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2019 Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award winner announced

Tue, Mar 26, 2019

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis winning artwork

Winning work: One of the sample spreads submitted by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, 2019 winner of the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award

Magabala Books is thrilled to announce Charmaine Ledden-Lewis as the 2019 winner of its Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award. 

A Bundjalung freelance artist and mother of two boys from Blackheath, NSW, Charmaine Ledden-Lewis will receive $10,000, an illustration mentorship and contract opportunity to illustrate Bruce Pascoe’s first children’s picture book.

Upon receiving news of her win, Charmaine said “I’m deeply humbled and grateful to be embarking on a venture of learning and collaboration with such a well-respected author as Bruce Pascoe, and for the industry experience and career guidance I will gain with the Magabala publishing team. Mostly, I am delighted to be presented with the opportunity to make my family proud and share this journey with my sons, who love art and books as much as I do.”

Entries for the award were judged by celebrated author-illustrators Sally Morgan, Bronwyn Bancroft, Ann James and Magabala Books’ Publisher Rachel Bin Salleh. Comments from the judges about Charmaine’s work stated that it “showed great interpretation”, “incredible use of perspective”, “created a strong sense of place” and revealed “enormous potential.”


“We’re excited to work with Charmaine as her spreads are visually stunning, creating a wow moment for all judges,” said Publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh. “We’re looking forward to releasing Bruce Pascoe’s first ever children’s book with her illustrations in 2020.”

Impressed by the incredibly high calibre, as well the dramatic increase in entries this year, the judges also elected to award four ‘Highly Commended’ acknowledgements to Belle Martin, Bobbi-Lee Hille, Kyara Fernando and Veronica Spittles.

Established in 2017 with the generous support of the Kestin Family Foundation, the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award is a national biennial award that identifies new talent in the art of children’s picture book illustration.

Sally Morgan said the Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award is unique in that it provides a mentorship and opportunity to illustrate a book by a renowned Aboriginal author. “I cannot emphasise enough the enormous importance of mentoring new Aboriginal illustrators and authors,” she
said. Echoeing that sentiment, Ann James said the award is a very important initiative. “To be recognised and then mentored to grow their own unique voice and develop as illustrators is such a gift.”

Charmaine was announced as the 2019 winner of the award at the official launch of Little Bird's Day at the CBCA NSW AAA Professional Development Conference in Sydney on 26 March. Written by Sally Morgan, the early childhood picture book is the exquisite first outcome of the inaugural Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award. The launch of Little Bird's Day was attended by illustrator, Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, a Gapuwiyak artist from remote East Arnhem Land who won the award in 2017.

Over a 30+ year period, Magabala Books has  published more than 250 titles by Indigenous storytellers, authors and illustrators, and built an impressive resume of award-winning titles, including Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling work Dark Emu. The Kestin Award expands Magabala Books’ unparalleled program of professional development opportunities for Indigenous authors and illustrators.

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis and Johnny Malibirr

Award winners: Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, 2019 Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award winner, with Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, inaugural winner and illustrator of Little Bird's Day by Sally Morgan