Kirli Saunders wins the Daisy Utemorrah Award

The Hon David Templeman, Kirli Saunders and Rachel Bin Salleh

The Hon David Templeman, Kirli Saunders and Rachel Bin Salleh at the 2018 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards


27th July 2019

Magabala Books, in partnership the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards and the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, are thrilled to announce Kirli Saunders as the inaugural winner of the Daisy Utemorrah Award for her rhythmic junior verse-novel, Mother Speaks.

Presented at the WA Premier’s Book Awards ceremony at the State Library of Western Australia in Perth on Friday, Kirli Saunders received $15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books. 

The new national award is for an unpublished work of Indigenous junior or YA writing, and is named in honour of the late Daisy Utemorrah: elder of the Wunambal people, award-winning poet, author, community leader, educator and one of the founders of Magabala Books.

On winning the award Kirli said: 

‘It is a real privilege to be the inaugural recipient of the Daisy Utemorrah Award and to follow in the footsteps of a powerful poet and educator who spoke her truth. Daisy’s contribution as a founder of Magabala has provided a much-needed publishing platform for First Nations voices and stories and I’m really excited to contribute to her work.’ 

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai woman, with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people, and currently resides on Dharawal Country. She is an international children’s author, poet, emerging playwright and artist. Of her winning manuscript Kirli said:

‘I was told that before we learn to speak language, we must learn the language of Mother Earth. Mother Speaks attempts to awaken us to the conversations that bubble beneath the surface. It aims to draw readers into First Nations ways of knowing through rhythmic, poetic verse. I feel deeply honoured to be able to share this story with Magabala, who tell such tales with grace and care.’

The Award Judges, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rachel Bin Salleh were impressed with the high standard of entries for the award. Of Kirli’s winning work they said: 

‘Mother Speaks is a lovely, lyrical exploration of the wisdom of the earth. The gentle rhythm of the verse speaks to the patterns and cycles of the nature, and every line holds deep meaning that can be revisited many times over – this a story that will delight adults and children alike.’ 

Magabala Publisher, Rachel Bin Salleh, said the win presents a unique opportunity: 

‘At Magabala we have real faith in young people and a respect for them as discerning readers, so we are particularly excited about what Kirli’s verse novel offers. Given Daisy’s legacy, it is a fitting coincidence that Kirli is also a poet and educator’. 

Magabala Books will publish Kirli’s winning manuscript in 2021.

The Daisy Utemorrah Award is generously supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, the 2018 WA Premier’s Book Awards and Post Pre-Press.


The Daisy Utemorrah Award Winner