About the author

Jane Harrison is a descendant of the Muruwari people of NSW. She is an award-winning playwright and has a Master of Arts in Playwriting from the Queensland University of Technology. In 2002, her first play Stolen was the co-winner of the Kate Challis RAKA Award. It has since been performed throughout Australia as well as the UK, Hong Kong and Japan. Her most recent play The Visitors formed part of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2014 Cybec Electric Series. Jane has received several playwriting awards and her essays have been published in various journals. Jane lives in Melbourne with her two daughters.

photo of jane harrison

About the book

Set within the explosive cultural shifts of the 1960s and 1980s, Becoming Kirrali Lewis chronicles the journey of a young Aboriginal teenager as she leaves her hometown in rural Victoria to take on a law degree in Melbourne in 1985. Adopted at birth by a white family, Kirrali doesn't question her cultural roots until a series of life-changing events force her to face up to her true identity.

book cover of becoming kirrali lewis

Magabala Books

Judges’ comments

Becoming Kirrali Lewis is a richly textured novel about identity, family and community that takes place in Melbourne when Indigenous artists, writers and actors were making their presence felt. Kirrali Lewis is a young Indigenous woman who has grown up in a loving white family in a small country town. But when she leaves home to enrol in law at Melbourne University in 1985, her life will profoundly change. Kirrali’s true identity is the mystery at the heart of the novel. In answering the puzzles of her past, the novel rewards the reader with vivid portrayal of a young woman at a crucial time of life and in Australian social history.

Secrets can’t stay hidden forever, not in the big city where lives jostle and tangle and soon the truth of Kirrali’s past, which she herself does not know, begins to emerge. The story moves from the 1960s, when Kirrali is giving up in forced adoption, through to the 1980s and shows the world through the eyes of both mother and daughter. Daughter, mother, uncle, lover and friends—the book is crowded with strong and complex characters and restless, searching energy. Jane Harrison’s background as playwright is turned to powerful effect in the way she voices these characters. “Our stories are changing things”, one character reflects, and herein lies is the truth of the novel. It is a way to understand not only a person’s past, but also perhaps also a nation’s history.