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Unpublished Indigenous Writer : David Unaipon Award
or David Unaipon Award
Subcategory of Queensland Literary Awards
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The David Unaipon Award was inaugurated in 1988 and is awarded for an outstanding manuscript by an unpublished Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander writer. This category is sponsored by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) through the CAL Cultural Fund and supported by The University of Queensland Press.

The award was named in honour of David Unaipon, one of the earliest published Indigenous writers.

The award was not presented in 2019, because award judges felt none of the manuscripts were yet of publication standard: instead, eligible entrants were offered mentorships through the State Library of Queensland, in consultation with the Copyright Agency and The University of Queensland Press.


2018 winner Kirstie Parker

for The Making of Ruby Champion

2017 winner y separately published work icon Ghost Bird Lisa Fuller , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2019 16861510 2019 single work novel young adult

'Remember daughter, the world is a lot bigger than anyone knows. There are things that science may never explain. Maybe some things that shouldn’t be explained.

Stacey and Laney are twins – mirror images of each other – and yet they’re as different as the sun and the moon. Stacey works hard at school, determined to get out of their small town. Laney skips school and sneaks out of the house to meet her boyfriend. But when Laney disappears one night, Stacey can’t believe she’s just run off without telling her.

As the days pass and Laney doesn’t return, Stacey starts dreaming of her twin. The dreams are dark and terrifying, difficult to understand and hard to shake, but at least they tell Stacey one key thing – Laney is alive. It’s hard for Stacey to know what’s real and what’s imagined and even harder to know who to trust. All she knows for sure is that Laney needs her help.

Stacey is the only one who can find her sister. Will she find her in time?'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

for unpublished manuscript titled 'Mirrored Pieces'.
2016 winner y separately published work icon Dancing Home Paul Collis , St Lucia : The University of Queensland , 2017 11671262 2017 single work novel

‘When he was in gaol, he’d begun to prepare himself for the fight of his life, a showdown with the policeman, McWilliams … he’d face life with death, and see who blinked first.’ 

'Blackie and Rips are fresh out of prison when they set off on a road trip back to Wiradjuri country with their mate Carlos. Blackie is out for revenge against the cop who put him in prison on false grounds. He is also craving to reconnect with his grandmother’s country. 

'Driven by his hunger for drugs and payback, Blackie reaches dark places of both mystery and beauty as he searches for peace. He is willing to pay for that peace with his own life. 

'Part road-movie, part ‘Koori-noir’, Dancing Home announces an original and darkly funny new voice.'

[source: Publisher's website]

2015 winner y separately published work icon The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child Andrew Booth , 2015 (Manuscript version)8952885 8952876 2015 single work novel

'The First Octoroon is a work of fiction based in fact, inspired by the writer's discovery that he was an experimental child, that his birth was the result of a state sanctioned scientific experiment, a large-scale genetic intervention called Assimilation, intended to eliminate the perceived menace of Aboriginal 'half-castes' by ‘breeding out the colour’.' (Source: Queensland Literary Awards website)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Not Just Black and White Not Just Black and White : A Conversation Between a Mother and Daughter Lesley Williams , Tammy Williams , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2015 8859509 2015 single work biography

'Lesley Williams was forced to leave the Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement and her family at a young age to work as a domestic servant. Apart from pocket money, Lesley never saw her wages – they were kept ‘safe’ for her and for countless others just like her. She was taught not to question her life, until desperation made her start to wonder, where is all that money she earned? And so began a nine-year journey for answers.'

'Inspired by her mother’s quest, a teenage Tammy Williams entered a national writing competition with an essay about injustice. The winning prize took Tammy and Lesley to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and ultimately to the United Nations in Geneva. Along the way, they found courage they never thought they had and friendship in the most unexpected places.' (Source: On-line)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Heat and Light Ellen van Neerven , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2014 7667260 2014 selected work short story fantasy (taught in 1 units)

'In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.'

'Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, a futuristic world is imagined and the fate of a people threatened. In ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.'

