“The good thing about the Stella Prize is I can go down to two part-time jobs and focus on the creative writing,” she says.
Despite having received a litany of awards, including the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund grant, Araluen doesn’t see herself as a career writer. “My own writing is something I do right now and I do in the time that I’ve got available. I’m not one of those people who expects that I will always have something to say. I’ve got a few things to say, I’ll say them and then see if I have more to say.”
Now in its 10th year, the Stella Prize has achieved its financial goal of $3 million to endow the prize in perpetuity. That was made possible through the Stella Forever Fund, set up in 2016 with a campaign led by patrons Paula McLean, who donated $1 million, and Ellen Koshland; it is one of Australia’s most ambitious female-led philanthropy campaigns to date. Since its inception, the Stella has invested more than half a million dollars in women’s writing, through the distribution of prize money.
Even now, Araluen says she gets “very nervous about calling myself any kind of writer. Whenever I tell people I’m a poet, it creates a strange energy. Most of the time they don’t just believe you, or their version of being a poet is you sit in a dark room and scribble out work and no one ever reads it. People already have a perception about writing and writers anyway, that they’re not social, which is not true. And poetry is considered such a deviation from normal social behaviour … so unless I know people know about it, I just say I work in books. It’s not a lie but it’s definitely an evasion of the question.”