Australia’s most prestigious literary award has been bestowed on Josephine Wilson for Extinctions, published by UWA Publishing.
In a year when the Miles Franklin Literary Award celebrates its 60th anniversary, it is fitting the 2017 winning novel should address the themes of ageing and survival.
Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author Miles Franklin for the “advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian literature”, the Miles Franklin Literary Award recognises the novel of “the highest literary merit” which presents “Australian life in any of its phases”.
First given in 1957, the Award has been embraced by the national literary community and over the past 60 years has awarded more than $1.1 million to Australian authors.
Ms Wilson will receive $60,000 in prize money for her novel, which the judging panel described as “compassionate and unapologetically intelligent”.
“In Extinctions, Josephine Wilson explores ageing, adoption, grief and remorse, empathy and self-centredness,” said chair of the judging panel and State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville.
“The novel is a meditation on survival: on what people carry, on how they cope, and on why they might, after so much putting their head in the sand, come to the decision to engage, and even change.”
Mr Neville was joined on the judging panel by The Australian journalist and columnist, Murray Waldren, Sydney bookseller Lindy Jones, book critic Dr Melinda Harvey and Emeritus Professor Susan Sheridan.
Wilson’s Extinctions was selected from a shortlist of five first-time nominees, which also included Emily Maguire, Mark O’Flynn, Ryan O’Neill and Philip Salom.
She becomes the fifth Western Australian writer to take out the top prize, joining the likes of Randolf Stow, Elizabeth Jolley, Kim Scott (two-time winner) and Tim Winton (four-time winner).
On winning the award, Ms Wilson said: “As a Western Australian writer published by a local publisher, it is often hard to be embraced by the national writing culture. I am so very grateful that my book has received this recognition, and am honoured to be included with my peers under the name of Miles Franklin.”
Perpetual’s National Manager of Philanthropy, Caitriona Fay, said: “Perpetual has a long and proud history of helping philanthropists affect real change – change that can last for generations.
“The Miles Franklin Literary Award has become Australia’s most prestigious literary prize because of the way it continues to create community benefits. We are honoured to carry on Miles Franklin’s legacy, and I congratulate all of this year’s finalists for ensuring Miles’ passion endures.”
Adam Suckling, Chief Executive of The Copyright Agency, the Award’s major sponsor/partner, said: “We are absolutely focused on supporting Australian writers and publishers and so we are delighted that Josephine’s great novel has won the Miles Franklin. Congratulations Josephine! I also want to congratulate the other finalists – it is truly impressive to be a finalist for this prestigious award”.
The award was announced at a ceremony at the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW), a place of special significance to the Miles Franklin story. During her lifetime, Miles spent many hours writing and researching her books at the Mitchell Library (part of the SLNSW). Her papers are also housed here.