caption – Hawaiian Disney consultant Peter Rockford Espiritu will speak at the festival

by Nance Haxton

The First Nations Writers Festival is calling for submissions from Indigenous writers to help raise their voices on a global scale.

As part of the festival in Townsville on May 24 and 25, organisers are gathering written stories for judging, with book award winners receiving $5000 Australian dollars and short story winners a cash prize of $500.

First Nations writers from Australia, New Zealand, PNG, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and the Pacific Islands are encouraged to enter.

Entries have grown steadily every year over the five years of the festival, with organisers seeking expressions of interest from potential authors of books and short stories by Easter Sunday.

Disney consultant Peter Rockford Espiritu from Hawaii is a judge and will also MC and speak at the festival. He says it’s an honour to present the stories of Pacific Island peoples.

“To share with our global village the continuation of our oral traditions in print while elevating the quality of life for Oceanic peoples by rewarding their efforts, is a wave I am ecstatic to ride,” he says.

Festival founder Anna Borzi says the festival creates opportunities for First Nations voices to be recognised, with the festival publishing four books so far and 12 monetary awards handed out.

“We’re anticipating a number of short stories, people have written and said `we want to send in a short story’ so that’s very exciting,” Ms Borzi says.

“We accept it in their own voice we don’t edit it to make changes we just accept their stories. We might put a full stop in a couple of places but that’s about it, and at the same time we reward them up front. 90 per cent of the profits from the books that are published go back to the authors.”

She encouraged as many people as possible to submit their original work, saying it’s crucial that Indigenous writers are supported to tell their stories their way, to preserve and celebrate their unique cultural heritage.

“There is a dearth of stories being captured from around the Greater Pacific, First Nations people, including obviously First Nations Australia and New Zealand, and all the hundreds of thousands of cultures out there,” she says.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for them to have their work recognised with awards and then published so that we can take them to the world.”