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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The Daisy Utemorrah Award is for an unpublished manuscript of junior or YA fiction.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 people currently living in Australia. The winner of the award receives $15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books. 

The Daisy Utemorrah Award is proudly presented as part of the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. Launched in 2018, this national award recognises excellence in junior and YA fiction and seeks to grow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing for young 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, Daisy Utemorrah Award judge.


The Daisy Utemorrah Award is closed. 2022 Award entries will open in late-2021 and close in April 2022.

Magabala Books acknowledges the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and the WA State Government for their generous support of this award.

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

2021 Award Winner

Pictured: Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler accepting the Daisy Utemorrah Award via video-link at the WA Premier's Book Awards ceremony at the State Library of WA. 

Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler were awarded the 2021 Daisy Utemorrah Award at the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards with their junior fiction manuscript ‘Dirran’, a moving sequel to their award-winning book Black Cockatoo.

Carl Merrison is a respected Jaru/Kija man from Halls Creek in the Kimberley. He has worked for over ten years alongside Aboriginal youth as a mentor and coach - in education, AFL and community. Hakea Hustler is an experienced teacher who has taught around Australia, including Halls Creek. Together, Carl and Hakea are inspired to write about their shared experiences of the Kimberley, and their belief in the power of stories for learning and change.

On winning the award Carl and Hakea said:

‘Winning the Daisy Utemorrah Award through the State Library of Western Australia is a really proud moment. The reason we write is for the mob back home, and for our kids to learn to read. Thank you to my Elders back home, Shel Sweeney from A Worded Life, State Library of Western Australia and Create Agency, and obviously to Rachel and the Magabala team. We appreciate all you do to support and encourage us.' 

Magabala Books will publish Carl and Hakea's winning manuscript 'Dirran' in 2023. 

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. 

2020 Award Shortlist

The Daisy Utemorrah Award shortlisted manuscripts were:

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 published 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.'

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 and the State Government of Western Australia.