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Diane Bell Wins The 2023 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship

Photo of Diane Bell

On Wednesday 8 March, in front of a large audience at Adelaide Writers Week, writer and anthropologist Diane Bell was announced as winner of the 2023 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship.

Diane was awarded $20,000 for her proposed biography of the relationship between Ngarrindjeri woman Louisa Karpany, née Kontinyeri (c1840–1921) and George Mason (1811–1876), sub-Protector of Aborigines at Wellington, South Australia.

“The judges were impressed with Diane’s approach to her subjects,” said Della Rowley, sister of Hazel Rowley. “Diane proposes a narrative structure that interweaves colonial chronology with oral history and storytelling. We are thrilled that in this, the year of a referendum on an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, the Fellowship will be used to tell this important cross-cultural story. Diane will tell a story of respect and affection, of connection to country, and of enduring significance for their descendants.”  

“We are delighted to award the 2023 Fellowship to Diane Bell,” said Fellowship Judge Jeff Sparrow. “Diane proposes to tell the story of Louisa Karpany and George Mason in a way which challenges the conventional account of relationships between Indigenous people and colonial settlers.”

“The judges all agreed that Diane Bell’s application was an outstanding choice,” commented Fellowship Judge, Clare Wright. “It’s a complex story and Diane’s proposed biography has the support of the descendants of Louisa Karpany and George Mason with whom she has worked since 1996. Diane’s longstanding relationships and collaborative projects with Ngarrindjeri frame the telling of this timely story.”

This year the judges have awarded a Highly Commended Award of $4,000 to Carolyn Dowley for initial archival research for a biography of Wongutha woman Sadie Canning, MBE, a member of the Stolen Generations, and Western Australia’s first Aboriginal nurse and matron. “We were excited by this proposal, and we wish to encourage Carolyn in her endeavours to complete this work,” said Della Rowley.

The shortlist of nine writers included Belinda Probert, Aunty Elly Chatfield, Charlie Ward, Gabrielle Carey, Jo Oliver, Jane McCredie and Susan Wyndham.

The 2023 announcement was preceded by the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture, which this year consisted of a conversation between Ann-Marie Priest and Kerryn Goldsworthy. Ann-Marie was the 2017 recipient of the Hazel Rowley Fellowship. Her book My Tongue is My Own: A Life of Gwen Harwood was published by La Trobe University Press, an Imprint of Black Inc, in May 2022.

The Fellowship was judged by Clare Wright, Jeff Sparrow, Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan, and is administered in partnership with Writers Victoria.

Photo of Diane Bell by Brenton McGeachie.

About Hazel Rowley
“My books are about people who had the courage to break out of their confined world and help others to do the same.” – Hazel Rowley

Before her death in 2011, Hazel wrote four critically acclaimed biographies: Christina Stead: A Biography (1993), Richard Wright: The Life and Times (2001), Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (2005) and Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage (2010). Erudite and accessible, these studies brought fresh attention to the lives and works of significant figures both nationally and internationally.

In 2021 Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan published Life as Art: The biographical writing of Hazel Rowley (MUP), an edited collection of Hazel’s essays, talks and journal entries.

For more information about the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, visit website: www.hazelrowley.com.

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