'Heat and Light presents an intriguing collection while heralding the arrival of an exciting new talent in Australian writing.' (Publication summary)

2012 winner y separately published work icon Story Siv Parker , 2012 (Manuscript version)x402216 Z1881339 2012 single work novel 'Told from the Aboriginal perspective, Story responds to often asked but seldom answered questions. Story invites the reader to sticky beak on the characters in a small country town where changes are always afoot, and some things never change. A simple tale exploring complex issues with honesty, acceptance and heart.' (Source: )
2011 winner y separately published work icon Mazin Grace Dylan Coleman , 2011 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2012 Z1804070 2011 single work novel (taught in 1 units) 'Growing up on the Mission isn't easy for clever Grace Oldman. When her classmates tease her for not having a father, she doesn't know what to say. Pappa Neddy says her dad is the Lord God in Heaven, but that doesn't help when the Mission kids call her a bastard. As Grace slowly pieces together clues that might lead to answers, she struggles to find a place in a community that rejects her for reasons she doesn't understand.'
Source: Publisher's website
2010 winner y separately published work icon Purple Threads Jeanine Leane , 2010 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2011 Z1716649 2010 selected work short story (taught in 2 units) 'Purple Threads is a humorous collection of rural yarns by a gifted storyteller. Jeanine Leane grew up on a sheep farm near Gundagai, and the stories are based on her childhood experiences in a house full of fiercely independent women. In between Aunty Boo's surveillance of the local farmers' sheep dip alliance and Aunty Bubby's fireside tales of the Punic Wars, the women offer sage advice to their nieces on growing up as Indigenous girls in a white country town.

The cast of strong Aboriginal women in a rural setting gives a fascinating insight into both Aboriginal and rural life. Farming is not an easy pursuit for anyone, but the Aunties take all the challenges in their stride, facing torrential rain, violent neighbours and injured dogs with an equal mix of humour and courage. Purple Threads uses an irreverent style reminiscent of Gayle Kennedy's Me, Antman & Fleabag and Marie Munkara's Every Secret Thing, but offers a unique perspective on the Australian country lifestyle.' Source: Publisher's website
2009 winner y separately published work icon The Boundary Nicole Watson , 2009 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2011 Z1622544 2009 single work novel crime (taught in 2 units)

'Hours after rejecting the Corrowa People's native title claim on Brisbane's Meston Park, Justice Bruce Brosnan is brutally murdered in his home. Days later, lawyers against the claim are also found dead.

Aboriginal people were once prohibited from entering Brisbane's city limits at night, and Meston Park stood on the boundary. The Corrowa's matriarch, Ethel Cobb, is convinced the murders are the work of an ancient assassin who has returned to destroy the boundary, but Aboriginal lawyer Miranda Eversely isn't so sure.

When the Premier is kidnapped, the pressure to find the killer intensifies ... While the investigation forces Detective Sergeant Jason Matthews to confront his buried heritage, Miranda battles a sense of personal failure at the Corrowa's defeat. How far will it take her to the edge of self-destruction?' Source: (Sighted 25/03/2011).

2008 winner y separately published work icon Every Secret Thing Marie Munkara , 2008 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2009 Z1523127 2008 selected work short story (taught in 4 units)

'In the Aboriginal missions of far northern Australia, it was a battle between saving souls and saving traditional culture.

'Every Secret Thing is a rough, tough, hilarious portrayal of the Bush Mob and the Mission Mob, and the hapless clergy trying to convert them. In these tales, everyone is fair game.

'At once playful and sharp, Marie Munkara's wonderfully original stories cast a taunting new light on the mission era in Australia.' (From the publisher's website.)

2007 winner y separately published work icon Skin Painting Elizabeth Hodgson , 2007 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2008 Z1427342 2007 selected work poetry

'My story cannot be painted onto a canvas - it is skin painting.

Brave, haunting and evocative, this powerful volume is poetry as memoir. From her early experiences in an institution and the effect of this on her family to the illustration of her strength as an adult, Elizabeth Hodgson helps make a slice of Aboriginal experience accessible and resonant. Skin Painting explores themes of art, identity, sexuality and loneliness. It is both universal and intimated, honest and important.'

Source: Publisher's blurb

2006 winner y separately published work icon Me, Antman and Fleabag Gayle Kennedy , 2006 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2007 Z1307235 2006 selected work short story humour

'A collection of short stories that encapsulates the story of the Aboriginal narrator, her partner Antman, their dog Fleabag and their life in travelling in rural Australia.'  (Source: Narragunnawali resource)

2005 winner y separately published work icon Anonymous Premonition Yvette Holt , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2008 Z1457819 2008 selected work poetry 'Winner of the 2005 David Unaipon Award, Anonymous Premonition gives the low-down on what it is to be an Indigenous woman today. Her collection of startling and fresh poems treats us to an energetic and unconventional journey from love, sex, empowerment and travel to motherhood and family, activism and grief.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
2004 winner y separately published work icon Swallow the Air Dust on Waterglass Tara June Winch , 2003 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2006 Z1265164 2003 selected work short story (taught in 33 units)

Swallow the Air follows the life of 15-year-old May Gibson, an Aboriginal girl from New South Wales whose mother commits suicide. May and her brother go to live with their aunt, but eventually May travels further afield, first to Redfern's Block in Sydney, then to the Northern Territory, and finally into central New South Wales. She travels to escape, but also in pursuit of a sense of her own history, family, and identity.

