• Alexis Wright has won the 2018 Stella Prize (Stella Awards)
Alexis Wright has won the 2018 Stella Prize becoming the first Indigenous Australian to be honoured by the prestigious award.
By
Amelia Dunn

Source:
NITV News
13 Apr 2018 - 5:25 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2018 - 5:27 PM

Waanyi author Alexis Wright has won the 2018 Stella Prize for her book “Tracker”, which tells the tale of Tracker Tilmouth, an unforgettable figure in Indigenous Australia. 

It’s the first time an Indigenous Australian has won the prestigious Stella Prize for Women’s literature, a welcome surprise to Wright, a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“I was shocked and amazed. It took some time to unpack that Tracker had won the Stella,” she said.

Wright is no stranger to success, picking up the Miles Franklin award in 2007 for her book Carpentaria. Telling important stories about Australia’s first nations people that otherwise would go untold.

“Our stories must be heard and told. We’re hearing incredible voices from Aboriginal Australia at the moment but we’ve got a lot more stories to tell,” she said.

“Tracker was a really important man in the Aboriginal world. I thought he was a visionary in his ideas,”

Wright took on the gargantuan task of compiling Tracker’s story six years ago, in a bid to preserve his legacy.

“Tracker was a really important man in the Aboriginal world. I thought he was a visionary in his ideas,” she said.

Featuring the accounts of over 50 friends and family, Tracker details the life of the Eastern Arrernte man, a member of the Stolen Generation and leader of the Central Land Council.

He was passionate about the need to create a sustainable, “Aboriginal economy” which would allow First Nations people to truly enjoy their land and native title.

Throughout his life Tracker played a leading role for the Indigenous community on issues like land rights, economic development, legal aid and health services.

He was passionate about the need to create a sustainable, “Aboriginal economy” which would allow First Nations people to truly enjoy their land and native title.

Tracker Tilmouth was not only a tenacious leader, but a friend to many.

“He had enormous personality and enormous wit and could get through any door in this country to put an Aboriginal position,” Wright said.

“People can learn about the way he did things. How brave he was, how strong he was as a person, and how he got through those doors that we needed to get through.”

Wright was half way through writing his story when he died in 2015 at the age of 62, making it even more important to record his legacy.

“People can learn about the way he did things. How brave he was, how strong he was as a person, and how he got through those doors that we needed to get through.”

Wright approached the story in the only way she knew would suit Tracker and his many tales­: traditional Aboriginal storytelling.

“I thought tracker was too big a person and had done too much to fit into a normal type of biography,” she said.

Embedding the Aboriginal traditions of oral and collective storytelling is rare in modern literature, with the Stella judges acknowledging it to be a “new way of writing a memoir”.

Collecting the memories of friends, family and from Tracker himself, Wright toiled over hundreds of hours of recordings to create what she calls a “story of consensus”

Embedding the Aboriginal traditions of oral and collective storytelling is rare in modern literature, with the Stella judges acknowledging it to be a “new way of writing a memoir”.

But for Wright, this is simply the storytelling method of the oldest living culture in the world.

“These traditional skills that come from our culture, are now modern in a sense,” she said.

“We let everybody have their say.

“This book is very much about the history of our times and our way of doing things.”

She hopes the award will boost the story of Tracker Tilman into the homes of people all over the world, to learn from the man with the "vision splendid".