Herb Wharton receives Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature

On November 22nd, The Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature was given to Herb Wharton.

As an Indigenous writer, poet and storyteller, Herb Wharton is best known for his 1992 breakthrough novel Unbranded (commissioned by The University of Queensland Press), Cattle Camp , Where Ya Been Mate? and Kings with Empty Pockets.

The Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature recognised Mr Wharton's writing for "its unique and untold perspective of Australian rural heritage"; particularly, for continuing to tell stories of the Aboriginal contribution to the Australian pastoral industry.

The Chair of the Australia Council Literature Board, Sophie Cunningham noted that:

(Wharton) is a wonderful advocate for Aboriginal literature and stories, as well as rural history more broadly. The importance of Herb's work in documenting and telling these stories is reflected by the now 20 boxes of his writing, notes and recording of oral histories that are held in the University of Queensland's Fryer Library.

Herb Wharton discusses his work with a group of Brisbane schoolchildren. Herb Wharton Manuscript collection, UQFL212.

The Fryer Library began to collect Wharton's work in 1996 and the collection reflects his passion for Aboriginal literature and stories. It includes valuable insights into his writing process, such as transforming an oral story into a published work. Wharton's role in this process can be traced from audiotapes of oral stories told by other drovers, working notes, interactions with UQP editorial staff, to the completed drafts of works such as Cattle Camp.

The collection is also unrivalled as a personal archive of this important writer's work. As Mr Wharton told Sue Abbey in a 2007 interview, it contains "the first bit of notes."

"I probably thought about (writing) for fifty years, but it took me forty odd years to write my first notes down".

More information about the $50 000 Lifetime Achievement award, which recognises contributions to Australian literature, is available on The Australia Council webpage. The full text of Sue Abbey's 2007 interview with Herb Wharton is available in Fryer Folios (July, 2007).

Last updated:
17 November 2017