• Award-winning Mununjali Yugambeh writer Ellen van Neerven. (Anna Jacobson)Source: Anna Jacobson
Mununjali poet Ellen van Neerven hopes their achievement “will inspire others to pick up the pen” after a hat-trick of awards at the NSW Premier’s awards, held online last night.
Ilias Bakalla

27 Apr 2021 - 4:28 PM  UPDATED 27 Apr 2021 - 4:31 PM

Ellen van Neerven has won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, the Multicultural NSW Award and the Book of the Year for her collection of poems Throat.

The judges “were overwhelmed by the beauty, honesty and power” of van Neerven’s work.

With the ceremony held online, van Neerven accepted their awards from Turrbal and Yuggera lands near Meanjin (Brisbane).

Speaking to NITV this morning they said “I was really stoked, I actually haven’t had any sleep because I’ve been so pumped!”

With the prize money from the three awards totalling $60,000, van Neerven says they won’t go out and buy “anything flash”, but will instead use it to buy time.

"Hopefully that money can support me over the next few years and I can work to help other mob with their writing projects.

“Poetry is so massive for our mob, we have so many talented poets.

“So I hope with this win it might inspire other people to pick up the pen, pencil, just write you know. We all have something to say, especially us Blakfullas,” they said.

Throat is a five-chapter volume written from van Neerven’s personal experience.

They explore the themes of connection to Country, grappling with racism, capitalism, memory, identity, grief and trauma.

“It’s a book that is telling my truth as a queer, black, youngish person,” they said.

Van Neerven recently edited another collection of Indigenous stories called Flock, which will be released this weekend at the Sydney Writers Festival.

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Full list of 2021 winners of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

Book of the Year ($10,000)
Throat by Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (Text Publishing)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5,000 – sponsored by UTS)
Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne (Text Publishing)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction ($40,000)
The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist: Three Lives in an Age of Empire by Kate Fullagar (Yale University Press) 

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
Throat by Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)
The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor (Affirm Press)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)
The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell (Text Publishing)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)
Milk by Dylan Van Den Berg (The Street Theatre)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)
FREEMAN by Laurence Billiet (General Strike & Matchbox Pictures)

Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)
Throat by Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

NSW Translation Prize ($30,000) – biennial award – joint winners
Autumn Manuscripts by Tasos Leivaditis, translated by N.N. Trakakis (Smokestack Books)
Imminence by Mariana Dimópulos, translated by Alice Whitmore (Giramondo Publishing)

Special Award ($10,000)
Melina Marchetta

People’s Choice Award
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Affirm Press)