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“Vivid and complex” portrait of Truganini wins nation’s richest prize for life writing

Congratulations to Cassandra Pybus whose “vivid and complex” portrait of remarkable First Nations woman Truganini has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award, the nation’s richest prize for biographical writing.

Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus (Allen & Unwin) presents the extraordinary story of Truganini, a Nuenonne woman from Bruny Island, off Tasmania, whose life has been shrouded in myth for almost two centuries. In this award-winning work, Truganini claims her place as a survivor in the face of a determined effort to eradicate Aboriginal people from Tasmania.

According to Senior Judge, Suzanne Falkiner: “We were all impressed by Truganini, which combined evocative writing with scholarly research. Given the limitations of assembling Truganini’s biography through the contemporary accounts of third-person witnesses, and where the subject’s own voice is almost entirely absent, Cassandra Pybus has deftly attempted to reverse the gaze of history."

In her pre-recorded acceptance speech, Cassandra Pybus said: “This prize means the world to me. It is so important for us to recover the lives of the people who’ve been written out of the story, who’ve been submerged by the historical record."

This year’s $5,000 Michael Crouch Award for Debut Work went to Andrew Kwong for his powerful and heartfelt memoir, One Bright Moon (Pan MacMillan Australia).

“Kwong’s understated but highly effective account of a childhood in Maoist China and his eventual journey to Australia is both historically informative and moving in its description of his family’s sacrifices for him,” said Ms Falkiner.

In his pre-recorded acceptance speech, Andrew Kwong said: “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. One Bright Moon [is] a memoir epitomising the will of the human spirit, not only to survive, but also to aspire to a fairer life."

The National Biography Award is generously supported by the Nelson Meers Foundation.

More information and judges' comments

View the media release