Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2004 Winners
Sixty Lights - Gail Jones
Random House Australia
Orphaned in Australia at eight in 1860, Lucy Strange, lucid by name and strange by nature, is raised in London by her eccentric uncle and then sent to Bombay for an arranged marriage with his friend, the much-older Isaac Newton (namesake of the eighteenth-century physicist famous for his Opticks). It will be a marriage in appearance only, for she falls pregnant during an affair with a fellow passenger on the voyage out. Then she becomes preoccupied with photography, the powerful technology emerging in her lifetime: photo-graphy/light-writing, a kind of life-writing, becomes a medium whereby she learns to see time differently and is thereby freed from its constraints – until she dies of consumption at twenty-two, as we have known from the beginning she will. "A life abbreviated is not a life diminished," Jones has said, and Lucy’s life is "one of extraordinary richness, assertiveness, energy, loving kindness". Jones’s Sixty Lights is a meticulous, elegant, and engrossing book.
Sixty Lights - Gail Jones
Random House Australia
For judges' comments please see the Premier's Prize entry.
Against Certain Capture - Miriam Wei Wei Lo
Five Islands Press
Against Certain Capture is a small collection of poems with a gravitas that derives from the intensity of their preoccupation with cultural, legal and biological connectedness in women's lives. A mother, writing to her distant son, sees "[a] faint outline of a person starting to form," and knows how words "flow out of a body and carry the ghost / of fingers, a face, a heart." Those people, those ghosts, are drawn from the lives of Lo's grandmothers: one Chinese-Malaysian, the other Anglo Australian. A collection about how to structure a life, to understand it if not to explain, it is also a collection about forgiveness.
Non-Fiction (2 Awards)
Conversations with the Constitution - Greg Craven
University of New South Wales Press
The job of making the Australian Constitution a lively and interesting topic was a tall order, as Craven admits. Nevertheless, he tackles it with gusto, producing an entertaining and sometimes irreverent look at the issues, from federalism to executive powers, and the main players, from politicians to the judiciary. He concludes that, though it may not be universally loved, the Constitution has served us well and will continue to do so.
Redbill: From Pearls to Peace - The Life and Times of a Remarkable Lugger - Kate Lance
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Built in 1903 for the Broome pearling industry, Redbill went on to an eventful life that spanned nearly a century and some major historical events. It was requisitioned by the navy during World War II, took part in Greenpeace protests in the Pacific, and was used to raise funds for the East Timorese. At various times it was crewed by troubled teenagers, crocodile farmers, ecologists and others who all fell under its spell. One of those captivated was Lance, who chronicles with warmth and affection its remarkable adventures.
West Australian History Award
Behind the Play - Anthony Barker
West Australian Football Commission
Too often sports historians focus on personalities and achievements, avoiding any discussion of the ways in which sport is integrated within society. In evading this trap and by making skilful use of oral history, Tony Barker goes “behind the play” to examine the politics of football, as well as to embed the game in Western Australia’s social history. The result is a masterly study of a major sport – objective, analytical and always entertaining.
A Home for Bilby - Joanne Crawford & Grace Fielding
A Home for Bilby is in many ways the archetypal children’s book. In a simple, straightforward writing style, the tale unfolds of a timid bilby who, with the help of some delightful Australian animals, finds the perfect home (and some new friends). There is an underlying tension for the young reader, wondering whether Bilby will find a home, something so basic to happy existence that the relief when the ideal shelter is found is palpable for everyone. The work is instructional on habitat, endangered animals and the value of collaboration. Grace Fielding’s illustrations, an attractive blend of Aboriginal motifs and European figurative traditions, in ochres and browns with splashes of yellows and blues, are redolent of the Australian bush. The attention to production detail and the small drawings included on each page make this book a joy.
Young Adults Award
Fireshadow - Anthony Eaton
University of Queensland Press
This tale draws the reader into two distinct worlds yet manages to balance and interweave them with ease. In a contemporary setting, Vinnie retreats to the bush near Dwellingup to take stock after a terrible car accident has left him physically and emotionally scarred. He settles in an area of forest where a POW camp had existed during World War Two, the area providing the setting for the second story. Here we are drawn into the lives of the camp inmates, but particularly to the story of Erich, a young German soldier captured in North Africa who finds himself in an alien place trying to come to terms with the dishonour of capture. The West Australian bush is evoked powerfully through beautiful descriptive imagery appealing always to the full sensory experience. This is a work that broaches many subjects, including racism, patriotism, nationalism, loyalty, responsibility and sibling love, all with subtlety and sensitivity. Eaton has aimed high with this work and succeeded admirably in his deft handling of a complex plot and descriptive powers that bring people and place alive.
Yandy - Jolly Read
Black Swan Theatre Company
Yandy is iconoclastic for its representation of Don McLeod as being "one of them," meaning a white to the Aboriginal people and not the blackfella’s friend he styled himself as. It is refreshing for its naïve representation of Dorothy Hewett as a young reporter for the West Australian who is looking for a story rather than a headline. But most of all it is informative for the way it documents and elaborates the details of the Aboriginal station-workers’ Strike of 1946, sometimes called "the blackfella’s Eureka": how the pastoralists were outraged, how the police took their side, and how the Aboriginal people took a stand and did not give in, not even to this day according to some of the old people who insist that they never returned to work on the stations. A dramatic illustration of how the master-slave relationship is ruptured when the slave says No.