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The Kate Challis RAKA Award
Subcategory of Australian Centre Literary Awards
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The Kate Challis RAKA Award is presented to Indigenous creative artists. It was established by Bernard Smith, the art and cultural historian, to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis. The award is offered in a five-year cycle with a different area of the arts - creative writing, drama, the visual arts, scriptwriting and poetry - being rewarded each year.

For more details of the award, see the Australian Centre. Sighted: 15/11/2013


  • The RAKA is awarded in a five-year cycle with a different area of artistic endeavour - creative prose, drama, the visual arts, scriptwriting and poetry or music - rewarded each year. This annual award has been made available by Professor Emeritus Bernard Smith to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Archival-Poetics Colonial Archive : Archival-Poetics Natalie Harkin , Sydney : Vagabond Press , 2019 15786299 2019 selected work poetry

'Archival-Poetics offers a unique contribution to Australian poetry through a new way to write into, and out from, the State’s Aboriginal archives and from a Narungga woman’s standpoint. It will demonstrate an embodied reckoning with the colonial archive and those traumatic, contested and buried episodes of history that inevitably return to haunt. Family records at the heart of this work include South Australia’s Aboriginal Protection Board and Children’s Welfare Board records, highlighting assimilation policy measures targeting Aboriginal girls for removal into indenture domestic labour. Three interconnected threads underpin this Archival-poetic writing, and each thread is expanded as the theoretical heart to each section of the work: On Blood Memory – a reclamation of re-imagined histories through cultural identity (blood), narrative (memory) and connection to country (land); On Haunting as a ‘way of knowing’ – an active and honouring response to that which is silent and hidden; the seething and felt, yet unseen presence of colonial violence or unfinished business; On the Colonial Archive – a poetic spotlight on the colonial State and those key institutions, repositories and systems that maintain and perpetuate dominant discourses and representations on Indigenous peoples and histories. Each section of the work will be a potent, multi-textual artefact in its own right that centres the affective, transformative and honouring dimensions of haunting, where the potency of place, colonial-histories and blood-memory collide. They each bear witness to the state’s archivisation processes and the revelation of what is both absent and present on the record. As a trilogy offering in one volume of work, it collectively considers important questions of representation, surveillance and agency; and questions of power that resonate in our daily lives, on and through the colonial archive. It also bears witness to individual and collective loss in order to actively honour and contribute, beyond the local, to larger counter-hegemonic narratives of colonial history. This work demonstrates a critical-creative way of decolonising and transforming the colonial archive through poetic refusal, resistance and memory-making; a poetry that also engages theory, images and primary source archival material.'

Year: 2018

winner Yhonnie Scarce for 'Remembering Royalty'.

Year: 2017

winner The Fever and the Fret Jub Clerc , 2018 single work drama

'Lizzy and her grandparents have endured, suffered, and even celebrated loss for decades - but now unseen events are tearing their world apart. A beautiful ode to love and memory, The Fever and the Fret is one family’s tale of resilience as they reconcile small town life with a new, ever-changing world.'

Source: National Playwrighting Festival program.

Year: 2016

winner y separately published work icon The Swan Book Alexis Wright , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2013 Z1836223 2013 single work novel (taught in 14 units)

'The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.' (Publisher's blurb)

Year: 2015

winner y separately published work icon Mogwie-Idan : Stories of the Land Lionel Fogarty , Sydney : Vagabond Press , 2012 Z1935398 2012 selected work poetry 'Mogwie-Idan: Stories of the Land' showcases the intelligence of the Aboriginal grassroots struggle in contemporary Australia, laying open the realness of Lionel Fogarty's Murri mission poetry. The Aboriginal struggle in Australia is not over, but here handed to the next generations to promote their strength. Biame guide! Biame bless!' (Source: Vagabond Press website

Works About this Award

$25,000 Prize for Feminist Poet 2010 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 8 September no. 484 2010; (p. 28)
'Radical feminist poet Yvette R. Holt has won a $25,000 prize for a series of poems about the role of Aboriginal women.' Source: Koori Mail no.484, 8 September 2010
The 2008 Kate Challis RAKA Award Opens 2007 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 5 December no. 415 2007; (p. 51)
The Definite Article : Rewriting History Helen Thomson , 2002 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 31 August 2002; (p. 27)
The Kate Challis RAKA Award 2002 2002 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 15 May no. 276 2002; (p. 45)
Noongar Writer Receives Award Kate Munro , 2001 single work biography
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 17 October no. 262 2001; (p. 19)