Pre-publication title: Dust on Waterglass
2003 winner y separately published work icon Whispers of This Wik Woman Fiona Doyle , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2004 Z1148019 2004 single work life story

'This absorbing and personal account of Wik activist Jean George Awumpun offers a rare understanding of Aboriginal identity and traditional land. To illustrate her proud Alngith Wikwaya beginnings, Awumpun's early history is told through family member and Alngith descendant Fiona Doyle. This ancestral history combines with the story of Awumpun's struggle in the Wik native title claims, which advanced the earlier Mabo Decision onto mainland Australia.

Using photographs, traditionally inspired art and language terms, Fiona Doyle invites us into the heart of Cape York's Wikwaya country.' Source: Publisher's blurb

2002 winner y separately published work icon Home Larissa Behrendt , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2004 Z1113719 2004 single work novel (taught in 10 units)

'A story of homecoming, this absorbing novel opens with a young, city-based lawyer setting out on her first visit to ancestral country. Candice arrives at "the place where the rivers meet", the camp of the Eualeyai where in 1918 her grandmother Garibooli was abducted. As Garibooli takes up the story of Candice's Aboriginal family, the twentieth century falls away.

Garibooli, renamed Elizabeth, is sent to work as a housemaid, but marriage soon offers escape from the terror of the master's night-time visits. Her displacement carries into the lives of her seven children - their stories witness to the impact of orphanage life and the consequences of having a dark skin in post-war Australia. Vividly rekindled, the lives of her family point the direction home for Candice.

Home is a ... novel from an author who understands both the capacity of language to suppress and the restorative potency of stories that bridge past and present.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

2001 winner y separately published work icon The Mish Robert Lowe , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2002 Z918181 2002 single work life story

'Robert Lowe's affection and regard for "The Mish", a property in Victoria's southwest, originally an Aboriginal mission, is warmly conveyed in this candid memoir. In the 1950s and 60s when Robert was growing up, "The Mish" was a close knit community made up of the Aboriginal descendants of Framlingham Aboriginal Mission Station, founded in 1865. Robert's adventurous boyhood was a secured and unfettered time spent with his siblings and cousins enjoying hunting, fishing and eel trapping.

'Teachings by the community elders instilled in him a connection to the land and spirituality he would in turn pass on to following generations. When Robert and his bride leave "The Mish", a new chapter begins in a nearby town where acceptance and respect are hard won.'

Source: Publisher's blurb

2000 winner y separately published work icon Bitin' Back Just Call Me Jean Vivienne Cleven , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2001 Z669132 2001 single work novel (taught in 7 units) 'When the Blackout's star player Nevil Dooley wakes one morning to don a frock and 'eyeshada', his mother's idle days at the bingo hall are gone forever. Mystified and clueless, single parent Mavis takes bush-cunning and fast footwork to unravel the mystery behind this sudden change of face... Hilarity prevails while desperation builds in the race to save Nevil from the savage consequences of discovery in a town where a career in footy is a young black man's only escape. Neither pig shoots, bust-ups at the Two Dogs, bare-knuckle sessions in the shed or even a police siege can slow the countdown on this human time bomb.' (Source: Publisher's blurb) Pre-publication title: Just Call Me Jean
1999 winner y separately published work icon Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight Samuel Wagan Watson , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z668862 2000 selected work poetry (taught in 2 units) 'In a voice youthful, passionate and questioning, these poems reflect on growing up and on letting go; on urban dwellers in love and lust; and on the artist and his Murri community. The politics are unguarded and often amusing, and the language is playful, rhythmic and evocative. Ghosted by ancestors and muses, Watson's cityscape interweaves past and present.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1998 winner y separately published work icon Is That You, Ruthie? Ruth Hegarty , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1999 Z226781 1999 single work autobiography (taught in 3 units) 'It that you...? Matron's voice would ring out across the dormitory. In that pause sixty little girls would stop in their tracks, waiting to hear who was in trouble. All too often the name called out would be that of the high spirited dormitory girl Ruthie. In the depression years Queensland's notorious Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission became home to four-year old Ruth until her late teens when she was sent out to serve as a domestic on a station homestead.' (Source: University of Queensland Press website)
1997 winner y separately published work icon When Darkness Falls John Bodey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z382204 2000 selected work prose Indigenous story young adult 'Set in the Kimberley region of Western Australia this is a collection of powerful love stories from the past. Each story explores different aspects of love - from mothers' love to lustful love, from forbidden or dutiful love to innocence.' (Source: Back cover, UQP 2000 edition)
1996 winner y separately published work icon Black Angels, Red Blood Steven McCarthy , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1998 Z154363 1998 single work novel

