The Drover's Wife by Leah Purcell

Book cover for The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

The Drover's Wife by Leah Purcell (Currency Press and Belvoir in association with Oombarra Productions) 

Judges' Comments 

This multi-award-winning entry interrogates an Australian classic from a black woman’s perspective. Using elements of her own family history, Leah Purcell takes Lawson’s beleaguered heroine, and pits her against a fugitive Aboriginal man, Yadaka, who was absent from the original. In doing so she illuminates the racial dynamics which Lawson obscured or ignored. The racial violence of colonial Australia is brought into full view in this gripping play.

In Purcell’s telling, the heavily pregnant drover’s wife faces not only threatening swaggies and snakes, but through her alliance with the hunted Yadaka, comes to fear the arrival of white authority as well. The recognition of hidden family violence ultimately turns the classic narrative upside down. Yadaka is one hero in this impressive, confident reinterpretation. But it is Purcell’s drover’s wife — loving, smart, and as game as Ned Kelly — who is the real triumph in this wonderful and important Aboriginal play for all Australians.