Wheatbelt professor recognised with prestigious humanities fellowship

A Wheatbelt poet and humanities academic has been elected to the highest honour for achievement in the humanities across the country.

Professor John Kinsella, from Curtin’s School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, was one of five researchers from across Australia elected as an Honorary Fellow to the Australian Academy of the Humanities for his outstanding leadership as a poet, novelist, critic and journal editor.

As an Honorary Fellow, Professor Kinsella was elected in recognition of his significant contribution to the humanities and the arts, and to Australian cultural life.

Professor Kinsella has published more than 60 volumes of poetry and 11 volumes of fiction, and has edited influential journals and anthologies.

He is also a prolific critic and cultural activist who has published on poetics, spatiality and activist aesthetics.

He has won state and national prizes for his publications.

Professor Kinsella said living in the Wheatbelt has been central to his life.

“I have long been concerned about the destruction of bushland, and write a lot about the few percent of original bush that's left in the Wheatbelt, but I also write extensively about grain farming from ploughing to working on the wheatbins, and the need to farm responsibly with least environmental impact,” he said.

“It can be done.

“The Wheatbelt is what I know - its people and its problems.

“I am deeply interested in respecting Aboriginal culture, and living on Ballardong Noongar land, I always acknowledge this.

“The Wheatbelt is a world.”

Professor Kinsella said his long list of achievements have not been about himself, but instead the people he has worked alongside. 

“Well, really, when all is said and done, working with others, especially over the last decade with Yamaji poet Charmaine Papertalk-Green on making a book of poems together,” he said.

“For me, the most important thing as a writer is to listen and learn and respect other people's stories.”

His advice to rural writers is to take advantage of their surrounds.

“The moment you walk out your door, whether you're in the towns or on a farm, there's a wide sky, and the land offering endless opportunities to speak with it and for it,” Professor Kinsella said.

“I think rural writers have special opportunities to work for a better world ecologically and in terms of social justice — learn from what's around you, and respectfully tell your own stories and the world will listen and maybe get something from it.”