Alexis Wright wins 2018 Stella Prize for groundbreaking memoir ‘Tracker’
April 12, 2018
Author: Emily Nicol
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Writer Alexis Wright has just been awarded the 2018 Stella Prize for ‘Tracker’, an impactful collective memoir and biography of Aboriginal leader, visionary and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth.
Wright, a member of the Waanyi nation was awarded the $50,000 prize at a special event held last night at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, taking out the top place amongst 170 entries.
Tracker caught the attention of the judges by deftly weaving stories about Eastern Arrernte man, Tracker Tilmouth told about him and also by him.
Chair of the 2018 Stella judging panel, Fiona Stager, said of the winning book: “This extraordinary, majestic book has been composed by Wright from interviews with family, friends, foes and Tilmouth himself. It is one man’s story told by many voices, almost operatic in scale. With a tight narrative structure, compelling real-life characters, the book sings with insight and Tracker’s characteristic humour. Wright has crafted an epic that is a truly rewarding read.”
On winning the prize, Wright said she was surprised and deeply grateful for receiving the recognition for the work, which took six years to complete and at times was a somewhat messy manuscript. ”I am totally amazed and shocked, but I deeply acknowledge the great honour that has been bestowed by the Stella Prize on my book Tracker.” Wright says, “I want to express my gratitude to my friend Tracker Tilmouth, the great Eastern Arrernte man of Central Australia, and visionary leader in the Aboriginal world. I thought very deeply about how to develop this book about him by using our own storytelling principle of consensus, to give everyone the opportunity to tell their part in the story. I worked on this book because I felt that Australia needed to hear what Tracker had to say. It is important. It involves the future of Aboriginal people and our culture.”
The annual prize, now in its sixth year, is open to both fiction and non-fiction works, and is a major literary award specifically celebrating Australian women’s writing, and is also an organisation that supports cultural change.
This year’s $50,000 prize was sponsored by the National Australia Bank who stated that they are also passionate about women realising their full potential. Leigh O’Neill, Executive General Manager, Business Direct and Small Business said, “At NAB, we understand that a business journey is not defined by gender – creativity and innovation are within us all. Empowering and inspiring women to find their voice and share their stories is an important part of realising and growing this, and the future of Australian business is inextricably linked to women sharing their stories.”
Wright acknowledged her gratitude for the opportunities that the Stella Prize affords, “All Australian writers and their readers should be grateful that the Stella Prize has created enormous opportunities for women writers. I thank the judges for ensuring that Tracker’s story will be heard and appreciated by many more people.”
This year’s Stella Prize judging panel was – co-owner of award-winning bookshop Avid Reader, Fiona Stager (chair); author Julie Koh; editor and award-winning writer and poet Ellen van Neerven; writer www.thestellaprize.com.au and critic James Ley, and writer, editor and publisher Louise Swinn. From 170 entries, and a longlist of 12, the 6 shortlisted works: The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Wild Dingo Press) Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (Hachette Australia) The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin) An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen (Text Publishing) The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe (Seizure) Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo) all received $3000 courtesy of the Ivy H Thomas and Arthur A Thomas Trust managed by Equity Trustees, and a three-week writing retreat supported by the Trawalla Foundation.
Wrights previous work includes Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek, and the novels Plains of Promise, The Swan Book, and Carpentaria, which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiers’ Literary Awards, and the ALS Gold Medal.
She is currently the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.
Wright has also featured as a writer on IndigenousX with her piece, Hey Ancestor!
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Luke Pearson is a Gamilaroi man, and is the founder and CEO of IndigenousX.