenko for Too Much Lip

UQP

In Too Much Lip, Lucashenko offers that rare voice in Australian literature, a working-class story full of verve and fully loaded with vernacular. Rambunctious and hilarious, but never dumbed down, the author crafts a set of characters who are beholden to their cultural connections and responsibilities, despite the inevitable complications they bring. Land, water, ceremony and kin mean everything: bureaucracy is a joke and silly laws are just begging to be broken. Threaded through the narrative are serious topics, but always these arise naturally and in the context of the character's hair-raising exploits. That the protagonist – and her colourful cronies – arrive, in the closing pages of the tale, triumphant, having tricked their way out of many a crisis, is a joy for the reader. A must-read.

Kim Scott for Taboo

Pan Macmillan Australia

Has there ever been a more powerful, steady, wise and compelling force to the opening paragraphs of an Australian novel? Kim Scott is at the forefront of the nation's novelists, and this latest is one of his best. Centred on a small semi-fictional West Australian country town at the site of an 1880 massacre that still reverberates, though it is rarely admitted by the locals, Taboo takes the reader along a spiritual path deep into the land and its stories, with characters as earthy, as real, as stumbling, as flawed and enlightened, and as courageous as any characters you would want to find in an epic tale. This novel celebrates its Wirlomin men who find their heroism and their heritage in prison, and surviving Indigenous communities where the women hold the strength, and where the young women too must learn what it means to be part of a story tens of thousands of years in the making. A skull jammed between rocks at the end of a remote gorge in this novel is a memorial to what the Australian nation has not yet fully admitted or acknowledged. With a deep love for his characters and an unsurpassed lyricism among Australian writers, Kim Scott's Taboo is a novel whose voice will last.

Judges

  • Associate Professor Sana Nakata,  Associate Dean, Indigenous
  • Professor Bruce Pascoe, writer and farmer
  • Jane Harrison, author
  • Professor Kevin Brophy, poet and honorary, School of Culture and Communication
  • Dr Kate Challis and Andrew Hollo, representatives of the Smith family

2020 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Natalie Harkin for Archival-Poetics

Vagabond Press

Archival-Poetics is a landmark piece of Australian poetry. It is a challenge, a battle cry and a healing act. While rooted in archival interrogation and historical reflection, the collection is a critical and timely piece that examines the origins of contemporary Australia. The judges were struck by the overall cohesiveness of the text and the manner in which Harkin weaves the archival, the familial and the political within the poetic form. Brave, innovative and challenging, Archival-Poetics is an unflinching gaze at the violence the colony has inflicted on Indigenous women, and a roadmap for healing in the centuries ahead.

Watch Natalie’s acceptance

Commended

Ali Cobby-Eckermann for Inside My Mother

Giramondo Publishing

Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Inside My Mother esteems Aboriginal life with the continuities of Country and maternal love that endure despite colonisation’s deepest violences. The simplicity of form and voice is brilliantly executed, punctuating a lifeworld beyond the white man’s reach (‘Love’, ‘Tjulpu’) while still feeling the grief of his interventions (‘The Letter’, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘First Born’, ‘Severance’). Everywhere there is clay, and sea, and sand, and trees, and Earth, and birds and song. All of it is a Mother’s love, both heartbroken and healing, fierce and embracing. Cobby Eckermann indicts the unforgiveable, and honours all that survives.

Kirli Saunders for Kindred

Magabala Books

Kirli Saunders’ Kindred is a meditation on the universal themes of love, loss and belonging. While evoking the great Sufi masters in the potent efficiency and rhythm of her poems, Saunders work also remains deeply connected to Country and Culture. Divided into three sections “Mother, “Earth Child” and “Lover”, several of the poems include language taught to her by Elders and Community. Kindred is a potent insight into the extraordinary rich culture, power and beauty Indigenous voices offer to the world.

Judges

  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Challis and Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representatives of the Smith family
  • Ms Jazz Money, poet
  • Dr Tony Birch, writer and poet
  • Associate Professor Sana Nakata, Associate Dean, Indigenous, University of Melbourne

2019 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Steven McGregor and David Tranter for Sweet Country, 2017

The 2019 Kate Challis RAKA Award for the best script for film or television by an Indigenous writer screened in the last five years: Steven McGregor and David Tranter for Sweet Country.

The script for Sweet Country is rich, accomplished and complex story-telling. Grounded in a terrible history of dispossession and survivance, the narratives, characterisations, pace and locations of the script are assembled with remarkable skill to produce a confronting text for twenty-first century readers. It’s no surprise that Tranter’s screenwriting debut and one of many works over two decades by McGregor became an internationally awarded feature film.

Judges

  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Challis and Mr Andrew Hollo, representatives of the Smith family
  • Dr Jeanine Leane, Creative Writing, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
  • Assoc. Professor Chris Healy, Screen and Cultural Studies, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Ian McLean, Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History, University of Melbourne

Read the media release

2018 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Yhonnie Scarce for Remember Royalty, 2018

A feature of this round of the RAKA Award was the strength of emerging artists, and also that there was a clear winner: Yhonnie Scarce. A Kokatha / Nukunu woman born in Woomera, since graduating with an MFA from Monash University in 2010 the Melbourne-based Scarce has made an impressive start as an artist in the difficult and crowded contemporary art world. Working in the medium of blown glass, which is rarely seen in contemporary art practice, the judges were impressed with her wide-ranging explorations of the mutable nature of her medium, which can be at the same time hard and fragile, sensuous and haunting, transparent and reflective. Equally striking was the range of expressive forms, scales (from the intimate to the monumental) and media that Scarce had engaged to create rich allegorical installations for her ideas. Evocative of the tragic histories that have shaped the contemporary world, her art opens a moving space in which we the living can reflect on our inherited debts.

