Wiradjuri and Wailwan activist and storyteller Teela May Reid has won the 2020 Daisy Utemorrah award for her powerful work of junior fiction, Our Matriarchs Matter.

Presented at the WA Premier’s Book Awards ceremony at the State Library of Western Australian in Perth on Friday, Ms Reid received $15,000 and a publishing contract with major Indigenous publishing house, Magabala Books.

The national award is for an unpublished work of Indigenous junior or young adult writing, and is named in honour of the late Wunambal Elder, author , poet and one of the founders of Magabala Books, Daisy Utemorrah.

Born and raised in Gilgandra in western NSW, Ms Reid works as a criminal defence lawyer based in Sydney and is a strong advocate for abolishing systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

Ms Reid said the story was inspired by her nine-year old niece Jakayla May Reid, and by Daisy Utemorrah’s own story.

“I felt an urge to submit my story having learned more about Daisy Utemorrah, but also because I have been strongly shaped by all the Matriarchs in my life. The story is something that comes from my soul and my spirit.”

Ms Reid says she will collaborate with her niece, who will illustrate the story before it is published by Magabala Books in 2022.

The award was judged by Magabala Publisher Rachel Bin Salleh and award-winning author and illustrator Ambelin Kwaymullina. Both judges said the story was a “beautiful soaring tribute to the strength of matriarchs” that would delight and inspire young readers.

Ms Reid says she hopes the work will encourage the next generation of storytellers to tell their stories.