| 17 Oct 2017

This week, a poem from acclaimed writer Ellen van Neerven’s collection, Comfort Food (UQP 2016) appeared on the NSW HSC English exam. Ms van Neerven is a valued member of First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN), and one of our youngest. As a member-based network we support First Nations poets, writers, and storytellers, and we collaborate with writing, publishing, and education sectors to promote First Nations literature.

FNAWN commends NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for the inclusion of First Nations literature in the 2017 NSW Higher School Certificate English Paper 1. Embedding the works of writers and storytellers who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander within school curriculum promotes Australian literature, and provides students with an opportunity to develop a greater awareness of First Nations histories, cultures, and stories.

In this instance, we are aware that some 2017 NSW HSC students read the inclusion of Ms van Neerven’s poem as a red flag to target, troll, and abuse her online. FNAWN strongly condemns this online abuse, and recognises those students who attempted to combat this abuse from their peers.

The Daily Mail UK reports that “After the exam finished many students descended on the author with vile taunts”. FNAWN knows that NSW HSC students sent messages, many of which were of an abusive nature, to the author via Facebook personal messaging, Twitter direct messages, E-mails, and other forms of personal communication. Students also maliciously altered Ms van Neerven’s Wikipedia page, centring themselves into the content.

Some students also attacked other Australian writers and supporters who felt compelled to reject the online abuse. Hundreds of accounts engaged in this online abuse towards Ms van Neerven, abuse came from apparently fake profiles, and some abusers hastily deleted their disgraceful content. We know that at least one young writer who stood up against the trolling was subjected to abuse that contained sexual harassment.

At a time when students are finishing their high school education, ready to venture out to achieve their aspirations, this online abuse sours a milestone for many. FNAWN acknowledges that not all the students commenting on the poem were aware of the extent and nature of the online bullying. We also think it’s possible that not all of the account-holders who abused Ms van Neerven and supporters were NSW HSC students.

Ms van Neerven is an acclaimed young writer, she generously mentors other young writers, and is widely invited to speak at mainstream Australian writers festivals. According to the NESA, exam questions for Ms van Neerven’s poem from her collection, Comfort Food (UQP 2016), were set by experienced English teachers.

FNAWN is committed to supporting writers who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and to promoting their works to trade and education markets. This shocking online abuse of one of our youngest members deeply hurts our membership and our community. We open our door to NSW and other educational jurisdictions who seek to understand and to mitigate against such vile response to First Nations literature finding its rightful home in our curricula.

First Nations Australia Writers Network

Australian Literary Events – Key Dates for 2016

| 23 Nov 2015

Leonardo da vinciKnowing what’s on throughout 2016 will help you plan your writing and promotions year. We’re going to keep this list open so that we can add new dates as they become available. If you hear of new dates, contact us so we can add them in.

Festivals to attend

Blak & Bright, Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival (19 – 21 February 2016)
More than 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander novelists, storytellers, poets, songwriters, playwrights, academics, comedians, raconteurs and rabble-rousers over three days in Melbourne. Keynotes, performances, workshops, panels and more.
Click here for more information about Blak & Bright Festival.

Festivals to submit

Emerging Writers FestivalOpen Artist Callout
The Emerging Writers’ Festival (14 June–24 June 2016) prides itself on being inclusive to everyone in the writing community, of all ages and at all stages of their career. They’re running an open artist call out for writers who’d like to be involved in the sure-to-be-incredible 2016 program. They are looking for interesting ideas about publications, performances, dialogues, panels, debates and workshops. This is open to individual writers, but also writer collectives, emerging publications and performance groups. Projects that consider the public presentation of writing in new ways are of extra interest to them. Whether you see yourself as an artist or audience member, they’d love to hear from you. If you’re successful, they’ll help you refine your idea and pair you with other writers.