'On the surface there's not much to distinguish Tim's life from any other on the fringe- where dope, booze and women are his pleasure as well as his pain. He has family in the bush, and the lives of his city friends are transacted in the face of poverty and police harassment. It is only in Tim's relationship with the Old Man that we glimpse another and little known world where the rules are different, but so too the retribution.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

1995 winner y separately published work icon Warrigal's Way Warrigal Anderson , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1996 Z184613 1996 single work autobiography 'Warrigal has every reason to believe that the suits from the Department are coming to take him away. With five pounds from his mother and hasty instructions, he hops on what he thinks is a train to Swan Hill. Instead he finds himself on a life-long journey.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1994 winner y separately published work icon The Sausage Tree Rosalie Medcraft , Valda Gee , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1995 Z249590 1995 single work life story The title The Sausage Tree, celebrates the authors' favourite childhood game. 'This memoir tells of the sisters' childhood spent during the Depression in small-town Tasmania. For the family of nine, thrift was a virtue and home-grown food and hand-made clothing were a necessity. In later years, they learned of their Aboriginal heritage as descendants of Manalargenna, leader of the Trawlwoolway people of Cape Portland in north-east Tasmania.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1993 winner y separately published work icon Bridge of Triangles John Muk Muk Burke , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1994 Z24005 1994 single work novel 'Chris Leeton is tormented but also sustained by his growing need to cross over the landscape of his Aboriginal ancestors... In the struggle to keep the family together in Sydney's grim commission housing, schoolboy Chris is tender witness to poverty and despair. In time he comes to understand that they are exiles in their own land. He senses that it is his generation that must cross the bridge back to that landscape which defines his people's existence.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1992 winner y separately published work icon Sweet Water : Stolen Land Philip McLaren , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1993 Z32091 1993 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 8 units) 'The destinies of two families, black and white, are fatally interwoven... in this frontier novel. Racial brutality and the tragic account of the Myall Creek massacre underscore the story of Ginny and Wollumbuy, Kamilaroi people of Warrumbungle Range. Mysterious killings follow the arrival Karl and Gundrun Maresch, a German couple who establish a Lutheran mission near the young settlement of Coonabarabran.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)
1991 winner y separately published work icon Broken Dreams Bill Dodd , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1992 Z502310 1992 selected work life story poetry

'When eighteen-year-old Bill Dodd dived into the Maranoa River his life changed in an instant. This young larrikin had enjoyed many adventures as a stockman on a remote station; now he was a quadriplegic. His boxing, running and football days were over, and he would never ride a horse again.

Bill's story begins with a high-spirited childhood in smalltown Queensland, a time of youthful humour and energy. The sudden death of his stockman father affects Bill deeply and he rebels, before himself choosing the exciting life of an apprentice stockman.

Waking up in the intensive care spinal unit, he faces the consequences of his accident and slowly builds a new life.

...Bill's story was written with the aid of a specially designed finger splint, and a typewriter donated by the people of Mitchell, his hometown.' Source: Publisher's blurb

1990 winner y separately published work icon Caprice : A Stockman's Daughter Doris Pilkington Garimara , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1991 Z152202 1991 single work novel

'A fictional account of one woman's journey to find her family and heritage, Caprice won the 1990 David Unaipon Award for unpublished Indigenous writers. Its publication marked the beginning of Doris Pilkington Garimara's illustrious writing career.

Set in the towns, pastoral stations and orphanage-styled institutions of Western Australia, this story brings together the lives of three generations of Mardu women. The narrator Kate begins her journey with the story of her grandmother Lucy, a domestic servant, then traces the short and tragic life of her mother Peggy.

Kate was born into the institutionalised world of the Settlement, taught Christian doctrine and trained for a career as a domestic. Gradually and painfully she sheds this narrowly prescribed identity, as she sets out on the pilgrimage home.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

1989 inaugural winner y separately published work icon Holocaust Island Graeme Dixon , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1990 Z362876 1990 selected work poetry 'Graeme Dixon's ballads speak out on contemporary and controversial issues, from Black deaths in custody to the struggles of single mothers. Contrasted with these are poems of spirited humour and sharp satire. In Holocaust Island a powerful new voice emerges from a history of displacement.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)