Kirstie Parker wins 30th David Unaipon Award

November 5, 2018

Author Kirstie Parker was the winner of the Cultural Fund-sponsored David Unaipon Award at last month’s Queensland Literary Awards. The award, for an unpublished Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander writer, celebrated 30 years in 2018.

Kirstie received a cash prize of $15,000 and publication with UQP for her work, The Making of Ruby Champion, and in her acceptance speech urged other Indigenous people to write [the] truth as if this nation’s shared future depends on it”.

To commemorate the award’s 30th anniversary, 2014 David Unaipon award winners, mother and daughter Lesley and Tammy Williams, presented a reading from their book, Not Just Black and White: A conversation between a mother and daughter.

Other major winners on the night were Jackie Ryan for We’ll Show the World: Expo 88 (UQP), Kim Scott for Taboo (Pan Macmillan), Alexis Wright for Tracker (Giramondo Publishing) and Beth Wilson for Brisbane Houses with Gardens (Beth Wilson). See the complete list of awardees.

The following is an edited version of Kirstie Parker’s acceptance speech.

“I’m so honoured – especially in this important anniversary year – to receive this award named for David Unaipon, a remarkable Ngarrindjeri man and true revolutionary. Amongst so many other things, the first Aboriginal author to be published. I promise to do my best to honour Uncle’s legacy.

“I follow in the footsteps – in my mind I picture illuminated emu (dinewan) tracks – of literary stars like the late Doris Pilkington Garimara AM, Phillip McLaren, Sam Wagan Watson, Larissa Behrendt and, indeed, my big sister Siv Parker, who won the Unaipon Award in 2012. You should read my sister’s stellar work. Very much, because of her (and with whose support and encouragement), I can.

“I got much of my love of words from my late mum Pam and my dad Roger.

“Mum, a Yuwallarai woman who was the eldest of 18 kids and began her working life as a domestic servant. With little more than a year’s formal schooling, Mum basically made herself literate by reading and re-reading at home a precious gifted copy of L. M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, going on later in life to study history, politics, philosophy and more at university.

“And Dad, a former Londoner and a voracious reader who I can probably blame/credit for my grammatical and other pedantry. I remember as a newly minted 16-year-old cadet journalist, being so thrilled to see one of my first newspaper bylines on a puff piece in the real estate pages, waxing lyrical about the garden of a featured house. I still can’t help but smile at Dad’s dilemma of how to break it to me – a kid used to gidgee and gum trees – that there was no such thing as an acorn tree…bless!

“Despite all that Aboriginal people have endured, we are still here – enriched, nurtured, and stronger through connection to culture, country, community and kin. To us, these connections are cloaks, shields, glue and balm.

“In time, they will help dissolve the tight knots of grief suspended deep in our bellies. They will help us respond to the whispering in the hearts of many non-Indigenous Australians discomforted by the past and hungry for the whole truth.

“To any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people out there with even the slightest urge to do so, I say write that truth as if this nation’s shared future depends on it…because it does.

“We deserve our place in the sun and we might just take it not by storm but story. Because the story of Australia starts with ours.”


Author Tammy Williams read from her 2014 David Unaipon Award-winning work, Not Just Black and White: A conversation between a mother and daughter. Photo: Joe Ruckli.