• Ali Cobby Eckermann reading her poetry. (Rachael Hocking)Source: Rachael Hocking
Award winning poet Ali Cobby Eckermann has been awarded an Australia Council fellowship grant.
Brooke Fryer

13 Sep 2018 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2018 - 5:12 PM

Internationally recognised poet and proud Yankunytatjara woman from South Australia Ali Cobby Eckermann is one of the eight recipients of this year's Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship.

Ali says she learnt the language of literature from her Elders.

“Our Elders and our storytelling traditions are a great university. So is travel, so is the bush. Initially I wrote poetry for my healing; writing became an integral part of my journey. I could not have ever envisioned a career in literature,” Ali told NITV News.

“I feel very humble to be granted the fellowship and also thrilled at the prospects to be researching and writing my first novel. My life feels very blessed.”

Ali is one of three First Nations artists who have just found out they have been awarded the $80,000 artistic fellowships. Visual artist Vernon Ah Kee and multi-disciplinary performance artist Jacob Boehm were the other recipients.

Ali says she could not have received the grant at a better time. She is currently looking to broaden her writing skills and challenge herself as she starts writing her first novel.

The fellowship will help fund her research and travel to write her first prose fiction novel, a love story between two deserts. 

She says she has a very busy two years ahead of her.

“I want to write a novel to reflect the beauty and strengths of Aboriginal people… I want to write about our everyday life and how through our eyes, how non-Aboriginal people treat us,” Ali said.

“My family are very involved in my writing career… it’s very important to give voices to the voiceless.

“I’m gonna give it my best shot.”

Ali started her literature journey in her forties after a long line of jobs. She wants others to know careers and dreams can begin at any moment.

“Not all careers start at a young age, you can have a career as a mature person,” she said.

'My entire view of the world changed when I had the proof that I'd been wanted'
It had all the traits of a typical rags to riches story: a poet living out of a caravan wins one of the world's wealthiest literary awards. But behind the headlines, the story is far more humble. Ali Cobby Eckermann sat down with Rachael Hocking to talk family, culture and writing.

Under the guidance of her Elders and uniquely written from the desert, Ali released her first collection of poetry in 2009 titled Little bit long time, selling out in the first two months.

Last year, Ali received a call from Yale University where she flew over and was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize.

“It was the first time the award was offered for poetry. I’m the first Indigenous person in the world to receive that award. It was a huge honour,” Ali said.

“I still get very emotional about the recognition for my poetry.”

Ali has also been awarded with the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, a Deadly Award for outstanding contribution to Indigenous Literature in 2012 and the 2013 Book of Year award at the NSW Premiers Literacy Awards.