“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.