Kate Challis RAKA Award

Applications are now closed. The winner will be announced at the Faculty of Arts Literary Awards, Melbourne Writers Festival on Sunday 4 September.

For more information please visit the faculty of Arts prizes page

This award for Indigenous creative artists has been made available through the generosity of Professor Emeritus Bernard Smith, eminent art and cultural historian. The prize was established to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis, who was known in her youth as Ruth Adeney (RAKA is an acronym for the Ruth Adeney Koori Award). In the Pintupi language RAKA means 'five' and in the Warlpiri RDAKA means 'hand', and both meanings are particularly apt for a prize to be awarded in a cycle of five years to individual artists - novelists, poets, musicians, painters and playwrights - whose 'hands' are the basic means of creativity.

The approximately $20,000 award is offered in a five-year cycle with a different area of the arts - creative prose, drama, the visual arts, scriptwriting and poetry - being rewarded each year.

2015 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Lionel Fogarty for the book of poems Mogwie-Idan: Stories of the Land, 2012

Fogarty’s book of poetry stood out to the judges for the sheer power of the poetry from first to last page. This is the poetry of a mature, confident poet, rich and inventive with language and viewpoint. It is a wide-ranging literary intervention into Australian history and culture. The poetry ranges, in hybrid style,  across trans-historical themes in assertive, provocative, defiant, satirical and brilliant verse that gives readers the sense that they will come back to the poems time and time again, and there will still be more to decipher and understand. There is highly inventive twisting and tangling of words such as in the line : ‘Even bulldogs British the law’ condenses colonization into one succinct line. The poems are a radical critique of settlement – ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘white explorers’ and ‘untribal man singing songs’ – but are also addressed, perhaps too hopefully, ‘to all open-minded people’.

Download the judges report (3.03 MB)


  • Mr Philip Morrissey, Head, Australian Indigenous Studies, The University of Melbourne
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Mr Don Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Professor Ken Gelder, Co-director, Australian Centre
  • Professor Denise Varney, Co-director, Australian Centre

2014 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Ivan Sen for the script for the feature film Toomelah, 2011

This challenging, raw and insightful drama is deeply invested in both the history and the present of the Gamilaroi people in the Toomelah community in northwest New South Wales.

Download the judges' report (855kb pdf)


  • Jon Bell for his Redfern Now episode Sweet Spot, 2012 


  • Mr Philip Morrissey, Head, Australian Indigenous Studies, The University of Melbourne
  • Ms Jane Harrison, Playwright, Researcher RMIT School of Business
  • Ms Kate Challis, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Mr Andrew Hollo, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • Professor Ken Gelder and Associate Professor Denise Varney (Co-directors, Australian Centre)

2013 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Mabel Juli for her painting Garnkeny Ngarranggarni, 2010

It is a poetic, sophisticated work which is deeply grounded in indigenous tradition but also extends outwards to suggest the complex relationships existing between a diversity of both cultural and natural human experiences.

Download the judges' report (95kb pdf)

Watch a video about Mabel Juli

Watch a short film about Juli digging for ochre

The 2013 Award is made to a visual artist. The 2013 winner was selected from those included in the exhibition Under the Sun. This exhibition, held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, includes artworks in various media by emerging and established artists who have been selected for this prestigious invitational award. The exhibition will include recent works by Teresa Baker (SA), Daniel Boyd (Qld/NSW), Hector Burton (WA), Timothy Cook (Tiwi/NT), Mabel Juli (WA), Kunmarnanya Mitchell (WA), Alick Tipoti (TSI/Qld), Garawan Wanambi (NT) and Regina Wilson (NT).

Under the Sun: the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 from Sunday 10 August - Sunday 3 November 2013, the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne

For more information about the exhibition and related events see The Ian Potter Museum of Art Under the sun: the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 web page.


  • Dr Tony Birch - Lecturer, Creative Writing, The University of Melbourne
  • Ms Elizabeth Heathcote, representative of the Smith/Challis family
  • A/Professor Alison Inglis, coordinator, MA Art Curatorship, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jolanta Nowak, Project Officer, Australian Centre, and Lecturer, Trinity College Foundation Studies, The University of Melbourne
  • Ms Bala Starr, Senior Curator, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, and Challis/Smith family nominee

2012 Kate Challis RAKA Award

Dallas Winmar for her play Yibiyung.

Dallas Winmar's play Yibiying is a powerful demonstration of how Indigenous communities have dealt with extreme adversity through courage and ingenuity.

Download the judges report (200kb pdf)


  • Tony Briggs for his play The Sapphires.


  • Chair: Dr Tony Birch - Creative Writing Lecturer, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Hilary Glow - Associate Professor, Deakin University
  • Mr Don Heathcote - representative of the Challis family
  • Professor Larissa Behrendt - The University of Technology Sydney
  • Dr Mammad Aidani - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

Learn about past winners of the prize.