Shortlist year: 2022

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Magabala Books

'Homecoming' pieces together fragments of stories about four generations of Noongar women and explores how they navigated the changing landscapes of colonisation, protectionism, and assimilation to hold their families together.

This seminal collection of poetry, prose and historical colonial archives, tells First Nations truths of unending love for children—those that were present, those taken, those hidden and those that ultimately stood in the light.

'Homecoming' speaks to the intergenerational dialogue about Country, kin and culture. This elegant and extraordinary form of restorative story work amplifies Aboriginal women's voices, and enables four generations of women to speak for themselves. This sublime debut highlights the tenacity of family as well as First Nation's agency to resist, survive and renew.

Elfie Shiosaki has restored humanity and power to her family in this beautifully articulated collection and has given voice to those silenced by our brutal past.

About the author

Elfie Shiosaki

Elfie Shiosaki is a Noongar and Yawuru writer. She is an Associate Professor at the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University. Her research and teaching explores Indigenous desires for human rights and self-determination. She was the Editor of Indigenous Writing at Westerly from 2017 to 2021.

Judges’ comments

To tell the story of her Noongar ancestors over several generations, Shiosaki's 'Homecoming' movingly combines eloquent short prose poems with archival material, including recorded oral histories and letters, deftly excerpted in short extracts that read like poems. She has described how some of the stories in her book "are held in my imagination". Others "are fragments of the many stars in my grandmothers' constellations. I track my grandmothers' stars to find my bidi home." ("Bidi" is a Noongar word meaning "track".) Shiosaki's narrative line shifts backwards and forwards through time, evoking her ancestors' dispossession, their love for the children who were forcibly removed from them, and reproducing extracts from their remarkable letters protesting about the "brutality" of "inhuman whites" who had authority over them. 'Homecoming' has a quiet, deeply involving power and beauty, with the various parts coming together as a poetic 'libre composé'. Convincing with its restraint, it avoids ready-made answers. The final prose poem 'Which Way' describes Koorlang (the child) wading into water, shaded by paperbarks, and immersing herself more deeply, so that she was "gently cradled . . . in loving arms". The poem concludes: "Unafraid, she remained still, not knowing which way was the light, and which way was the darkness."