An award that sees the celebration and encouragement of powerful First Nations storytellers, the prestigious David Unaipon Award is now open for nominations.

The annual award was the first of its kind when established in 1988 by the University of Queensland Press (UQP). It is dedicated to one of the first published First Nations authors, Ngarrindjeri man, David Unaipon.

“It’s been going continuously since 1988, so we are looking forward every year to what new writers we may find out of it. I think back on some of the great previous winners in those decades and the amazing careers that have come of those,” said UQP Publishing Director, Madonna Duffy.

The award is presented as part of the Queensland Literary Awards, which is managed by the State Library of Queensland in collaboration with sponsors, industry partners and the writing community.

Open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, the award consists of $15,000 in prize money, manuscript development and publication with UQP.

“It could be non-fiction, so it could be a life story, or essays on current events. It could be fiction, so a novel or it could be young adult fiction,” Duffy said.

“It could be something dystopian … which would be relevant. It could be poetry, there’s been such great poetry that has come out of the awards.”

Duffy advised that applicants’ manuscripts do not have to be complete.

“The manuscripts that come through aren’t always finished, many are drafts, but it doesn’t matter what stages they are in. What we are really looking for is the promise of something wonderful and then, editorially, we can work with that writer to develop the manuscript.”

“We are looking for something fresh, a strong voice and we are looking for fabulous storytelling. Great characters if it is fiction, we are looking for courageous writers.”

The award has seen the launch of careers for many First Nations writers, including, Ellen Van Neerven, Doris Pilkington Garimara, Tara June Winch and Samuel Wagan Watson.

“You only have to look at the 30 or so years this [award] has been going, it’s one of the longest-standing continuous literary awards in the country. Looking at the list of writers who have won it and what they have gone on and managed to do, that is evidence in itself the award is important.”

2017 David Unapion award winner, Lisa Fuller, spoke of her admiration for previous winners.

“I’ve long admired the previous winners, so it took a bit for me to accept I was now part of that group,” Fuller said.

“Short term, winning the David Unaipon [Award] gave me a massive confidence boost in my writing, and the prize money meant I could give up some of my many part-time jobs to focus more on my writing. Long term, it’s opened a lot of doors for me. I’d encourage everyone to enter.”

“Winning the David Unaipon Award means you are entering into a group of writers like no other that carry the great responsibility of our storytelling, our survival and represent our Indigenous excellence,” added previous winner, Tara June Winch.

With the support of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, the David Unaipon Award has been able to continue its celebration of First Nations writers.

Nominations close April 30. For more information, head to: https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/get-involved/fellowships-awards-residencies/queensland-literary-awards.

By Rachael Knowles