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Daisy Utemorrah Award

The Daisy Utemorrah Award is for an unpublished manuscript of junior or YA fiction. The Award is open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples currently living in Australia. The winner of the award receives $15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books.

Launched in 2019, this national award recognises excellence in junior and YA fiction and seeks to grow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing for younger readers.

‘Our young people need stories... They need stories that speak of how to get through tough times, and stories that celebrate who they are and who they can be. The Daisy Utemorrah Award is an incredible opportunity for a First Nations voice to speak, and the story they will tell will help to nurture the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers.’ – Ambelin Kwaymullina

Magabala Books acknowledges the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and the WA State Government for their support of this award. We are proud to present the Daisy Utemorrah Award as part of the WA Premier’s Books Awards.

Information on the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards can be found through the State Library of Western Australia.

The 2021 Daisy Utemorrah Award will open in late 2020. 

Any queries please contact our Project Officer, Kate Rendell or call Magabala Books (08) 9192 1991

2020 Award Winner

Pictured: Teela May Reid accepting the Daisy Utemorrah Award via video link, presented by State Librarian and CEO, State Library of Western Australia, Margaret Allen and Magabala Director Steve Kinnane 

Wiradjuri and Wailwan lawyer, activist and storyteller Teela May Reid was awarded the 2020 Daisy Utemorrah Award for her powerful work of junior fiction, 'Our Matriarchs Matter'.

Teela Reid is a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, lawyer and activist born and raised in Gilgandra western NSW. Teela is a co-founder of @blackfulla_bookclub on Instagram, a platform that honours First Nations Ancestors as the original storytellers and is currently a criminal defence lawyer based in Sydney. She is an advocate for abolishing systemic racism in the criminal justice process and a campaigner for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

On winning the award Teela said:

‘I am deeply humbled to receive this award and to be collaborating with my niece Jakayla, the little Wiradjuri and Wailwan artist who will come through and illustrate this story with me.


‘My gratitude to our ancestors and to the matriarchs in our First Nations communities. They are the backbone of our communities and their stories need to be honoured and told. They are integral to our history and our survival and our existence.


‘I would also like to acknowledge and recognise Daisy Utemorrah. It was never my intention to submit a manuscript, but I had an urge and energy, thinking about her and her story, and thinking about the matriarchs in my life.’

Magabala Books will publish Teela's winning manuscript 'Our Matriarchs Matter' in 2021. 

2019 Award Winner

Pictured: the Hon. David Templeman, WA Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts, with Kirli Saunders and Rachel Bin Salleh, Publisher Magabala Books

In July 2019, Kirli Saunders was awarded the inaugural Daisy Utemorrah Award for her rhythmic junior verse-novel, 'Mother Speaks'.

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 win 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.’

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 Books will publish Kirli’s winning manuscript, as Bindi in October 2020. With Bindi now published Kirli reflects that:

'The Daisy Utemorrah Awards gave me a space to create. I had the time to shape the story. It was a career highlight. Writing Bindi was soul work – being part of the conservation of Language and storytelling.'

2020 Award Shortlist

The Daisy Utemorrah Award shortlisted manuscripts were:

2019 Award Shortlist

The Daisy Utemorrah Award shortlisted manuscripts were:

Daisy Utemorrah



The award is named in honour of author and poet Daisy Utemorrah, who was an elder of the Wunambal people from the Mitchell Plateau area in the far north Kimberley and one of the founding Elders of Magabala Books. Born in 1922 at Kunmunya Mission, Daisy was an award-winning poet, author, community leader and passionate educator. Daisy’s poetry collection Do Not Go Around the Edges (illus by Pat Torres), published by Magabala Books in 1991, was shortlisted for the 1991 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, and won the 1992 Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award.

Magabala is grateful to Daisy Utemorrah’s family who have given permission for us to honour her memory with this award.

The Daisy Utemorrah Award is generously supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, the State Government of Western Australia and Post Pre-Press.