Click here for more information about the Emerging Writers Festival.
Next Wave Writers in Residence Program – Call for Applications
Writers in Residence is Next Wave’s learning and development program for emerging critical and creative writers who identify as having disability. This program provides outstanding mentoring, learning opportunities and practical experience for writers who want to receive feedback and develop new skills through workshops and engagement with a variety of art forms in Next Wave Festival 2016. In partnership with Writers Victoria, Next Wave’s ‘Writers in Residence’ program offers five workshops (one per month from January to May 2016) with guest speakers from the writing and arts industry, and one-on-one mentoring from a Critical Peer. The participant will also attend Next Wave Festival events as well as studio visits and work-in-progress showings by Festival artists.
Click here for more information about the Next Wave Writers-in-Residence Program.

Noted FestivalCall for Artists, Curators and Indie Publishers
In March 2015, Noted staged Canberra’s first writers’ festival in five years. Over five days, at almost thirty free events spanning live, digital and professional development formats, Noted welcomed and paid over sixty emerging and experimental writers, editors, publishers and artists for the benefit of over 1,000 attendees. Applications to feature as a festival artist have officially opened, and Noted is actively seeking locals, interstaters, internationals, fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, editors, publishers, culturally and linguistically diverse creators, illustrators, and performers. If you want to run a workshop, conduct an online narrative experiment, collaborate in an art exhibition, or simply step forward and put your hand up because you just plain done write good, Noted welcomes your application. This year, Noted Festival is excited to also offer a professional development opportunity for an innovative and reliable exhibition curator. Additionally, Noted are seeking independent publishers who wish to hold a stall at their Independent Publishing Fair, to be held at Gorman Arts Centre during the festival.
Click here for more information about Noted Festival.


Nita B Kibble Literary Awards for Women Writers(Entries NOW open)
Amongst some of Australia’s most prestigious awards for women writers, the Nita B Kibble Literary Awards (the Kibble Awards) aim to encourage Australian women writers to improve and advance literature for the benefit of our community. The Awards recognise the works of women writers of fiction or non-fiction classified as ‘life writing’. This includes novels, autobiographies, biographies, literature and any writing with a strong personal element.The Kibble Literary Award recognises the work of an established Australian woman writer while the Dobbie Literary Award recognises a first published work from an Australian woman writer.
Click here for more information about the Nita B Kibble Literary Award.

Rhonda Jankovic Literary Awards
Entries may be poems or short stories on the theme of social justice. Poems to be no more than 50 lines; stories no more than 2,500 words. A fee of AUD$5.00 is applied to each item entered. First prize for each section is $600.
Click here for more information about the Rhonda Jankovic Literary Award.

Field of Words Spring Writing Competition
Flash fiction and short story entries welcome. Field of Words is dedicated to helping emerging writers grow. All entrants must be aged 18 and over. Both categories offer cash prizes for the winner and runner-up. Monthly finalists posted on the FoW website.
Click here for more information about the Field of Words Spring Writing Competition.

Narrative Magazine’s Fall Contest
The Narrative Magazine Fall Contest is open to both fiction and nonfiction pieces. Entries may be up to 15,000 in length and must be previously unpublished. First prize is $2,500, second prize is $1,000, third prize is $500, and up to ten finalists will receive $100 each. All entries will be considered for publication.
Click here for more information about the Narrative Magazine’s Fall Contest.

Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize
Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize is for stories up to 5,000 words. First prize is €3,000 (€1,000 of which is for travel expenses to the launch of the anthology). Second prize is a week at the Anam Cara Writers’ & Artists’ Retreat. Ten short stories will be published in the 2016 Fish Anthology.
Click here for more information about the Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize.

Story Wine Prize (2016 Dates TBC)
This competition aims to discover the finest in original short fiction up to 800 words in length.
Click here for more information about Overland’s Story Wine Prize.

National Indigenous Arts Awards (2016 Dates TBC)
The National Indigenous Arts Awards were established in 2007 to recognise and celebrate the outstanding work and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. These prestigious national awards consist of the Red Ochre and the Dreaming Award.
Click here for more information about the Australia Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards.

Queensland Literary Awards (2016 Dates TBC)
The Queensland Literary Awards celebrate and promote outstanding Australian writers.
Click here for more information about the Queensland Literary Awards.

