A historical novel depicting Tasmania’s frontier wars, a biography of a leading Tasmanian contemporary artist, and the haunting story of Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Truganini are the three books shortlisted in one of Australia’s most significant history book awards.
The Dick and Joan Green Family Award for Tasmanian History is a $25,000 biennial award recognising works that make a significant contribution to our understanding of Tasmania's past.
The award celebrates books on the island's history and cultural heritage. Announced today, the shortlist consists of: The Waking Dream of Art: Patricia Giles, Painter by Dr Alison Alexander (Pillinger Press), Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse by Professor Cassandra Pybus (Allen and Unwin), and The Burning Island by Jock Serong (Text).
Alison Alexander’s biography on the artist Patricia Giles, which includes fine reproductions of Giles’s paintings, was “a welcome investigation of the life of a significant, yet under-appreciated Tasmanian female artist”; it “established an authoritative text on the subject and addresses a significant gap in documentation of growth of 20th century Tasmanian visual culture”.
Cassandra Pybus’s book on Truganini was deeply researched and “makes the tragic story of Aboriginal Tasmanians in the colonial period very accessible to general readers”, bringing “the troubled story of George Augustus Robinson’s ‘Friendly Mission’ to a general readership”, and contributing to “the important work of truth-telling”.
Jock Serong’sevocativenovel“shines a light onto the experiences of race, gender and power in colonial Australia and Tasmania”. It was “a product of detailed and thorough historical research” that combined with an imaginative vision takes the reader into a past world that has shaped our present”.
The winner of the award, which is managed by the University of Tasmania, will be announced in July following a webinar featuring the shortlisted authors on 20 July from 6-7 pm.
The judging panel consists of panel Chair, historian Professor Kate Darian-Smith, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania; Professor Greg Lehman, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Aboriginal Leadership at the University of Tasmania and co-author of the winning book for the same prize in 2020; and Ian Terry, retired historian and Senior Curator, Cultural Heritage at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Professor Darian-Smith said the award was notable in its recognition of books that shine a light on Tasmania’s complex history in original ways, adding to our body of knowledge but also our emotional interactions with the island’s people and places.
“The broad range of books on the shortlist is testament to the rich literary landscape of Tasmanian history writing and historical fiction that is contributing new insights into our past as well as our cultural heritage,” Professor Darian-Smith said.
About the award
The award commemorates the contribution that the late Joan Green, who passed away in March 2022, and her husband, Dick, made to preserving the heritage of Tasmania. Both Dick and Joan Green were key players in the establishment and ongoing work of the National Trust in Tasmania and have been strong supporters of the arts and many community organisations. Dick Green was a former Mayor of Launceston and served on various boards, while Joan Green was a champion golfer and, for more than 50 years, was a leader and volunteer who contributed to a variety of organisations.
Speaking on behalf of the Green family, Caroline Johnston, one of Dick and Joan's daughters, said: "It is exciting to see the release of the shortlist and we are thrilled to see such interesting and diverse books being nominated for the Award.
“Joan would have been excited to see the shortlist, as are the rest of the family, and to know that the winner will soon be announced. As a family we are deeply grateful to the judging panel for their contribution to the Award, and we appreciate their contribution over many months."