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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2005 Winners

Premier's Prize

2005Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert - Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali
(Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies)
Between May and October 1964 a successful attempt was made to remove a small group of Martu Aboriginal women and children from the Percival Lakes region of Australia's Western Desert. This was done because the Martu, who had no previous contact with European society, were within the Woomera firing range stretching across remote South and Western Australia, and used for testing Britain's Blue Streak rockets. The story of the encounter and removal is told by Yuwali, a Martu woman, and two patrol officers, one of whom, Walter MacDougall, was later condemned “for having placed the affairs of a handful of natives above those of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” Besides presenting Yuwali's compelling and amazingly accurate recollection of events, the authors place this first encounter within a political, bureaucratic and social context, forcing us to consider not only the consequences for the Martu of removal from the desert, but also the wider issue of Indigenous people's relationship to their lands.

Fiction

tiffanyEveryman’s Rules for Scientific Living - Carrie Tiffany
(Picador)
USE SUPERPHOSPHATE one sign urges, and a banner reminds farmers of their patriotic duty to GROW MORE WHEAT as Engine K109 pulls The Better Farming Train and its two dozen cars and wagons of exhibits on “scientific farming” and “women’s subjects” across the Victorian landscape in 1934. By 1940 K109 pulls the one-car-three-wagon One-In, All-In train which displays modern weaponry and exhorts farmers to do their patriotic duty and enlist (“the modern soldier is a man of science”). Along the way, two workers on that train of fools, Jean Finnegan (Sewing) and Robert Pettergree (agrostologist!), marry and leave the train at Wycheproof, scientifically to farm the property he has bought there. But the Southern Mallee is better suited to drought, mouse plagues and sand drift than Ghurka wheat and scientific farming. And when Pettergree, broken and humiliated, enlists, Jean’s thoughts turn to Mr Ohno, the dreamy Japanese chicken-sexer previously on The Better Farming Train but now in the Internment Camp in Tatura… From its faux-shabby cover to the faded photographs within, to the vrai shabby tale it tells, Everyman’s Rules is quirky, sardonic and engrossing.

Poetry

moranThe Paradoxes of Water : Selected and New Poems, 1970-2005 - Rod Moran
(Salt Publishing)
Literary Editor for the West Australian, Rod Moran is known more for reading and critiquing books than for writing them, but wrongly so. He has three other volumes of poetry, and his recent Sex, Maiming and Massacre was a finalist in the Margaret Medcalf Award for excellence in archival research. The Paradoxes of Water consists of poems sharply observed and keenly felt. At the same time, Moran’s poems have perspective, of politics and history, for example of how history is a snapshot of politics at a particular moment and from a particular point of view: in “The University,” we are told, “Plato’s silhouettes / flicker in the lecture hall – / doctrine, agit-prop.” A strong collection of his selected and new work from the past thirty-five years.

Non-Fiction (2 Awards)

bosworthMussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Dictatorship 1915-1945 - Richard Bosworth
(Allen Lane/Penguin)
One of the best known scholars of Italy’s modern history, Richard Bosworth has written a carefully constructed analysis of the forging and ultimate destruction of Italy’s interwar fascist society. He skilfully combines national, regional and local perspectives, while also introducing ordinary Italians’ experiences of life during Mussolini’s dictatorship. Hence Bosworth never allows the oppressiveness of this totalitarian state to stifle the voices of the people, many of whom mocked and ridiculed their leader’s regime, while they adapted to, and exploited, it.

nikulinskySoul of the Desert - Philippa Nikulinsky and Stephen D Hopper
(Fremantle Arts Centre Press)
Between them, botanical artist Nikulinsky and scientist Hopper explore some of the state’s least-known regions. While Hopper explains the history of the land, its geology, wildlife and people, Nikulinsky brings it to life through her exquisite paintings of the flora and fauna. Together they dispel the myth of deserts as barren lands devoid of life, showing the extraordinary diversity of plants and animals which survive in a seemingly hostile environment. Their passion for their work is evident in this important and beautiful book.

West Australian History

2005Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert - Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali
(Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies)
Between May and October 1964 a successful attempt was made to remove a small group of Martu Aboriginal women and children from the Percival Lakes region of Australia's Western Desert. This was done because the Martu, who had no previous contact with European society, were within the Woomera firing range stretching across remote South and Western Australia, and used for testing Britain's Blue Streak rockets. The story of the encounter and removal is told by Yuwali, a Martu woman, and two patrol officers, one of whom, Walter MacDougall, was later condemned “for having placed the affairs of a handful of natives above those of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” Besides presenting Yuwali's compelling and amazingly accurate recollection of events, the authors place this first encounter within a political, bureaucratic and social context, forcing us to consider not only the consequences for the Martu of removal from the desert, but also the wider issue of Indigenous people's relationship to their lands.

Children’s Books

binksWhere’s Stripey? - Wendy Binks
(Stunned Emu Press)
This delightful picture book combines very amusing illustrations with a deceptively simple text. There is plenty of action and interest in the simple plot as father Crikey searches for his lost chick. Encounters with other animals and their babies demonstrate Binks’s painterly skills while giving the opportunity for repetition, so much appreciated by young listeners. Vivid illustrations make strong use of turquoise and black for adult emus and the bright orange, cross-eyed gaze of the boldly striped emu chicks, as well as a broader palette for other animals and their habitats. Design and layout are varied, with clear text set in white space, strong use of colour, shape and placement of illustrations – culminating in the final story page which presents the curves of sunset, hilltop and the sweeping S of the 30 chicks with Stripey staring quizzically at the viewer. With hilarious expressions of the emus, a lively text begging to be read aloud, and two concluding pages of “interesting emu facts,” this book is both informative and highly entertaining.

Writing for Young Adults

murrayA Prayer for Blue Delaney - Kirsty Murray
(Allen & Unwin)
Reluctant ten-year-old year-old Colm McCabe is sent to Australia as part of the misguided migration schemes of the 1950s. His early experiences of life in a bleak Irish orphanage are worsened by the overwork and fear he encounters at notorious Bindoon. Escaping to Fremantle, Colm is rescued by old Billy Dare and his dog and, in the course of their long working journey across much of Australia, Colm encounters a wide variety of incidents, characters, and landscapes. The heat, hardship and boredom of work along the rabbit-proof fence are vividly evoked, as is Colm’s strengthening relationship with Billy. Many events of Australia in the 1950s are cleverly woven through the story with incidents involving Aboriginal struggles, life on a cattle station, Chinese immigrants, a dramatic hunting scene and the coming of television in Melbourne at the time of the Olympic Games. All characters, relationships and events are well realised through the linking theme of loss of family which runs powerfully through the book.

Scripts

Last Train to Freo - Reg Cribb
(Sue Taylor Media)
The Midland-to-Fremantle train is the setting for Cribb’s suspenseful play. Two thugs, Steve and Trev, turn the journey into a brutal game, drawing in fellow passengers as unwilling participants – or are they? As the train moves closer to its destination, so pressure inside the carriage rises as Trev and Steve increasingly torment their victims and each other in a high-stakes battle of wits. Well-wrought characters, fast-moving dialogue and tightly framed setting ensure the tension remains high until the shocking denouement.