V.S Pritchett Memorial Prize (2016 Dates TBC)
This prize was founded by the RSL at the beginning of the new millennium to commemorate the centenary of an author widely regarded as the finest English short-story writer of the 20th century, and to preserve a tradition encompassing Pritchett’s mastery of narrative.
Click here for more information about the V.S Pritchett Memorial Prize.

Featured: Marissa McDowell

| 18 Mar 2015

This piece originally appeared in Overland as part of their Emerging Poet Series. Thank you to Marissa McDowell, Peter Minter and Overland for permission to reproduce here.
Marissa McDowell
Marissa McDowell, a Wiradjuri woman born in Cowra NSW, grew up in Canberra where she began writing poetry at sixteen. In her mid-twenties she shared a poem called ‘Caged’ as a father’s day gift, and started writing seriously again after joining the ‘Us Mob’ writing group in Canberra. She enjoys working in all forms of creative media. After completing a Bachelor of Arts Honours with the University of Canberra she went on to produce ten short documentaries for National Indigenous Television NITV. During this time she was the recipient of a solo photo exhibition with PhotoAccess. She is a radio producer for 2XXfm, and on game-day works at GIO Stadium Canberra as an audio visual assistant for the Brumbies and Canberra Raiders. Her poetry was recently published in the Maori literary journal Ora Nui, in a special issue featuring work by Aboriginal and Maori writers.

Burning Bridges

I aint burning all my bridges
Been walking down this road for far too long
Got no voice, got no song

Paid my toll
With everything except my soul
Nothing left but dust for beggars and thieves

It’s not a walk in the park
Or a Sunday stroll
Just genocide

Justified by religion
Over a land that no-one owns
Leaders that follow
And followers that can’t lead

It’s all the same
When it comes to playing this war game
The rich get richer and fame becomes their throne
A life of the uncompassionate with no ration for change

I aint burning all my bridges
They’ve already been burnt
I aint leaving my home
It’s already left
All the humble lies amongst the rubble
And the rubble piles towards the sea

Walking down this road alone
Past the fighting
Past the wrong
Towards the meek, towards the strong

No blue left in the sky
Only clouds that bleed, scream and cry
For the dying in the streets
Nothing left but the smell of rotting meat
No more pitter-patter of tiny feet

Anger turns to rage
And rage turns to hate
It remains until we forgive but not forget
A vicious cycle of pain and self-destruction
Is the path some choose in the end we all loose
Vengeance is a force that shouldn’t be forged
Into our bodies and into our souls

I aint burning all my bridges
They’ve already been burnt
I aint leaving my home
It’s already left

Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?
I am currently flicking in-between books for different reasons. At the moment when I want some relaxation and down time I’m reading Tiddas by Anita Heiss. Tiddas is about the relationship between a group of female friends who are all experiencing different emotions and challenges from their past to present. The relationships between the women have a realness to them and touch on the type of struggles most women who read the book have either encountered or can relate to. The other book I am reading, Photoshop Compositing Secrets by Matt Kloskowski, is for learning purposes. I am teaching myself how to better composite photographs, which is a hobby of mine. I love writing and mixing up words with music and images to create a whole audiovisual experience.

How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?
I think of myself as having two kinds of poetry writing styles. The first is emotive writing, the second just having fun, being creative and at times laughing at myself for being ‘lyrically challenged’ as I like to put it. I write what I am feeling, which helps me to reflect and deal with things that affect me emotionally. I usually don’t share my thoughts and feelings with others so writing poetry is a way for me to externalize and let go of those thoughts and feelings. I carry a notepad around with me wherever I go. I also have a notepad in the console of my car, when I stop at a red light or in car park I jot down my thoughts and feelings. My poetry is mostly emotional and sometimes lyrical, I write to the beat of music or to the tune of nature, footsteps on a pavement, whatever sounds happen to be surrounding me at the time. Sounds and colour affect me in the same way that words do. They release me emotionally.

When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?
The elephant in the room is many different things. I think, touching on deeper feelings, is the reality of cause and effect, with such things as religion, genocide, poverty, the treatment of First Nations peoples worldwide, climate change, sexual and physical abuse and sex. Australian poetry brings an openness and rawness to words and feelings and unleashes it in a creative way where everyday people can feel free to express themselves about the many elephants in the room.