When Leah Purcell reimagined Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife as an iconoclastic Indigenous tale of race, gender, violence and inheritance, she took on a classic of white Australian foundational literature. Inspired by the Goa-Gunggari-Wakka Wakka Murri actor and writer’s own titular hit play, which is now being adapted as a film, The Drover’s Wife is a deftly plotted thriller about the wife of Lawson’s drover, who finds herself alone on an isolated settlement while he goes mustering. Leah speaks with Guardian Australia’s Paul Daley about her acclaimed reinterpretation of our pioneer past.

Leah Purcell (Australian)

Leah Purcell

Leah Purcell is a multi-award winning and self-made author, playwright, actor, director, film-maker, producer, screenwriter and showrunner. At the heart of her work are female and First Nations themes, characters and issues. The Drover’s Wife was first a play before being written by and starring Leah, which premiered at Belvoir in late 2016 and has swept the board during the 2017 awards season, winning both the Victorian and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards for Best Play, Best Book and Prize for Literature; The Australian Writer’s Guild Award for Best Play, Major Work and the David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Writing for Australian Theatre; The Helpmann Awards for Best Play and Best New Australian Work; and the Sydney UNESCO City of Film Award. The novel The Drover's Wife was published in late 2019, and the feature film adaptation written, directed and starring Leah is slated for a 2020 release. She is a proud Goa, Gunggari, Wakka Wakka Murri woman from Queensland.

Paul Daley (Australian)

Paul Daley

Paul Daley is a Sydney-based multi-award winning journalist, essayist and author whose books have been shortlisted for major Australian literary awards including the Prime Minister's History Prize, the Nib and the Manning Clark House Cultural Awards. His forthcoming novel is Jesustown.