WrICE writer Melissa Lucashenko wins the 2019 Miles Franklin award for her novel Too Much Lip

Melissa is an award-winning Australian novelist, short story writer and essayist of Bundjalung and European heritage. She is an alumnus of RMIT Writing and Publishing’s Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange Program (WrICE), having travelled to Singapore and Malaysia with WrICE in 2014.

Melissa will appear at this year’s WrICE Writers Across Borders panel as part of RMIT's 2019 partnership with Melbourne Writers Festival on Saturday 31 August at RMIT’s Kaleide Theatre.

Melissa’s latest novel Too Much Lip was awarded the $60,000 prize in Sydney on Tuesday 30 July in recognition and celebration of the novel of “highest literary merit”. It was also shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize.

In celebrating Melissa’s achievement, RMIT’s Associate Dean Writing and Publishing Francesca Rendle-Short said,  “We are thrilled for Melissa Lucashenko’s well deserved win for her hard-hitting novel Too Much Lip. Our long engagement with such an authentic, unafraid, no-holds-barred voice in Australian literature gives us a strong sense of pride. Congratulations to Melissa – she is paving the way for all of us, showing us how we must live.” 

Melissa’s recent work has appeared in The Moth; Fifty True Stories, Meanjin, Griffith Review, and The Saturday Paper. Within the past two decades she has achieved 26 awards for her novels. Her fifth novel, Mullumbimby (2013) won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Indigenous Writing, the Qld De Loitte Fiction Prize, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin, Stella, and Dublin IMPAC Awards. Melissa’s Griffith Review essay, Sinking Below Sight: Down and Out in Brisbane and Logan won the 2013 Walkley Award for Long Form Journalism (the Australian equivalent of a Pulitzer). 

Too much Lip was amongst five other works rich in diversity and talent in the Miles Franklin shortlist, including; Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Lebs, Gregory Day’s A Sand Archive, Rodney Hall’s A Stolen Season, Gail Jones’ The Death of Noah Glass, and Jennifer Mills’ Dyschronia.

Melissa Lucashenko with fellow WrICE writers, Penang 2013 Melissa Lucashenko with fellow WrICE writers, Penang 2013

“It’s a big deal,” Melissa said of her win to The Guardian. “When they told me, it felt as if I hadn’t even been on the shortlist, I was that shocked.” 

The ABC reported Melissa as saying of her win, “it’s kind of terrifying, I only recently realised that I would be doing so much more in my writing – and now this goes and happens. I have no idea what to do next, other than keep plugging away at my civilising mission to mainstream Australia.”

A delicate blend of humour and trauma, Melissa’s novel explores family, indigenous underclass, incarceration, connection to place, racism, marginalisation, violence, abuse, dispossession and truth.  It follows Kerry after the breakup and incarceration of her girlfriend as she returns home to her family and her dying grandfather. In a story that traces the intricacies of family and the struggle to protect country, Kerry is forced to overcome her lifelong avoidance of her hometown and prison.

Melissa is the third indigenous writer to win the Miles Franklin, following Kim Scott (2000, 2011) and Alexis Wright (2007).

As a writer deeply engaged in culture, community, connection to place and giving voice, Melissa is reflective of the principles of WrICE. An initiative of RMIT’s Writing and Publishing program, WrICE brings together Australian and Asia-Pacific writers for face-to-face collaborative residencies in Asia and Australia. In 2013-14, Melissa took part in the inaugural collaborative residency in Singapore and Malaysia with a group of Australian and international writers.

This year, WrICE alumni across six years of the program will participate in a reunion and take part in Melbourne Writers Festival events, Writers Across Borders and West Writers x WrICE.  On Saturday 31 August Melissa will join her fellow WrICE writers in Writers Across Borders; an in conversation session that will also mark the launch of the second WrICE Anthology, The Near and the Far Volume 2 (Scribe). Melissa, amongst other WrICE alumni from six different countries, will explore craft, culture and the passion that drives their work. 

Story: Monique Nair, Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing) student.

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer