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Michele Rooney short-listed for book award

Michelle Rooney
Michelle Rooney's mother, Nahau, spearheaded the role of women in PNG politics - a tough task at the best of times


MELBOURNE – Michelle Nayahamui Rooney – a dual Papua New Guinea-Australia citizen of Manus heritage – is one of 10 shortlisted writers in contention for the 2022 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship.

The annual award is given by Writers Victoria to an Australian writer for a proposed work of biography.

Dr Rooney is a research fellow at the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University, a unit that researches and analyses Australian aid and global development with a focus on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

After working in the development sector in PNG, Dr Rooney completed her doctorate at the Australian National University, where her projects include research exploring strategies and practical measures for dealing with family and sexual violence.

The project that Dr Rooney has proposed to the selection committee is to write a biography of her mother, Nahau Rooney, one of the first women elected to the PNG parliament.

Nahau-Rooney (Michelle-Nayahamui-Rooney)
Nahau Rooney was an audacious, hard working and sometimes controversial leader (Michelle Nayahamui Rooney)

Nahau Rooney, who died in 2020 aged 75, was one of three women elected to parliament at PNG’s first post-independence elections in 1977.

Representing the Manus electorate, she was a pioneer in PNG politics and respected for her audacity, hard work and leadership qualities.

Upon her death, the late Sir Michael Somare said “she was a wonderful woman and Manus has lost a great leader”.

The $20,000 fellowship commemorates the life and work of Australian author Hazel Rowley will be judged by writers Jeff Sparrow and Clare Wright, Rowley’s friend Lynn Buchanan and Rowley’s sister Della.

The Fellowship was established in 2011 by the Hazel Rowley Literary Fund with the support of Writers Victoria to encourage Australian authors to attain a high standard of biography writing and to commemorate the life, ideas and writing of Rowley.

“We had an extremely strong field of applications this year, with a wide range of biographical subjects,” said Della Rowley. “This made the shortlisting hard.

“We received a large number of high-quality proposals.

“Perhaps as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, writers were busy thinking about good topics for biographies.

“The shortlist reflects a range of emerging and established writers, and a varied range of topics, from neglected historical subjects to contemporary artists,” Della Rowley said.

The winner will be announced in Melbourne on Wednesday 2 March.

With thanks to Robin Hide


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