Skip to content

VPLA 2024
Personal Score: Sport, culture, identity

Indigenous Writing Shortlist

Share this content

Title: Personal Score: Sport, culture, identity

Author: Ellen van Neerven

Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Award-winning writer Ellen van Neerven plays football from a young age, learning early on that sport can be a painful and exclusive world. The more they play, the more they realise about sport’s troubled relationship with race, gender and sexuality – and question what it means to play sport on stolen, sovereign land, especially in the midst of multiple environmental crises.

With emotional honesty and searing insight, van Neerven shines a light on sport on this continent from a queer First Nations perspective, revealing how some athletes have long challenged mainstream views and used their roles to effect change not only in their own realm, but in society more broadly. Personal Score is a ground-breaking book that confirms, once again, van Neerven’s unrivalled talent, courage and originality.


Photography by Sarah Walker



Judges’ report

In this ground breaking work of creative nonfiction, Mununjali writer Ellen van Neerven extends an invitation to readers to enter a cultural space. Within this space van Neerven candidly explores gender politics, trauma and resilience while fearlessly challenging the pernicious settler myth that ‘sport and politics don’t mix’, and asking poignant questions like: can a nation really separate identity politics from sport; and is sport really the great leveller that the nation claims it to be?







About the author

Ellen van Neerven is an award-winning writer of Mununjali Yugambeh and Dutch heritage. Ellen’s first book, Heat and Light, was the recipient of the David Unaipon Award, the Dobbie Literary Award and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Indigenous Writers’ Prize. They are the author of two poetry collections: Comfort Food, which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Kenneth Slessor Prize; and Throat, which won the Kenneth Slessor Prize, the Multicultural NSW Award and Book of the Year in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Stay up to date with our upcoming events and special announcements by subscribing to The Wheeler Centre's mailing list.

Privacy Policy

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.