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Western Australian Premier's Book Awards - 2006 Winners

Premier's Prize

2006Shaun Tan - The Arrival
Hachette Livre Australia
Through his intriguing and elegant artwork in this ground-breaking 128-page wordless picture book/graphic novel, Tan captures both intimate personal moments (note his studies of hands) and the vast scale of human movement across time, space and cultures. Travelling from his family in a city overshadowed by some nameless threat to a foreign land, the un-named protagonist encounters many strange customs as well as other new arrivals, each with compelling reasons for starting a new life. The journey unfolds through varied illustrations in sepia tones, drawing the viewer deeply into the immigrant experience. The storytelling is both simple and complex, with close views of small, familiar details of daily life set in a wide and surreal landscape. Between its endpapers with their sixty ‘passport portraits’ of immigrants from many cultures, this beautifully designed book conveys a universal message of hope and humanity.

Fiction

PBA-2006-FICTION-lazaroo-travel-writerSimone Lazaroo - The Travel Writer
Pan Macmillan Australia
The Travel Writer is a moving and beautifully written study of the lives of a mother and daughter from Malacca and their passionate and frustrating pursuit of love in a colonial and post-colonial situation. As in Lazaroo’s earlier novels, these women are ‘Eurasian’, ethnically and culturally between Europe and Malaya, longing for England’s sophistication yet exploited by those English men to whom they turn for love and a sense of belonging. The generations’ different situations are subtly delineated as the daughter lovingly writes her dying mother’s life, which is paralleled with her own in London. The women gain wisdom and strength, but the men too are seen as victims of their own lack of courage. Malaya before independence, with its superstitions and its own colourful take on English, comes brilliantly to life as the novel’s language effortlessly recreates both cultures and the imbalance of power that is mirrored in the lives of the two women.

Poetry

PBA-2006-POETRY-Haskell-all-time-in-worldDennis Haskell - All the Time in the World
Salt Publishing
Dennis Haskell’s fifth collection of poetry displays the riches of wide experience of life and literature. Haskell pays tribute to some of his great precursors, in some cases explicitly by naming or citing them, more pervasively by maintaining their sense of deep moral commitment. This appears as a quickness of wit that sees through pretension or obfuscation with a language that often startles and amuses with its irreverent and satirical perceptiveness. Haskell has traveled much, and this has given his poetry a breadth of cultural perspective which is adroitly brought to bear on his experience. His awareness that ‘writing is [always] incomplete’ and can never equate to the experience it seeks to apprehend makes many poems, and especially a number of elegies towards the end of the book, particularly moving in their acknowledgement of how things slip from our grasp no matter how much they are loved.

Non-Fiction (Two Awards)

PBA-2006-NON-FICTION-Beresford-rob-rileyQuentin Beresford - Rob Riley: an Aboriginal Leader’s Quest for Justice
Aboriginal Studies Press
This is much more than the biography of one of the Nyoongah people’s best-known modern day leaders. It is a passionate analysis of a lifetime of political activism, a powerful and compelling story revealing how Riley’s childhood experiences had a profound effect on his adult life. As an activist he struggled not only against the intransigence and ignorance of federal and state governments, but also his critics within the Nyoongah community. They resented his public profile attained through his fearless advocacy of justice for his people – whether he was opposing police violence and intimidation, the intolerance of a rapacious mining community, or resistance to the concept of native title. Riley lost more battles than he won; however, as Quentin Beresford explains in this magisterial study, he gained enormous respect in the Western Australian and national communities for his tireless advocacy on behalf of indigenous Australians.
 
PBA-2006-NON-FICTION-Edwards-arthur-tangePeter Edwards - Arthur Tange: Last of the Mandarins
Allen & Unwin
Sir Arthur Tange was one of Australia’s most powerful and influential public servants, working with a succession of Prime Ministers from Chifley to Fraser. A man of great intellectual capacity, who was always willing to give ‘frank and fearless advice’ to ministers on both sides of politics, in this life story Peter Edwards explores Tange’s private life and public career, including his role in reforming two major Departments of State. He headed the first, External Affairs, from 1953 to 1965, then after a five-year interlude as High Commissioner to India was in charge of Defence from 1970 to 1979. Today the organization of both departments still bears his imprint. In this elegantly written study Edwards convincingly argues that Tange was one of the most influential of those mandarins, Dr H C Coombs among them, who guided Australia’s development in the mid-twentieth century.

West Australian History Award

PBA-2006-WA-HISTORY-Oliver-workshopsBobbie Oliver and Patrick Bertola - The Workshops: A History of the Midland Government Railway Workshops
University of Western Australia Press
For ninety years from 1904 Midland’s Railway Workshops were one of Western Australia’s best known industrial sites, where several thousand employees laboured to build and repair locomotive engines and rolling stock. Twelve authors, headed by Patrick Bertola and Bobbie Oliver, have collaborated to write an exemplary history of this important industrial facility which was constructed and then closed amid political controversy. The authors’ contributions are grouped into four sections : Context; The Working Factory; Culture and Leisure; Closure and Afterwards; exploring every dimension of the workplace from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s office to the factory floor, together with the employment of women munitions workers in World War 11. This is a major contribution to Australian industrial history.

Children's Books

2006Shaun Tan - The Arrival
Hachette Livre Australia
Through his intriguing and elegant artwork in this ground-breaking 128-page wordless picture book/graphic novel, Tan captures both intimate personal moments (note his studies of hands) and the vast scale of human movement across time, space and cultures. Travelling from his family in a city overshadowed by some nameless threat to a foreign land, the un-named protagonist encounters many strange customs as well as other new arrivals, each with compelling reasons for starting a new life. The journey unfolds through varied illustrations in sepia tones, drawing the viewer deeply into the immigrant experience. The storytelling is both simple and complex, with close views of small, familiar details of daily life set in a wide and surreal landscape. Between its endpapers with their sixty ‘passport portraits’ of immigrants from many cultures, this beautifully designed book conveys a universal message of hope and humanity.

Young Adult's Books

PBA-2006-YA-McCaffrey-destroying-avalonKate McCaffrey - Destroying Avalon
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Moving to a new school, Avalon has difficulty in finding friends – and then the real terror starts. The victim of relentless, vicious defamatory messages on the internet, Avalon is too devastated and confused to think how to defend herself until a tragedy brings release. This strong novel is grounded in the realities of secondary school culture, dialogue and relationships, where peer pressure has escalated into a new and dangerous realm. There are important messages in this riveting, fast paced story with high appeal for its target audience of young adult readers. A gripping, thought-provoking story of cyber-bullying, this novel may be a timely warning to parents and teachers of the present and rapidly evolving dangers facing young people today.

Scripts

PBA-2006-SCRIPT-Turner-sardinesHellie Turner - Sardines
Tropic Sun Theatre Queensland
An accidental encounter by two damaged people has unexpected results in this absorbing two-hander. In the confined setting of a bed-sitter, Jason, an opportunistic thief, confronts and is confronted by Gloria, an agoraphobic physically and emotionally wounded by her past. With sensitivity Turner moves these very different characters seamlessly from a verbal battleground to a resolution, whereby they come to a tentative understanding of the other’s choice of lifestyle and offer each other a new way of looking at the world and their position in it.