Entertainment Tara June Winch’s The Yield wins Prime Minister’s Literary Award in strong year for Indigenous authors

Tara June Winch’s The Yield wins Prime Minister’s Literary Award in strong year for Indigenous authors

Tara June Winch at Booranga Writers' Retreat near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, where she wrote much of The Yield. Photo: ABC/Credit Rolex/Bryan Charlton Photo: ABC/Credit Rolex/Bryan Charlton
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Wiradjuri writer Tara June Winch has capped an incredible year of acclaim for her novel The Yield, taking out the $80,000 fiction prize at the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

It completes a hat trick that started with the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, where she took home Book of the Year ($10,000), the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000) and the People’s Choice award, followed by the Miles Franklin Literary Award ($60,000).

Speaking to the ABC from France, where she has lived since 2011, the author said the prize money would allow her to “come home” to Australia.

Winch, who grew up in the seaside suburb of East Woonona on the New South Wales south coast, hasn’t seen her family since December 2019, and hopes to relocate to Australia in 2021 to be close to them.

“The last few months, I’ve just felt like I have to go home. It’s been too long. It’s hurting too much,” she said.

“That’s what’s been really great about that financial boon [of winning the awards] – it’s allowed me to come home. That’s the biggest prize of all.”

In The Yield, a 30-something woman returns home from overseas to the small town of Massacre Plains where she grew up, for the funeral of her grandfather – to find her home under threat from a tin mine.

At the centre of the story is a dictionary of Wiradjuri language that her grandfather was writing before he died.

Winch was inspired to write the story after attending a language workshop based on the Wiradjuri dictionary compiled by Uncle Stan Grant and Dr John Rudder.

Speaking to the ABC earlier this year, she described it as a profound moment: “It affected me so much when I discovered it [that language]. It felt like such a balm, and a repaired cultural link.”

Winch’s book took almost a decade to write, during which she travelled frequently to the Wiradjuri country where her story is based. Photo: ABC/Tara Jane Winch

The Yield is one of three books by Indigenous women to win prizes at this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Songspirals: Sharing Women’s Wisdom of Country Through Songlines, by the Gay’wu Group of Women, shared the non-fiction prize with Christina Thompson’s Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia; and the children’s book Cooee Mittigar: A Story on Darug Songlines, written by Jasmine Seymour and illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson, won the Children’s literature prize.

More to come.

Full list of awards

Tara June Winch for The Yield

Non-fiction (shared):

The Gay’wu Group of Women for Songspirals: Sharing Women’s Wisdom of Country Through Songlines

Christina Thompson for Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

Omar Sakr for The Lost Arabs

Australian history:

Tiffany Shellam for Meeting the Waylo: Aboriginal Encounters in the Archipelago

Young Adult Fiction:

Helena Fox for How it Feels to Float

Children’s Literature:

Jasmine Seymour (writer) and Leanne Mulgo Watson (illustrations) for Cooee Mittigar: A Story on Darug Songlines