‘Dean Ashenden’s book … answered all [our] early questions about what a Political Book of the Year should look like in 2022,’ said the judges. ‘His work—combining memoir, history and journalism—gives Australia one of the most powerful accounts yet of the sorry story of White Australia’s repeated assaults—and clumsy interventions—on Indigenous Australia since the arrival of the First Fleet.
‘He tells that story intimately through the lens of what has happened at Tennant Creek, and to the people who had lived there for thousands of years: people who come to life with real names and faces and stories over the historic episodes he recounts, as well as people he once glimpsed in the distant spinifex as a small boy, who he returns as an ageing man to meet, who have survived it all.
‘But while Ashenden may be telling Tennant’s story, he also puts it in a much wider and more troubling context, both over time and into the present day, with a knowledgeable and clear-eyed view of the failings of the legal system, the degradations of political opportunism, the battle over history, and the confronting question of why most of us know so little of this story.
‘As we discuss Indigenous Recognition, an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, a Makaratta Commission and the importance of truth telling, there is no greater candidate for this prize than one which does so much to smash the Great Australian Silence.’
The Australian Political Book of the Year is jointly sponsored by Collins Booksellers and York Park Group, and was established this year to highlight the ‘significant role Australian political books play in better understanding politics and public policy’.
Telling Tennant's Story: The Strange Career of the Great Australian Silence by Dean Ashenden
‘A drily elegant, bracing work from a pained and open heart’ —Helen Garner
The tale of a town, and a nation.
Returning after fifty years to the frontier town where he lived as a boy, Dean Ashenden finds Tennant Creek transformed, but its silence about the past still mostly intact. Provoked by a half-hidden account, Ashenden sets out to understand how the story of ‘relations between two racial groups within a single field of life’ has been told and not told, in this town and across the nation.