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The National Biography Award celebrates excellence in biography, autobiography and memoir writing. The Award was established in 1996 by Dr Geoffrey Cains and generously supported by the late Michael Crouch AC to encourage the highest standards of writing in biographical writing and to promote public interest in the genre.

National Biography Award 2021 Winner is Truganini By Cassandra Pybus

2021 Winner

The story of Truganini, a Nuenonne woman from Bruny Island off Tasmania, is shrouded in myth for almost two centuries. In this clear-eyed work, Pybus charts the ‘agonising accretion of unspeakable loss’ endured by Truganini, her people and other clans in 1800s colonial Tasmania. Drawn from first-person accounts by missionary George Augustus Robinson and contemporaries, Truganini emerges here as neither ‘antipodean Pocahontas’ nor witless captive. After witnessing the murder and abduction of her family members, she is betrayed time and again before dying in Hobart in 1876.

By striking through the pomposity of Truganini’s major chronicler, Robinson, Pybus presents the reader with a vivid and complex portrait of the Nuenonne woman. Truganini claims her place as a survivor, never passive even in the face of a determined effort to eradicate Aboriginal people from Tasmania. She uses charm and shrewdness to attempt to engineer a future that allows her and her people to go home. Pybus’ command of her research is significant, penetrating past mistakes of fact or interpretation and revealing Truganini as a three-dimensional person.