Eckermann reflects on newfound international recognition

Published by Alice Jaspars on March 18th 2020, 12:12pm

In 2017, with a total of $47 dollars in her bank account, Ali Cobby Eckermann sifted through her junk mail to find she had been awarded with the world’s most lucrative writing prize – the Windham Campbell.

The prize intended to “call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns”, is worth a total of $215,000 per winner.

Awarded to eight writers a year, it is judged anonymously, and donated by Yale University. Unusually the prize is not open to submissions.

The poet, part of Australia’s Stolen Generations, wrote of finding her son who was taken from her and of her mother, from whom she had been separated.

Eckermann’s work focuses on the trauma, violence and loss that she and other Indigenous people faced under colonisation. She also writes of healing.

Of the prize money, she said: “You’re so used to living that way. I thought I was living quite a comfortable, happy life, so it was very, very shocking to receive the recognition of my work.”

The money allowed her to spend time with her adopted mother, which she said: “I really needed that time because she’s the mum that had known me the longest.

“She knew every aspect of my journey. It was very important for me to sit with her. And I could afford to, right up to the end.”

Eckermann used her award money to fund a mentorship for a young Indigenous writer and help with family members who “still live pretty humbly”.

The past three years have allowed her to understand her new position as an internationally recognised writer.

She concludes that: “Good foundations are built not in haste … It’s taken me a little time to adjust. I now have to accept that I’m an internationally known writer.”

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Authored By

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
March 18th 2020, 12:12pm

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