First Nations poet Evelyn Araluen has won this year’s Stella Prize for her debut collection of poetry, Dropbear which was published in March 2021 by University of Queensland Press.
Araluen took home a prize money of $60,000 last night at the awards ceremony, which was held at the State Library Victoria and hosted by actor and producer, Claudia Karvan.
Araluen, a researcher, teacher and co-editor of Overland Literary Journal said winning the prize was a dream come true.
“I’ve been following the prize for years – for the length of my own writing aspirations,” she said after her win.
“I hoped that one day I’d be able to write a novel good enough to be considered, and when I wrote Dropbear I never imagined it would be considered for such a celebrated award.”
“I’m deeply interested in the lives, histories, and dreams of women and gender diverse writers in Australian publishing, and it’s an honour to be recognised by a prize designed to champion those stories. There aren’t words to explain how thrilled I am to win.”
This year’s chair of the 2022 Stella Prize judges, Bundjalung author Melissa Lucashenko, said the book is akin to “a wild ride”.
“Like the namesake of its title, this collection is simultaneously comical and dangerous,” she said.
“If you live here and don’t acquire the necessary local knowledge, the drop bear might definitely getcha! But for those initiated in its mysteries, the drop bear is a playful beast, a prank, a riddle, a challenge, and a game.”
“Dropbear is remarkably assured for a debut poetry collection, and I think we can safely say it announces the arrival of a stunning new talent to Australian literature.”
Jaclyn Booton, Executive Director of Stella, called the book “extraordinarily powerful”, one that was “crafted by a fiercely intelligent writer with stylistic excellence.”
“It offers readers the opportunity to see this country, and the stories it tells about itself, with a newfound clarity and veracity. It’s not often that a poetry collection sits in the windows of bookstores, but I’m thrilled to soon see this incredible collection front and centre – and in the hands of countless readers – upon its announcement as this year’s winner.”
The Stella Prize is celebrating its tenth year in operation, celebrating the extraordinary and critical works by Australian women and non-binary writers.
Last month, when the short-list for the Prize was announced, judges described Araluen’s book as “…a breathtaking collection of poetry and short prose which arrests key icons of mainstream Australian culture and turns them inside out, with malice aforethought.”
“Araluen’s brilliance sizzles when she goes on the attack against the kitsch and the cuddly: against Australia’s fantasy of its own racial and environmental innocence.”
Araluen writes criticism, fiction and poetry, and has previously won the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship, and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund grant.
Dropbear was also shortlisted for the 2021 Judith Wright Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection.