ANU recognises acclaimed First Nations author Melissa Lucashenko with Honorary Doctorate

Dr Lucashenko outside Llewellyn Hall for conferrals. (Photo by Adam Spence/ANU)
Wednesday 9 February 2022

The Australian National University has recognised the significant contribution to Australian literature of Miles Franklin and Walkley winning author Melissa Lucashenko, awarding her an honorary doctorate. 

“It’s a long way from Logan City in 1983” Melissa Lucashenko says with a vibrant smile and a laugh outside The Australian National University’s Llewellyn Hall. “It’s a long way from working in a pub in Logan City,” she continues still smiling and thinking reflectively.

Known for her realistic writing that celebrates Indigenous connections to place and knowledge, Melissa has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (HonLittD) by The Australian National University. It is just the latest honour for the Miles Franklin and Walkley award winning writer, recognising her exceptional contribution to Australian literature.

“I feel stoked,” says Melissa of receiving an honorary doctorate. Melissa, a Goorie author of Bundjalung and European heritage, has been recognised nationally and internationally for her books and essays. Her 2012 feature in the Griffith Review titled ‘Sinking below sight’ received a Walkley Award for long form feature writing.

Her 2013 novel Mullumbimby, set mainly on the Arakwal lands of the Bundjalung Nation, follows the story of an Indigenous woman on the north coast of NSW, with a dispute over traditional ownership of land setting the stage for a journey of discovery into her own culture. The book received critical praise, and recognised in the Queensland Literary Awards and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Her 2018 novel Too Much Lip was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize whose judges described it as “a fearless, searing and unvarnished portrait of generational trauma cut through with acerbic humour.”

Speaking at the conferral ceremony on Tueday 8 February, Dr Lucashenko used her speech to call out the bullying she sees as the "default setting" in Australian politics.  

"Because many Australians have never experienced being treated with full respect, this epidemic of bullying and belittling remains invisible," she said. 
In her speech, Dr Lucashenko referenced the mistreatment of women in Parliament House. She noted that "rape culture" has been a long-standing issue in Australia's colonial history.  

"There's talk of rape culture as well as bullying, but what's is rarely acknowledged is that modern Australia was born out of rape culture and has not evolved past it." 

The proud Aboriginal writer of Goorie (Bundjalung) and European heritage also spoke about the climate emergency we're currently facing, and the urgency needed to "save our only home".  

"We can choose a radically different path. We can change our ideas, our words and our votes. There is still time. Let's not waste it on meaningless words by hollow men, but act, and act swiftly." 

Dr Lucashenko is no stranger to Canberra and the ANU campus. 

In 2019 she spent time here as the inaugural HC Coombs Creative Arts Indigenous Fellow, working on her new novel.

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Updated:  4 November 2022/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications