Ellen van Neerven Fellow 2021.png

Mijung ngali, yaway
Baling-ngaringgahla wahlu?
~ Ellen van Neerven from 'Yugambeh and Proud'

The Fellowship fosters and enhances poetic and professional development

Established to recognise and develop the achievements of contemporary Australian poets, the Fellowship supports the artistic growth of the individual as well as the wider community.

In 2021, we're thrilled to have Ellen van Neerven as the Red Room Poetry Fellow and look forward with anticipation to seeing their Fellowship project 'Kweensland: Sovereign Bodies and the Colonial Nation-State' unfold this year.

Ellen van Neerven's statement

Thank you to Red Room Poetry and the judging panel for this amazing opportunity. I feel honoured and privileged to be the fifth recipient of this fellowship  

The work selected is called Kweensland: Sovereign Bodies and the Colonial Nation-State, it’s about us as queer First Nations people - our traditional country does sit within the parameters of what is now called Queensland but our sovereignty was never ceded. For thousands of years pre-Invasion, our families lived and thrived here and despite colonial-neoliberal disruption we continue to practice a connection to Dhagun.

It’s about our gender diversity before the ships came. about listening deeply to Dhagun and stories that have been silenced. This project is an ode to what to some are small protests, and small details, but to me, are revolutions. 

I’m looking forward to the residency in July on Wodi Wodi Yuin country, looking forward to immersing myself in the writing, running workshops with community and presenting the poetry that comes out of this time with you all in the future.

~ Ellen van Neerven, Red Room Poetry Fellow 2021

Judging statement


We’re delighted to announce and congratulate Ellen van Neerven as the recipient of the 2021 Red Room Poetry Fellowship. Ellen’s project was inspired by and will respond to the Poetry in First Languages program, which ‘centred Yugambeh language, dhagun and relations’; and the continued care and custodianship of Elders. The title of Ellen’s project, Kweensland, ‘rejects that our sacred Dhagun is Crown Land’ and ‘signif[ies] our belongings as Sovereign beings’. In Kweensland, Ellen will embody the stories of ‘my proclaimed Kweens and my Kweer Ancestors, letting them fill the pages with their truth’. 

We were particularly impressed by the clarity, detail and inventiveness of Ellen’s project, which weaves decolonising and queer philosophies into a continuum from the past to the future. We were also drawn to Kweensland’s disruption, subversion and revolution, its politics of difference and its truth-seeking. Ellen’s ‘longform poems, prose poems, narrative poems and visual poems’, which will comprise their third full-length poetry collection, will ‘rewild the land, water, earth and sky scapes the settler states have nulled’; their poems will also contribute ‘to First Nations protest poetry and kweering nature poetry’. 

We’re excited for Ellen and greatly look forward to the poems they will create and the workshop they will conduct with local First Nations Elders, ‘to nurture the writing of their poetry on place and identity, listening to and respecting their creative visions’, as part of the 2021 Fellowship. Thanks again to Red Room Poetry for this wonderful opportunity.  

Fellowship shortlist

The Fellowship received a record number of applications, reflecting a broad range of voices, cultures, ages, geographies, genders and sexualities as well as the political climate in which paid creative opportunities for writers are highly sought. Emerging and established poets, page and stage poets engaged our attention with diverse proposals. We’d like to thank every applicant — reading, considering and discussing your proposals was an honour, a privilege and a joy. We’d also like to thank Red Room Poetry for their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to poets and to poetry and for inviting us to judge this vital Fellowship.

Our shortlist selection represents a spectrum of poets with unique, imaginative and exceptional projects who clearly considered their proposals; demonstrated the development of and passion for their work; and articulated ways of looking outward to the greater benefits their role as Fellow would have for the poetic community. Proposals that demonstrated strong supplementary support and illuminated the rationale for both the individual and Red Room Poetry also scored favourably.

We congratulate all shortlisted poets and welcome Red Room Poetry’s offer to provide a commission and performance opportunity to each of the shortlisted poets.

Jeanine LeaneJessica Alice and Stuart Barnes, Judges 2021