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Right On Track: Tracker by Alexis Wright Wins the 2018 Stella Prize

April 12, 2018

© 2013 Vincent L Long .

Congratulations to Alexis Wright, the winner of the 2018 Stella Prize, for her biography, Tracker. The prize was awarded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney tonight.

The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing, and an organisation that champions cultural change.

The prize, founded in 2013, is named after one of Australia’s iconic female authors, Stella Maria Sarah ‘Miles’ Franklin.

Alexis Wright’s return to non-fiction is a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich. The book is as much a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of an extraordinary man.

In her acceptance speech Alexis Wright said, ‘I can tell you that I am completely overwhelmed that Tracker has won the Stella this year and cannot believe it. I was not expecting something like this, and I really had to spend some time unpacking this idea.

‘Although I could not be happier with this book and the tremendous feedback it has been receiving from readers since its publication last November, it is truly amazing that Tracker has been acknowledged by the Stella judges in this way. I am totally floored, and would like to thank you for considering the important messages in this book and its style. I wanted it to be a book for our times and from our place in the world. I am deeply grateful to you for helping Tracker reach a greater audience.

‘Tracker Tilmouth was a visionary and a person of enormous inner strength who genuinely loved this land and knew it like the back of his hand. And much more, he genuinely made people feel alive. He could do this to people no matter who they were. He would do this whether it was through his thinking and ideas of how to build Aboriginal economies, political maneuvering and analysis, or from his endlessly sharp and, at times, irreverent wit, from the jokes that would make you laugh or make you annoyed with him. Or he could make you feel alive from the way he endlessly challenged you to be much more than how you saw yourself, or wanted to be.’

Tracker is published by Giramondo.

For the full transcript of Alexis Wright’s acceptance speech visit the Stella Prize website here

The Other nominees were:

Shokoofeh Azar, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

Claire G. Coleman, Terra Nullius

Michelle de Kretser, The Life to Come

Krissy Kneen, An Uncertain Grace

Mirandi Riwoe, The Fish Girl


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