Reckoning with Australia’s colonial archive: poet Natalie Harkin wins RAKA Prize

Narungga woman and South Australian poet, Natalie Harkin has won the 2020 Kate Challis RAKA Award for her work Archival-Poetics, an unflinching anthology that faces the violence the colony has inflicted on Indigenous women, and offers a roadmap for healing in the centuries ahead.

The Kate Challis Ruth Adeney Koori Award, or RAKA, which means ‘five’ in the Pintupi language, is worth $20,000 and is awarded to an Indigenous artist in one of five categories annually, including: creative prose, poetry, script writing, drama and visual arts.

The 2020 prize recognised the best poetry by an Indigenous writer published between 2015 and 2020.

Archival-Poetics was deemed a landmark piece of Australian poetry by the judging panel.  Rooted in archival interrogation and historical reflection, the collection is a critical and timely piece that examines the origins of contemporary Australia.

The judges were struck by the overall cohesiveness of the text and the manner in which Harkin weaved the archival, the familial and the political within the poetic form. They described it as: brave, innovative and challenging.

Speaking about what the prize meant for her, Ms Harkin said: “This Award gives me confidence to continue with this kind of poetic justice work, with potential to reach an audience beyond my wildest dreams.”

She acknowledged the award brought with it a strong sense of responsibility to continue writing for visibility, voice, recognition and respect for Traditional Owners in Australia.

Speaking about other Indigenous artists, she added that, “I think this kind of recognition encourages us to keep writing through all the emotional labour; to continue to be brave and write with the rupturing intention to affectively connect with others. Indigenous writers and creative artists have so much to offer, engaging with critical ideas, leading key debates about our lives, and speaking our truth and story through our creative work.”

Comments are closed.