Tara June Winch's ‘The Yield’ wins the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award  

[by Ella Harris]


Tara June Winch. Image: supplied

Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin, has been awarded to Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch for The Yield, published by Penguin Random House Australia.


For the first time in the Award’s history, trustee Perpetual announced the winner via a LIVE YouTube presentation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Chosen from a shortlist showcasing a powerhouse of experienced Australian literary talent, The Yield weaves together three stories to reveal how Indigenous history carries forward pain and sorrow yet allows compassion, resilience, dignity, humour and humanity to flourish.


Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author Miles Franklin for the “advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian literature”, the Miles Franklin Literary Award recognises a novel of “the highest literary merit” that presents “Australian life in any of its phases”.


Ms Winch will receive $60,000 in prize money for The Yield, which was described as “haunting and accomplished” by the judging panel. She joins a group of distinguished and revered alumni of Indigenous Miles Franklin prize winners, including last year’s winner Melissa Lucashenko (for Too Much Lip), Kim Scott (who shared the prize in 2000 for Benang, and won again in 2011 with That Deadman Dance) and Alexis Wright (for Carpentaria, 2007).


Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and Chair, Richard Neville, said, “In English ‘yield’ signifies what one takes from the land. In Wiradjuri it is ‘the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.’ The Yield explores the legacies of colonial violence, shame, intergenerational trauma and environmental destruction. Winch celebrates and amplifies the contemporary resurgence and relevance of the Wiradjuri language. The Yield, a story of pain, loss, resilience and hope, is a novel where the past is the present is the future”.


Neville was joined on the judging panel by The Australian journalist Murray Waldren, academic and literary critic Dr Melinda Harvey, Sydney-based bookseller Lindy Jones, and author and literary critic Dr Bernadette Brennan.


The Yield was selected from a list that included four previously Miles Franklin-shortlisted authors – Tony Birch, Peggy Frew, Philip Salom and Carrie Tiffany – and newcomer John Hughes.


On winning the award, Ms Winch said, "I'm honoured to be among brilliant colleagues on the longlist and shortlist, our power is in the many stories and not only the one. The historical presence of both Tony Birch and myself on the shortlist signals to the publishing industry that we can write our own stories, and that we don't want to be spoken for. I hope this event also encourages the next generation of Indigenous voices, to know there is a space here for you in the industry, and in the minds and hearts of a new era of readers. We need to hear voices from across the nation to truly immerse ourselves in the song of Australia."


Trustee of the Miles Franklin Literary Award Perpetual is proud to be part of this literary legacy that, since its inception in 1957, has provided more than $1.2 million to Australian authors.


Perpetual’s Managing Partner of Community and Social Investments, Caitriona Fay, said, “Perpetual has a long and proud history of helping philanthropists affect real change – change that can last for generations.


“The Miles Franklin Literary Award has become Australia’s most prestigious literary prize because of the way it continues to deliver community benefits and support authors by providing them with the financial support and space to create. Perpetual is honoured to be involved with the Awards, and I congratulate all of this year’s finalists for contributing to the diverse Australian narrative.”


Adam Suckling, CEO of long-term award sponsor the Copyright Agency, said: “The Copyright Agency is a proud supporter of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, which recognises and rewards extraordinary literary talent. Previous winners of this prestigious award have made an outstanding contribution to Australian literature and their work is now read widely in Australia and overseas.


“This year’s winner, Tara June Winch, is an exemplary talent and we are excited for her as she takes this next step in her career.”


The 2020 winner was announced via a LIVE YouTube presentation and can be viewed via the following www.perpetual.com.au/milesfranklin


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