Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin, has been awarded to Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch for The Yield. For the first time in the Award’s history, trustee Perpetual announced the winner via a LIVE YouTube presentation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chosen from a shortlist showcasing a powerhouse of experienced Australian literary talent, The Yield weaves together three stories to reveal how Indigenous history carries forward pain and sorrow yet allows compassion, resilience, dignity, humour and humanity to flourish. Ms Winch will receive $60,000 in prize money for The Yield, which was described as “haunting and accomplished” by the judging panel.
Winch joins a group of distinguished and revered alumni of Indigenous Miles Franklin prize winners, including last year’s winner Melissa Lucashenko (for Too Much Lip), Kim Scott (who shared the prize in 2000 for Benang, and won again in 2011 with That Deadman Dance) and Alexis Wright (for Carpentaria, 2007).
Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and Chair, Richard Neville said “In English ‘yield’ signifies what one takes from the land. In Wiradjuri it is ‘the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha’,” he said.
“The Yield explores the legacies of colonial violence, shame, intergenerational trauma and environmental destruction. Winch celebrates and amplifies the contemporary resurgence and relevance of the Wiradjuri language. The Yield, a story of pain, loss, resilience and hope, is a novel where the past is the present is the future.”
Neville was joined on the judging panel by The Australian journalist Murray Waldren, academic and literary critic Dr Melinda Harvey, Sydney-based bookseller Lindy Jones, and author and literary critic Dr Bernadette Brennan. The Yield was selected from a list that included four previously Miles Franklin-shortlisted authors – Tony Birch, Peggy Frew, Philip Salom and Carrie Tiffany – and newcomer John Hughes.
“I’m honoured to be among brilliant colleagues on the longlist and shortlist, our power is in the many stories and not only the one,” said Ms Winch. “The historical presence of both Tony Birch and myself on the shortlist signals to the publishing industry that we can write our own stories, and that we don’t want to be spoken for.”
“I hope this event also encourages the next generation of Indigenous voices, to know there is a space here for you in the industry, and in the minds and hearts of a new era of readers. We need to hear voices from across the nation to truly immerse ourselves in the song of Australia.”
Recognised as Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, was established in 1954 by the estate of My Brilliant Career author Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin to celebrate the Australian character and creativity.
The Award supports advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian literature each year by recognising the novel of the highest literary merit which presents Australian Life in any of its phases. Perpetual, as Trustee of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, is proud to be part of this literary legacy. Since 1957, the award has provided more than $1.2 million to Australian authors.
For more information about the Miles Franklin Literary Award, visit: www.milesfranklin.com.au for details.
Image: The Yield by Tara June Winch – courtesy of Penguin Random House