Art lecturer wins top prize at Queensland Literary Awards 

QCA lecturer Dr Fiona Foley won top prize at the Queensland Literary Awards.

Queensland College ofArtlecturer DrFiona Foley has taken outtop prizeat the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.

Dr Foley won the $25,000 award for a work of state significance for her book Biting the Clouds: A Badtjala perspective on the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 1897,written as part of her PhD at Griffith University.

Dr Fiona Foley. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

As a proudBadtjalawoman fromK’gari(Fraser Island), Dr Foley’s art practice and research are built around a strong connection to country and culture.

Shesaid the award was “a hugehonour”.

“It’s a really big distinction in terms of bringing Indigenous knowledge to the fore, where Aboriginal people are starting to write about their own particular histories,”shetold Guardian Australia.

The prize recognises “an outstanding work, by an Australian writer, focused on documenting, discussing or highlighting a uniquely Queensland story.

Thebook is part of Dr Foley’s long-term research into the fate of theBadtjalapeople of Fraser Island, which spans academic research, speaking events and artwork.

Queensland PremierAnnastaciaPalaszczuksaidBiting the Cloudsput“a spotlight on a terrible part of Queensland’s history”.

“This significant truth-telling account will play an important role in building a more inclusive and respectful future for Queensland,”shesaid.

Biting the Cloudsis based on Dr Foley’s doctoral research at Griffithand explores how opium was used to control Aboriginallabourin Queensland during the 1800s.

“The book has been a huge achievement and it’s based on my PhD research here at QCA.

“It’s a history that most Queenslanders aren’t familiar with and it’s very close to my heart.”

Over the past three decades, Dr Foley has built a reputation as one of Australia’s most provocative artists, working across installation, photography,print-making, sculpture and film.

Her work is held in collections around the world — including the British Museum — and she has completed a host of high-profile public installationsacross the country.

Dr Foley was also the Queensland State Library’s inaugural 2020 Monica Clare Research Fellow.

“My career has been very diverse, and I’m still creating new work,” she said.

“I really enjoy what I do, and I feel there is no stopping — I am on a roll.”