‘Truganini’ wins 2021 National Biography Award

A “vivid and complex” portrait of remarkable First Nations woman Truganini has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award, the nation’s richest prize for biographical writing, the State Library of NSW announced Thursday 26 August 2021.

Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus (Allen & Unwin) presents the extraordinary story of Truganini, a Nuenonne woman from Bruny Island, off Tasmania, whose life has been shrouded in myth for almost two centuries. In this award-winning work, Truganini claims her place as a survivor in the face of a determined effort to eradicate Aboriginal people from Tasmania.

According to Senior Judge, Suzanne Falkiner: “We were all impressed by Truganini, which combined evocative writing with scholarly research. The perceptive analysis of cultural incomprehension between black and white in 19th century Australia shows the resulting deceit, treachery, intentions both benevolent and malevolent, and unintended consequences.”

“Given the limitations of assembling Truganini’s biography through the contemporary accounts of third-person witnesses, and where the subject’s own voice is almost entirely absent, Cassandra Pybus has deftly attempted to reverse the gaze of history,” said Ms Falkiner.

“She reveals the sexual politics at play in areas depleted of young Indigenous women by European depredations, while recognising the agency, shrewdness, and refusal to accept the roles of passive victim of Truganini and her companions.”

Read the judges’ comments on the State Library of NSW website.