By Melissa Lucashenko UQP

When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours and a looming Native Title war between the local Bundjalung families. When Jo unexpectedly finds love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.

Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land. A darkly funny novel of romantic love and cultural warfare from one of Australia’s most admired Indigenous voices.

Melissa Lucashenko

Melissa Lucashenko is a multi-award winning Goorie writer. Her 2013 novel Mullumbimby was awarded the Deloitte Queensland Literary Award for Fiction, won the Victorian Premiers Prize for Indigenous Writing, and was longlisted for both the Stella Prize and Miles Franklin awards as well as the Dublin IMPAC Literary Prize. Melissa was awarded the 2016 CAL Fellowship to work on Too Much Lip.

Melissa is a Walkley Award winner for her non-fiction, as well as a founding member of the prisoner’s human rights group, Sisters Inside. She writes passionately about ordinary people and the extraordinary lives they lead.

Judges' report

Goorie woman Jo Breen has gone the long way around the question of Aboriginal land rights and has purchased her own piece of Bundjalung country, in the beautiful northern hinterland of Byron Bay. In the opening scene of this funny and thought-provoking novel, Jo is working at her job: in metaphors that get quietly more powerful as you think about them, Jo is a singer who no longer sings, now the caretaker of the Mullumbimby Cemetery, where generations of white settlers and their descendants lie dead and buried in Bundjalung land where Jo keeps their graves neat and mows the grass that grows above them.

The conflict at this novel’s heart is between two Aboriginal claimants to land rights, with Jo as observer. This novel is a passionate, warm-hearted and accessible exploration of the Aboriginal relationship to country, a concept that many white Australians still don’t grasp. The political messages are clear, but they are never allowed to swamp the characters or pull the story out of shape; Lucashenko writes about Australia’s race-relations history with generosity and grace. In focusing on a conflict between competing Aboriginal claims, Mullumbimby is doing important cultural work in quietly dismantling the notion, still pervasive in white Australia, that Aboriginal Australia is homogeneous in its beliefs and opinions, in its languages and in its identity. This kind of differentiation in literature and art among not only various Aboriginal groups but also among conflicting attitudes, politics, claims and beliefs is potentially taking Australia’s understanding of itself to another level.