Two Faculty Academics shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Award

23 April 2013

Kate Lilley book
Dr Kate Lilley's collection of poetry Ladylike (UWA Publishing).

A collection of poetry exploring the bonds between women and a book defending the success of multiculturalism, both written by academics from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, have been shortlisted for the 2013 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

Dr Kate Lilley from the Department of English is among those shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for her widely praised collection of poetry, Ladylike (UWA Publishing).

Dr Tim Soutphommasane's book Don't Go Back to Where You Came From (New South Publishing) has also been shortlisted for the Community Relations Commission for a multicultural NSW Award.

Both Lilley and Soutphommasane were shortlisted in the same prize categories at the launch of their first books, Versary (2002) and Reclaiming Patriotism (2009) respectively.

For Lilley, the listing holds both great excitement and deep poignancy, with the poem 'Cleft' dedicated to the memory of her late mother.

"Ladylike explores passionate attachments between women - mothers and daughters, lovers, fans, analysts and analysands - and historical scandals of femininity and female sexuality," she said. "It's about likeness and liking, sexual and textual generation and orientation. The death of my mother, the writer Dorothy Hewett, is at the centre of the book."

The judges' citation for Ladylike describes her volume as "a unique and noticeably bold intervention" in the field of Australian poetry; a point Lilley readily acknowledges.

"I think this book, and my poetry in general, brings something distinctive - it's intellectual and scholarly and, at the same time, feelingful and often funny," she said.

Dr Soutphommasane, from the University's Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said he aimed to clarify the muddied discussions around multiculturalism in his book.

Tim Soutphommasane book
Dr Tim Soutphommasane's book Don't Go Back to Where You Came From (New South Publishing).

"People point to troubles in Europe and conclude that Australia is heading the same way," he explained. "But Australian multiculturalism has been different, and a success. It's time that we recognise that, while of course remembering that more can also be done to ensure it continues to work."

He pointed to instances of persistent racism and the "unedifying debate" around asylum seekers as signs of the challenges ahead for the ongoing multiculturalism project.

"There will always be debates about immigration and cultural diversity, and that is only right. The tone in which we conduct these debates is important, though. Too often, there's hysteria and fear mongering - and not enough proportion."

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Duncan Ivison, said he was delighted "but not surprised" by news of the listing.

"They are outstanding scholars who have produced profoundly important work this year," he said. "To have a poet and a political philosopher represent the Faculty in these awards seems absolutely right to me - demonstrating the extraordinary range of talent in our Faculty."

The winners of the 2013 NSW Premier's Literary Awards will be announced at the State Library of NSW on Sunday 19 May.

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Contact: Emily Jones

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