Prominent human rights lawyer and litigator behind high profile cases such as the Palm Island Class Action (2004), Stewart Levitt has coincided with the release of his book the creation of the Levitt Indigenous Poetry Prize (L.I.P.P.) which will see the celebration of Indigenous talent.

The biennial award will celebrate poems from non-First Nations and First Nations poets that talk to the political, social and personal truths of modern Australia.

Mr Levitt was inspired to create the prize after witnessing the talent of First Australian performers.

“I’ve seen Indigenous poets performing at the centenary of Palm Island and the event to honour Professor Gracelyn Smallwood. However, I’m aware that there is a strong voice that needs to be heard by the wider community,” Mr Levitt said.

“There is also a lack of contact and communication between white people and Indigenous people. There is an ‘us and them’ mentality that needs to be broken down, we need to be moving as a country towards an ‘us’ mentality.”

Mr Levitt and his wife Odelia Levitt wanted to create a space for poets to foster and nurture their craft, providing them with a platform to tell their stories in their own way.

“There are very many talented Indigenous performers that are not being heard outside of their own communities or being limited. There is a real place for them in the broader community. I think they have been stifled and at times segregated, whether consciously or unconsciously,” Mr Levitt said.

The prize will see three poems, selected by a panel of prominent literary judges, receive a share of $20,000. The top 100-150 poems will be compiled in biennial anthology called the L.I.P.P. Edition, with the book’s profits going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

“We will have a range of judges, from non-Indigenous and Indigenous backgrounds who are academics and activists and people in entertainment,” Mr Levitt said.

“The best entries will be published, which means people will get a voice regardless if they win. It’s an opportunity to be heard and hopefully it will become a book people will want on their coffee-tables each year.”

Mr Levitt has worked with Indigenous communities for a large part of his professional career and is an advocate for First Nations self-determination and reconciliation. Mr Levitt voices these views in his newly released book Too Soon To Be Too Late.

“Non-Indigenous Australians need to start to compensate the disruption and destruction that we have brought against Indigenous peoples.”

“Coming together and speaking on the pieces of us that make up Australia should be done in a collective way. We should listen to one another and hear each other,” Mr Levitt said.

For more information on the L.I.P.P., visit: https://www.toosoontobelate.com/the-prize.

By Rachael Knowles