Last night Magabala Books' author Bruce Pascoe won Book of the Year at the NSW Premier's 2016 Literary Awards for his acclaimed book on Aboriginal agriculture, Dark Emu, which also shared top honours in the inaugural Indigenous Writer's Prize with Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven.
“Magabala Books is absolutely thrilled that Bruce Pascoe has won both the Book of the Year and the inaugural Indigenous Writers Prize with Ellen. We couldn’t be more excited and are so happy for both of them,” said Magabala Books’ Publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh, speaking from the awards night held at the State Library of New South Wales.
“Dark Emu continues to attract great praise and interest in Australia and overseas, and we are extremely proud to have published this breakthrough book.”
With strong research utilising early settlers’ diaries, Dark Emu challenges the common ‘hunter-gatherer’ perception of pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and provides compelling evidence that Aboriginal people managed sophisticated and bountiful agricultural and aquaculture systems right across the country.
Describing it as a “vital book” that “wrestles with Australia’s ideas about itself and its oldest traditions,” judges commented that “Dark Emu injects a profound authenticity into the conversation about how we Australians understand our continent.”
“Dark Emu reveals enormous Aboriginal achievement in governance and agriculture and restores these to their rightful place at the epicentre of Australian history. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what Australia once was, or what it might yet be if we heed the lessons of long and sophisticated human occupation,” they said.
First published in 2014, Dark Emu has gone into multiple reprints and was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian and QLD Premier’s Literary Prizes. Bruce has since done presentations and talks at literature festivals and with foodies, environmentalists, permaculturalists and landcare groups across Australia. He has also travelled to Mongolia, India, and Washington where he was invited to talk about Indigenous people’s connections to land and agriculture. In Dark Emu Bruce hopes to reveal an alternative view of pre-colonial Aboriginal society and encourage Aboriginal people to look at Indigenous food and farming as a viable commercial industry.
Bruce Pascoe is a Bunarong, Tasmanian and Yuin man who grew up on King Island, and is now based in Gipsy Point, a remote corner of Far East Gippsland in Victoria. He is the author of over 20 books – fiction, non-fiction and children’s, and in 2013, won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for his YA book, Fog a Dox (Magabala Books 2012). Bruce’s new book for children, Mrs Whitlam (Magabala Books) will be published in June and is an evocative book with immense heart about horses, friendship and finding your inner strength. Bruce Pascoe is also on the board of First Languages Australia.