Terra Nullius

By Claire G. Coleman Hachette Australia

Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.

This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history. This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.

This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.


Claire G. Coleman

Claire G. Coleman is a writer from Western Australia. She identifies with the South Coast Noongar people. Her family are associated with the area around Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun. Claire grew up in a Forestry’s settlement in the middle of a tree plantation, where her dad worked, not far out of Perth. She wrote the manuscript for Terra Nullius, which won the SLQ black&write! Fellowship, while travelling around Australia in a caravan.

Judges' report


Claire G. Coleman’s Terra Nulllius is an arresting and original novel that addresses the legacy of Australia’s violent colonial history. It begins with a breathless account of a young man named Jacky running away from a remote missionary outpost overseen by the domineering Sister Bagra. The dramatic tale of flight and pursuit that unfolds across the book’s early chapters develops into a scathing commentary on the systemic depredations and injustices that are all-too familiar as consequences of the archetypal conflict that inevitably arises between the two groups the novel refers to simply as Natives and Settlers. Later, the novel shifts into the realm of science fiction, which is used to grant what initially appears to be a straightforward if slightly allegorised story of colonial opppression, dehumanisation and resistance an additional scourging layer of dramatic irony. Coleman’s punchy prose is insistent throughout, its energy unflagging. Terra Nullius is a novel for our times, one whose tone is as impassioned as its message is necessary.