Whitefella Yella Tree

2023 - Winner


Judges' Comments

In the early 19th century, two teenage boys, one a warrior of the Mountain Mob and one a storyteller of the River Mob, meet under the strange new whitefellas tree with yellow fruit — a lemon tree — to share knowledge of those who have landed on the shore. Friendship turns to romance. Life-changing decisions are made.

This play is a revelation. It tells a remarkable story of Country, Blak queerness and the poisoning effects of colonialism. It draws a clear distinction between the queer-friendly environment of Indigenous life and the shame-filled society of the invaders. The characters are beautifully drawn, and even though they are in the early 1800s, the boys sound like they’re from ‘now’ — a considerable achievement. Plot is always driven by character, and the impacts of colonialism are seen in ways that are deeply felt and very moving.

The play stands out not only because it tells a story that needs to be told, but because it tells that story with an exemplary command of dramaturgy and a pulsing sense of humanity. There are few plays in the Australian repertoire that weave sweetness and savagery, and the personal and the political, as finely as this. This is a devastating, but delicate play, and one that deserves to be produced many times.