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First Nations Australian storytellers to take part in cultural exchange to Auckland Writers Festival

Five First Nations Australian storytellers – including award-winning poets, writers and editors – will travel to Auckland, Aotearoa, this month as part of a delegation to the Auckland Writers Festival 2023, where they will explore ideas and share stories with 230 of the world’s best writers and thinkers.

The annual Festival, which features 160 live events over six days from May 16 to 21, is hosting a First Nations Literature Cultural Exchange between Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Exchange is designed to enhance the cultural, artistic and market development of First Nations artists.

Executive Director First Nations Arts and Culture Franchesca Cubillo is excited by the prospect of leading the delegation to Auckland.

“It’s an honour to be taking a strong cohort of First Nations Australian talent to the Auckland Writers Festival, where they will inspire and be inspired by some of the world’s best writers and thinkers. Five storytellers, including award-winning poets, writers and editors, are excited to participate alongside counterparts from New Zealand and Canada; putting First Nations storytelling, language and experiences centre stage.”

The five Australian writers, poets and editors flying to Aotearoa for the festival as part of the Australia Council First Nations Literature Cultural Exchange delegation are:

  • Astrophysicist, science communicator and award-winning Gomeroi author Krystal De Napoli (2022’s Astronomy: Sky Country) hosts Indigenuity on Triple R and advocates for Indigenous knowledges and equity in STEM.
  • Torres Strait Islander screenwriter, director, producer and actor Aaron Fa’aoso, whose credits include Black Comedy, The Straits, Remote Area Nurse, East West 101, Strait to the Plate and Going Places with Ernie Dingo.
  • Multi-award-winning poet, essayist and editor Yvette Holt, a descendant of the Bidjara, íman Yiman and Wakaman Nations of Queensland. Holt is Chairperson to the First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN), the leading national and international representative body to First Nations storytellers.
  • Multi-form Wiradjuri artist Jazz Money, is multi-award-winning across poetry, installation, digital, performance, film and print. Her work has been published and performed internationally and her first poetry collection, the best-selling collection of verse how to make a basket (UQP, 2021) won the David Unaipon Award (2020).
  • Editor and poet Yasmin Smith, of South Sea Islander, Northern Cheyenne, Kabi Kabi and English heritage, has worked across literary fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry at the black&write! Project, with a focus on supporting First Nations creatives and their stories, and interest in works that explore inter-generational loss and healing.

The delegation will be joined by three First Nations storytellers, supported by Australia Council and speaking at the Festival:

  • Award-winning children’s author, poet, multi-disciplinary artist and 2020 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year Kirli Saunders will appear on the panel of 1000 Years Forward / 1000 Years Back, discussing what Indigenous wisdom can tell us about saving the planet; and Pukapuka Adventures, discussing her new children’s book The Incredible Freedom Machines.
  • Mununjali Yugambeh heritage writer and editor Ellen van Neerven won the David Unaipon award for their debut Heat and Light. They will appear on three panels: discussing their latest work, a deeply personal First Nations examination of Australia’s relationship with sport, Personal Score; Two Spirit, reflecting on complex Indigenous understandings of gender roles and spirituality; and When a Powwow is not a Powwow, tackling cultural misappropriation.
  • Munanjahli and South Sea Islander writer and public intellectual Chelsea Watego’s debut essay collection Another Day in the Colony lit a fire under the discourse with the chapter F*ck Hope, urging mob to be nihilistic because abandoning hope and embracing “the emancipatory possibility of not giving a f*ck” is the only way to attain sovereignty. Watego speaks on the panels It’s Not About Hope, When a Powwow is not a Powwow and Six by Six by 6:66, in which six artists have six minutes 66 seconds (give or take) to pay tribute to a little-known but amazing woman from their culture, today or historically, in any way they see fit.

The Auckland Writers Festival brings local and international writers of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, scientists, economists, poets, journalists and public intellectuals together with audiences to explore ideas, share stores and experience brilliant conversations.

Read more on the exchange here.

Media enquiries:
Matt Fisher, Director Communications
Australia Council for the Arts
Phone: (02) 9215 9317