Like his ancestors before him, Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe knows the true power of combining knowledge and storytelling.
Douglas Smith

7 Mar 2018 - 3:27 PM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2018 - 11:50 AM

Awarded with a lifetime achievement in literature by the Australia Council, the Bunurong man comes from a long line of great storytellers.

“I’m pretty happy obviously – I’m proud for my family and my people,” Mr Pascoe told NITV News.  

“As a kid, I was so impressed by how my auntie could tell a story and tell a joke.

“She could tell a joke that would last three weekends and I thought how do you do that,” he said.

Growing up reading books by Jack London, [John] Steinbeck and stories about the country life in America, he said he always wondered why there weren’t any books about the Aboriginal people of Australia.

“I started reading books by people like Ion Idriess and Patrick White and I thought, 'why aren’t there any books about my people?' You know, it’s all about white Australia.

"Gradually, I was moving towards trying to tell the story of our people,” Mr Pascoe said.

With the 33 books he has written, the Bunurong man incorporates Aboriginal knowledge and different cultural aspects into his storytelling, as he believes it educates people on the true history of Australian colonialism.    

“One of the things I was pretty keen to do very early on was to make Aboriginal people a normal part of Australian literature, so they turn up in every book. It doesn’t matter what the book's about, there’ll be Aboriginal people there just so Australia can’t get away with ignoring us,” Mr Pascoe said.

“It was amazing to me how Australia was able to get away with taking the land from our people and pretending that our people weren’t using it – and when I started researching that, I found there was evidence everywhere.

“All the explorers saw our people harvesting grain, there were fish traps on every bit of water in the country, and it was obvious we were using the country, it was obvious we had a really sophisticated agriculture, and it was obvious we had a sophisticated government.

 “We’ve been teaching our kids lies, both black and white,” he said.

CEO of the Australia Council, Tony Grybowski said the national awards were a critical way for the Australia Council to recognise the remarkable achievements of individual Australian artists, as well as highlighting the broader contribution of all artists who enhance the lives of Australians.

“The recipients of the 2018 awards are leaders in their respective fields," Mr Grybowski said.  

“They have individually and collectively made highly significant contributions to the development of artistic practice and to challenging existing ways of exploring how we express identity and how we connect with one another.

“With that in mind, it is essential that we celebrate and support the rich and diverse artistic talent we are fortunate to have,” he said.

The recipients of Australia Council Awards for 2018:   

Bruce Pascoe (VIC) - Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature
Liza Lim (VIC)
- Australia Council Don Banks Music Award
Pat Brassington (TAS)
- Australia Council Award for Visual Arts
Nigel Helyer (NSW)
- Australia Council Award for Emerging & Experimental Arts
Phillip Adams (VIC)
- Australia Council Award for Dance
Liz Jones AO (VIC)
- Australia Council Award for Theatre
Christian (Bong) Ramilo (NT)
– Australia Council Ros Bower Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development
Edwin Kemp Attrill (SA) - Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development