Academic wins prize (Issue 13, 2009)


Professor Robert Kenny

La Trobe University scholar Robert Kenny - who lost his house and all his possessions during Black Saturday - has been awarded with the 2008 Prime Minister’s History Prize for his book ‘The Lamb Enters the Dreaming: Nathanael Pepper and the ruptured world’.

Professor Kenny from the La Trobe History Program competed against sixty-two other nominees for the award and he will share his $100,000 award with co-winner Professor Tom Griffiths from the ANU.

'I feel greatly honoured and gratified to receive this award. When an historian takes chances to understand the past and how that past still lives within us, there is always the fear of being unheard, or even lampooned,' says Dr Kenny.

The book focuses on Nathanael Pepper’s story, a member of the Wotjobaluk tribe which inhabited the Wimmera when Moravian missionaries arrived from Germany. For seven years Dr Kenny has been working on reconstructing his tale from quoted conversations in diaries, letters by Pepper and documents in the headquarters of the church in Germany.

Last year the book won Professor Kenny the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Hancock Prize from the Australian Historical Association. As a manuscript, it was awarded the Peter Blazey Fellowship from the University of Melbourne.

The judges described the work as a 'scholarly yet accessible book, elegantly written and powerfully argued. Meticulous in his use of sources, he also goes beyond that and shows how historical imagination is not the enemy of accuracy.'

Dr Kenny received his prize and a gold medallion at a ceremony in Canberra last week.