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Curtin academic wins Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

Media release

Associate Professor Kim Scott, from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute at Curtin University, has become the first Indigenous Australian to win the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for South-East Asia and the Pacific for That Deadman Dance.

The story traces the initial decades of British presence in a fictional settlement on the coast of Western Australia. It revolves around Bobby Wabalanginy, his people and the shifting alliances and relationships that both link and distance him to the fledgling colony.

What starts as a reasonably promising relationship between the British and the Noongar people gradually deteriorates as the power shifts towards the newcomers, until Bobby is forced to choose between the old world and the new.

The award-winning book has a lot to say about Indigenous Australians and the impact English colonisation had on their lives.

Associate Professor Scott said the novel, completed in 2009, had taken three years to write. He said he was honoured and humbled to be the first Indigenous Australian to win the prestigious international literary award.

“I was inspired to write the book to explore the possibility latent in an historical situation where there was a different power relationship between Noongar people and the coloniser.  That possibility has not been lost,” Associate Professor Scott said.

Associate Professor Scott won the Miles Franklin Award more than a decade ago for his second novel Benang. His first novel, True Country released in 1993, launched him as a talented novelist capable of providing a unique voice of the Aboriginal experience.

He will compete with other regional winners for the overall prize that will be announced at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 21 May 2011.

That Deadman Dance is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and can be purchased at all major bookstores in paperback format from around $32.95.
Contacts:

Denise Cahill, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 1931, Mobile: 0401 103 683, Email: d.cahill@curtin.edu.au

Web: http://curtin.edu.au

Notes to editors:

• Established in 1987, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize aims to recognise the best fiction by both established and new writers from Commonwealth countries and ensure these works reach a wider audience outside their countries of origin.
• Almost 200 books have now been recognised with prizes since the scheme began.
• The Prize aims to discover and promote up-and-coming and under-recognised writers, encourage dialogue and understanding of different cultures through reading, and share compelling stories of human experience.