Unemployed, Living In A Caravan — And Now, Winner Of A $165,000 Literary Prize

From National Public Radio:

When Ali Cobby Eckermann received the email announcing she’d won one of the world’s richest literary prizes, the unemployed Aboriginal poet says she had no idea what to think — though two thoughts weren’t long in coming.

After she wrapped her head around the fact she’d just won a $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, Eckermann told The Guardian that she “pretty much just cried.” The poet, who now lives in a caravan in South Australia with her elderly adoptive mother, added: “It’s going to change my life completely.”

And the other thought?

“I’m fascinated that they even knew about me,” Eckermann remarked to The Sydney Morning Herald.

. . . .

“The call that recipients receive from program director Michael Kelleher is the first time that they learn of their consideration,” Mike Cummings writes for Yale News.

That process can lead to quite a shock — and occasionally, a case of mistaken identity. As the Guardian noted, 2016 winner Helen Garner found out about her prize by checking her junk mail folder, and even then suspected she was getting scammed.

There is no mistaking the esteem Windham-Campbell judges have for Eckermann, however.

“Through song and story,” the judges write in their citation, “Ali Cobby Eckermann confronts the violent history of Australia’s Stolen Generations and gives language to unspoken lineages of trauma and loss.”

. . . .

A woman of Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha heritage, Eckermann knows that trauma and loss personally as a member of the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal children who for decades were forcibly taken from their mothers by Australian governments and missionaries in order to assimilate them. As she wrote in her 2013 memoir Too Afraid to Cry, Eckermann was taken from her mother as a baby, just as her mother was taken from her own family.

Eckermann did not find her biological mother until she was in her 30s.

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

4 thoughts on “Unemployed, Living In A Caravan — And Now, Winner Of A $165,000 Literary Prize”

  1. I was trying to find a movie about this… I swear I watched something on this but can’t find it now.

    Then I found an article from 2014 which indicates it still goes on!

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/21/john-pilger-indigenous-australian-families

    This is horrible and inexcusable.
    There can’t even be any logic for this.

    Perhaps by 2017 they’ve fixed this. But to see that it was still happening just a few years ago. I can’t even imagine it.

  2. I’m doing my bit for disability in the same way: and I can tell you it’s darn hard.

    I hope she is able to use her prize for her art and her many tribes – and to gain satisfaction from this karmic event.

    It is not a lottery prize – this one is awarded for hard work. That should protect her some, but she is going to be thrust into the world of notoriety and possible platform in an awful and aweful way.

    A small award would have been kinder if the intent is to reward her work. Not to say she isn’t worth every penny.

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