Former Blue Mountains resident, Dr Martin Thomas, has just been awarded the 2013 Australian Book Review (ABR) Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. Dr Thomas is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in The Australian National University’s School of History. His essay, Because it’s Your Country: Bringing Back the Bones to West Arnhem Land, describes the theft of human remains from West Arnhem Land in 1948 and the difficult struggles encountered in bringing them home, a feat which was finally accomplished in 2010. This essay was chosen from a field of 150 entrants as the winner by ABR chair Morag Fraser OAM and ABR editor Peter Rose.
Dr Thomas responded enthusiastically to the award, saying, “My essay pays homage to a senior traditional owner from Arnhem Land who became a friend and teacher to me. I tell how he received back into his country the spirits of kinsmen whose bones were stolen, and in this way prepared for his own death… I feel supremely fortunate that my archival research has opened a dialogue with living communities. Good writing begins with great content.”
You can read Dr Thomas’ essay in the April edition of Australian Book Review. Also available to borrow from the library is Dr Thomas’ 2012 National Biography Award-winning book The Many Worlds of R. H. Mathews: In search of an Australian anthropologist, or The Artificial Horizon: imagining the Blue Mountains, or the Talking Book radio documentary, This is Jimmie Barker.