Prime Minister's Literary Award acceptance speech, 2016
On being announced joint winner of the PM Literary Award for Fiction with Lisa Gorton for her novel The Life of Houses, Canberra 8 Nov 2016.
In astonishment and at speed: I sincerely thank the judges.
I thank Prime Minister Turnbull for continuing to support these awards at a time when Australian literature and our thriving, amazingly efficient book industry is under such pressure.
Thank you to my magnificent agent, Jenny Darling, my equally magnificent publisher Jane Palfreyman, and my wonderful and supportive extended family.
The painter Georges Braque said ‘art is meant to disturb’. My novel is not a consoling read; but I hope it provokes its readers into examining some difficult truths about this world we have created.
The Natural Way of Things is about power and women; it also about the decay of a society that permits, outsources, then turns its face from the incarceration and abasement of vulnerable human beings, who have done no wrong, for the purposes of maintaining and accumulating power.
Art is meant to disturb. But in doing so, it can also offer an alternative vision – of a society with an imagination expansive enough to see in ‘the other’ the prospect not of threat but of possibility, not loss but gain, not sub-humanity but human equality and fellowship. When we allow our imaginations to fail in this way we lose our own humanity - and our country suffers a great moral wound as a result.
I mentioned women and power: I want to finish by paying tribute to one of the most powerful women I’ve ever known, my mother-in-law Anne McElvogue, who died last Thursday. She personified strength and resilience, and I can’t believe she’s gone. I dedicate this award to her.
Thank you so very much.