Melbourne indigenous author takes top two writing prizes
Bardi Jawi man, Bebe Backhouse is the winner of the 2022 Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Award and the Life Writing Award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers.
Both awards were for his captivating collection of personal memories, If This Is the End: Stories of Perpetual Echoes in a Corridor.
It was described by the judging panel of five experts in a blind selection as “beautiful to see a profoundly captured relationship with home, space and the body in the Life Writing category”.
“This work would be a beautiful starting point for a larger, more developed story; a tremendous piece of writing,” the statement from judges said.
In the fourth part of his story Mr Backhouse describes his grandmother, “I stared at your soft hair … your stripey nightgown framed you in the body of a prisoner, sentenced to cancer with no eligibility for parole, but certain death row.”
The Life Writing Award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers recognises an outstanding work highlighting a uniquely Victorian story of Australia’s First People.
Mr Backhouse said, “I write from a sincere place of truth, recollection and memory.”
“I don’t know any other way; this is the way I see the world.”
“We are all the sum of our stories; for First Nations people, these stories extend to our ancestors.”
“Recognition through these awards is transcendent; it acknowledges my work and the lives and history of my people.”
“I am honoured to receive this award and proud to be a part of the growing wave of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and truth-tellers changing the literary landscape across the country.”
When asked what compelled him to be so open in his writing, Mr Backhouse replied, “I don’t know any other way.”
“There is hurt and pain behind what I’ve written, but just as much there is love,” he said.
“I move through the world as a vehicle and a voice for my people.”
“There is this incredible wave of truth-telling across the country, and I know I am playing a part in that, albeit small.”
Three other emerging writers took out the top prize in the following categories.
Tim Loveday’s Mowing won The Dorothy Porter Award for Poetry Award.
Nathan Power was the winner of the Narrative Non-Fiction Award for Out West.
How to Read Your Dreams by Jack Bastock was awarded the best Short Story set in Melbourne.
As a biennial program, the City of Melbourne introduces a wildcard category every two years.
This year it was Self-told Stories by Writers with a Disability which provided an opportunity for those with lived experience to share their stories.
Beau Windon’s Neurodiverging into He[art]s and Darkness, a “show, don’t tell” memoir, is the winner of the biennial category.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said, “as the first and only UNESCO City of Literature in Australia, we’re proud that books, storytelling and writing are a key part of our identity, community and economy.”
“These awards give our emerging creatives a platform to share their powerful stories with a wider audience.”
“Our winner, Bebe Backhouse, embodies every part of that journey.”
The council’s Creative Melbourne portfolio lead Cr Jamal Hakim said, “We hope every winner can use this opportunity as a springboard for a future full of creative storytelling while inspiring and guiding the next generation of emerging writers.”
Category winners receive a $2000 prize, while the overall winner is awarded $10,000.
The Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards, designed to encourage and give a platform to new and upcoming voices within the city’s diverse literary community, were established in 2009.
Regardless of background, all emerging or unpublished writers are welcome and encouraged to enter the awards.
The City of Melbourne highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as an award category to give a platform to writers whose voices traditionally are underrepresented in media and literature.
Winning entries are published on the City of Melbourne website. •
Caption: Award-winning author Bebe Backhouse and partner Jeremy Martin.