Judges

  • Professor Ian McLean, Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Gregory Lehman, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Dr Kate Challis, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Ms Hannah Presley, curator, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

Download the judges report

Read the media release

2017 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Jub Clerc for the stage play The Fever and the Fret, 2015

Jub Clerc emerges as an exciting new voice in Australian theatre. The Fever and Fret made its debut in Perth in 2015 with a superb production auspiced by Yirra Yaakin Theatre. With a confidence borne of its grounding in Aboriginal experience, The Fever and the Fret explores language, in its varying modalities, as a vehicle of Aboriginal subjectivity. This considered use of language gives the actors scope to develop the interiority of their characters, and an enduring sense of their dignity, over the extended time frame of the play. With a backdrop of mining, and a family member’s dementia, Clerc has written a play that draws audience and actors together in a profound shared experience that is culturally specific as well as universal.

Download the judges report

Read the Articulation interview with Jub Clerc

Commended

  • Jacob Boehme for his stage work Blood on the Dance Floor
  • Nathan Maynard for his stage play The Season

Judges

  • Dr Jeanine Leane, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
  • Mr Philip Morrissey (Advisory board, Australian Centre)
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote (representative of the Smith/Challis family)
  • Mr Don Heathcote (representative of the Smith/Challis family)
  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

2016 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Alexis Wright for the book of fiction The Swan Book, 2013

Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book is a sprawling, magnificent achievement, a remarkable imaginative vision of Australia as it was and is, and will be. Set at some point in the future, in a world utterly changed by global warming, war and the global movement of people, it charts the life of a mute young woman, Oblivian Ethel(ene), beginning with her fraught relationship with an old, enigmatic refugee, Bella Donna of the Champions. The novel is full of mythologies and soaring imagery: the swans, for example, are ever-present and say so much about the predicament of the world they inhabit. At the same time, the novel launches a devastating critique of Australia’s treatment of Indigenous people: condemning the Federal government’s Intervention, and showing us the many ways in which a militarised colonialism has shaped, and continues to shape, Indigenous lives in Australia’s north and across the nation.

Download the judges report

Commended

  • Ellen Van Neerven for her collection of stories Heat and Light, 2014
  • Jane Harrison for her book of fiction Becoming Kirralie Lewis, 2015

Judges

  • Mr Philip Morrissey, Head, Australian Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Kate Challis, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Mr Andrew Hollo, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Professor Ken Gelder, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

2015 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Lionel Fogarty for the book of poems Mogwie-Idan: Stories of the Land, 2012

Fogarty’s book of poetry stood out to the judges for the sheer power of the poetry from first to last page. This is the poetry of a mature, confident poet, rich and inventive with language and viewpoint. It is a wide-ranging literary intervention into Australian history and culture. The poetry ranges, in hybrid style, across trans-historical themes in assertive, provocative, defiant, satirical and brilliant verse that gives readers the sense that they will come back to the poems time and time again, and there will still be more to decipher and understand. There is highly inventive twisting and tangling of words such as in the line : ‘Even bulldogs British the law’ condenses colonisation into one succinct line. The poems are a radical critique of settlement – ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘white explorers’ and ‘untribal man singing songs’ – but are also addressed, perhaps too hopefully, ‘to all open-minded people’.

Download the judges report

Judges

  • Mr Philip Morrissey, Head, Australian Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Mr Don Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Professor Ken Gelder, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

2014 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Ivan Sen for the script for the feature film Toomelah, 2011

This challenging, raw and insightful drama is deeply invested in both the history and the present of the Gamilaroi people in the Toomelah community in northwest New South Wales.

Download the judges’ report

Commended

  • Jon Bell for his Redfern Now episode Sweet Spot, 2012

Judges

  • Mr Philip Morrissey, Head, Australian Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Jane Harrison, Playwright, Researcher RMIT School of Business
  • Dr Kate Challis, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Mr Andrew Hollo, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Professor Ken Gelder, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

2013 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Mabel Juli for her painting Garnkeny Ngarranggarni, 2010

It is a poetic, sophisticated work which is deeply grounded in indigenous tradition but also extends outwards to suggest the complex relationships existing between a diversity of both cultural and natural human experiences.

Download the judges’ report

Watch a video about Mabel Juli

The 2013 Award is made to a visual artist. The 2013 winner was selected from those included in the exhibition Under the Sun. This exhibition, held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, includes artworks in various media by emerging and established artists who have been selected for this prestigious invitational award. The exhibition will include recent works by Teresa Baker (SA), Daniel Boyd (Qld/NSW), Hector Burton (WA), Timothy Cook (Tiwi/NT), Mabel Juli (WA), Kunmarnanya Mitchell (WA), Alick Tipoti (TSI/Qld), Garawan Wanambi (NT) and Regina Wilson (NT).

Under the Sun: the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 from Sunday 10 August - Sunday 3 November 2013, the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.

Judges

  • Dr Tony Birch, Lecturer, Creative Writing, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Associate Professor Alison Inglis, coordinator, MA Art Curatorship, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jolanta Nowak, Project Officer, Australian Centre, and Lecturer, Trinity College Foundation Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Bala Starr, Senior Curator, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, and Challis/Smith family nominee

2012 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Winner

Dallas Winmar for her play Yibiyung.

Dallas Winmar’s play Yibiying is a powerful demonstration of how Indigenous communities have dealt with extreme adversity through courage and ingenuity.

Download the judges report

Commended

  • Tony Briggs for his play The Sapphires

Judges

  • Chair: Dr Tony Birch, Creative Writing Lecturer, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Hilary Glow, Associate Professor, Deakin University
  • Mr Don Heathcote, representative of the Challis family
  • Professor Larissa Behrendt, University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Mammad Aidani, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

More past winners