Charles Darwin University Emeritus Professor in History Alan Powell has won a $15,000 prize in one of Australia’s leading literary awards programs.
Professor Powell’s Northern Voyagers: Australia's monsoon coast in maritime history was the judge’s choice in the History Book – Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland category at the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in Brisbane last week.
The judges commented that Professor Powell rebalanced the narrative of Australian history with his focus on northern Australia.
“This is a great work enlivened by recent developments in race relations and wartime historiography that challenges the reader to understand Australian history within a wider framework of world and regional history,” the judges’ report said.
Professor Powell was up against a previous winner Tim Bonyhady, and Penny Russell whose Savage or Civilised won this year’s NSW Premier’s History Award.
“It’s very gratifying to win against such high-powered competition,” Professor Powell said.
The book, which he began writing in 2003, explores the maritime history of the north Australian coast.
“The idea for it came in the 1990s when I was working on The Shadow's Edge. It draws from collateral from others but contains much of my own research and observations from having sailed the coastline myself.”
Professor Powell has published, sailed and driven extensively on, around and across the monsoon coast during the past 30 years.
“It’s a beautiful coast but it’s also long and lonely and characterises how isolated we are up here.”
Professor Powell’s next book will examine the challenges and the significance of Britain’s first three attempts to establish ports in northern Australia.