One of the exciting aspects of reading the entries for this year’s Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers was the breadth of writing, the range of voices, subjects and styles, which is reflected in this year’s winners.
The winning story, Allanah Hunt’s ‘Running to home’, is a tense, beautifully written realist story of Aboriginal boys swimming in the Murray River on a hot day. But it builds to the all-pervasive fear of the taking of children. The boys might escape being stolen from their families one day but what about the next, and the day after that?
Runner-up ‘The last prime minister’, by John Morrissey, is a sharp satire on the corrupt stasis of the current political settlement, a state of affairs so toxic that there is nothing the last prime minister, the first Indigenous prime minister, can do except walk away (the Indigenous Affairs portfolio has of course gone to a white woman from the North Shore). The insidious and persistent racism faced by characters such as Amos Murray, the PM of the story, is wittily portrayed: the only appraisal Murray ever receives is that he is ‘articulate’. There’s an edge of Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ in this tale, with Murray’s first response to the demands of office: ‘I’d just rather not.’ This story is a welcome entry into the increasingly significant sphere of Indigenous Futurisms, a cutting-edge genre growing in importance, as people the world over write their own versions of possible futures.
Jasmin McGaughey’s ‘Paul on the Beenleigh Train’, the other runner-up this year, is a melancholy mood piece that builds to a moving twist on the reality of Paul’s existence and why he observes others in the way that he does. It’s a story that uses realism to encompass worlds: ‘Paul believed in weird things. He believed in a world where the dead roamed the streets in their misty forms.’
We hope you enjoy reading these stories, all of which are available at overland.org.au, as much as we did.
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