Ellen van Neerven (they/them) is an award-winning author, editor and educator of Mununjali (Yugambeh language group) and Dutch heritage. This is Ellen’s story.
I was born in Brisbane and have strong connections to my First Nations and Dutch backgrounds.
We are First Nations people from Queensland. Our cultural ties are to South East Queensland and we proudly identify as Mununjali people who speak Yugambeh.
My dad’s family are Dutch, from a small town in The Netherlands called Mierlo. After meeting in The Netherlands, my dad migrated to Australia when my mum returned.
For me, my mentors are mostly First Nations women, who inspire and encourage with their strong sense of self, as motivators.
I see the role of mentoring as an opportunity to pay it forward and I’ve mentored many writers of all ages, sharing their journey, their inspiration and their persistence.
So, I do feel like I have a bit of a skill in listening to people’s stories and helping them gain confidence in their ability. My advice is often ‘Take a breath. Doing something amazing is not meant to be easy’.
When it comes to multiculturalism, I like to point out Australia’s long-standing cultural diversity.
What people don’t talk about is that Australia has always been multicultural, because each First Nations group has its own culture.
Linguistically, driving through Queensland it’s as diverse as driving through Europe.
So, we have many different cultures here and we’ve got along, and worked together, for 1,000s of years – I think that’s pretty special.
Ellen writes fiction, poetry and non-fiction on unceded Turrbal and Yuggera land. van Neerven’s first book ‘Heat and Light’ was published in 2014 by UQP. This was followed by ‘Comfort Food’ (UQP, 2016) and most recently ‘Throat’ (UQP, 2020). ‘Throat’ won the Book of the Year, the Kenneth Slessor Prize, the inaugural Quentin Bryce Award and the Multicultural Award at the 2021 NSW Literary Awards.