Kim Scott is this year’s winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award. At the Miles Franklin Award dinner held at the State Library of Victoria last night, the multi-award winning author received his second Miles Franklin Literary Award for That Deadman Dance.
Speaking on behalf of the 2011 judging panel, Morag Fraser AM, said: “That Deadman Dance is an astonishingly original work by a writer who can imagine and project possibility where most of us can see only stark, adversarial conflict. The novel is both realistic and visionary, an historical-lyrical recreation of early encounters between black and white on the south coast of Western Australia, and one that shifts our understanding of what an historical novel can do. It is a grand feat of transformative storytelling.”
The 2011 judging panel also included Richard Neville, State Library of New South Wales (NSW) Mitchell Librarian, Lesley McKay, Murray Waldren, and Professor Gillian Whitlock.
Published by Picador, That Deadman Dance is set in the early nineteenth century in the area that is now Albany, Western Australia. Described as a “powerful” and “innovative” work of fiction, the must-read tale explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.
A joint winner of the 2000 Miles Franklin Literary Award with Thea Astley (for her novel, Drylands), Scott
was the first Indigenous Australian to win the award for his novel Benang.
Born in 1957, Scott’s ancestral Noongar country is the south-east coast of Western Australia between Gairdner River and Cape Arid. His cultural Elders use the term Wirlomin to refer to their clan, and the Norman Tindale nomenclature identifies people of this area as Wudjari/Koreng.
When the shortlist was announced in April this year, Perth-based Scott was joined by another previous Miles Franklin Literary Award winner, Roger McDonald, for When Colts Ran (Vintage, Random House Australia) and rising literary star, Chris Womersley for his second novel, Bereft (Scribe Publications).
“When we came to our final decision, these three novels stood out, like beacons,” said Morag Fraser. “They break ground. They are memorable, moving, and they bring us unforgettable, sometimes disconcerting characters. They incise a sense of place, have a distinctive voice, and display a formidable ability to bring their version of our past, with all its resonance for our future, to vivid life.”
This year, the Miles Franklin Award event moved interstate from Sydney to Melbourne. John Atkin, CEO of The Trust Company, trustee of the award, announced last night that next year the winner presentation will be held in Brisbane, Queensland.
The Miles Franklin Award, recognised as Australia’s most illustrious literary prize, was established in 1954 through the will of My Brilliant Career author, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, to encourage and support writers of Australian literature. The annual award is presented to the novel of the year which is of the highest literary merit and “presents Australian life in any of its phases”. This year the prize value has increased to $50,000 from $42,000 last year.