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Kim Scott has won the Miles Franklin Literary Prize for the second time for his novel That Deadman Dance. “I hope my win tonight helps put a spotlight on issues such as preserving Aboriginal languages,” he said at the award ceremony at Melbourne’s State Library. “As an Indigenous writer I think there is such enormous potential and promise in front of us... there’s a lot happening around the country and there are enormous things to move forward towards.”

Kim Scott grew up on the south coast of Western Australia, his cultural heritage is the Wirlomin clan from the coastline between Gairdner River and Cape Arid, and is a strong advocate for the revitalisation of Noongar language.

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Kim Scott

Scott’s strong advocacy for the revitalization of the Noongar language was realised most recently in the art book project Noongar Mambara Bakitj, which was developed as part of a language recovery project led by Scott and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, and was released in September 2011. The project involved a series of community meetings with Elders, artists and linguists to workshop a Noongar creation story.

Speaking with Ramona Koval on the ABC’s The Book Show last year, Scott talked about how important his work on regenerating the Noongar language in the community setting was to the development of his latest prize-winning novel, The Deadman Dance:

“I’ve been working a lot in that sort of area: community workshops and getting little groups of people together and we make the sounds of our ancestors and of our ancestral place stronger and better and share them around amongst one another. And that’s... I think that informs this book quite a bit. … I’ve been doing a lot of that and a lot of research, consolidating a heritage, I think, and trying to find ways to empower ourselves by sharing it in different sorts of ways. That’s what I’ve been doing for a lot of the last 10 years.”

“[A] lot of my writing to date has been about coming from where I come from, we call it spirity country, and a lot of the hostile sort of history. So it’s inevitable, I think, that I return to that and try and work with continuity in keeping that age-old heritage alive and relevant today and into the future.”

“But it’s sort of becoming a schizoid sort of literary activity. The literary fiction and the Noongar language stuff are quite different things and I don’t know where I’ll go, but it’s just so deep and really important to me, that where I live and the heritage associated with it, and being part of a people that first created human society in this part of the world: that all feels very important, yeah.”