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Photo: Ambelin Kwaymullina, Magabala Publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh and Jane Harrison at the 2016 Prime Minister's Literary Awards
Prizes were awarded in six categories including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, Australian history, children’s and young adult literature.
The winning entries were selected from a shortlist of 30 books by some of Australia’s most well regarded authors. Expert judging panels recommended the winners and shortlists from 425 entries across each of the categories, with the Prime Minister making the final decision. Fellow Indigenous author, Sally Morgan, took out top honours in the Children's Fiction category for her book, Sister Heart (Fremantle Press), which was accepted on her behalf by her daughter and author, Ambelin Kwaymullina.
Set within the explosive cultural shifts of the 1960s and 1980s, Becoming Kirrali Lewis chronicles the journey of a young Aboriginal teenager as she leaves her hometown in rural Victoria to take on a law degree in Melbourne in 1985. Adopted at birth by a white family, Kirrali doesn't question her cultural roots until a series of life-changing events force her to face up to her true identity.
Describing it as "a richly textured novel about identity, family and community," judges commented that Becoming Kirrali Lewis "is crowded with strong and complex characters and restless, searching energy" in which "Harrison’s background as playwright is turned to powerful effect in the way she voices these characters."
For more judges comments and the full list of all shortlisted and winning authors, see the Australian Government Department of Communication and the Arts website.