Charlotte Wood wins 2016 Stella Prize

Charlotte Wood’s rage was burning deep inside her and she didn’t know it.


The awakening of her rage happened as she wrote The Natural Way Of Things, the book to win this year’s $50,000 2016 Stella Prize for Australian women’s literature, awarded on Tuesday night.

The Natural Way of Things imagines a futuristic dystopian world where girls who have had sexual scandals with powerful men find themselves doing hard labour in a camp.

When the food begins to run out at the institution, the jailers also become the jailed.

Wood says tackling the confronting subject was hard.

“As I started writing about this material a whole lot of really deep rage in me came to the surface that I didn’t know I had,” Wood told AAP.

“It was about the how women are just routinely degraded and disrespected and it never seems to change.”

The initial spark for the concept came from watching a documentary about the notorious Hay Institute for Girls where girls were subjected to militaristic discipline in the 1960s and 1970s.

“While I was writing it I just thought it was very dark and I couldn’t figure out who was going to want to read it to be honest,” Wood said.

Inspired by the past and set in the future, Wood also drew on present real-world contemporary sex scandals and the treatment of women involved.

“I could keep this really thin thread of wire between this weird imagined world and the real world that we’re living in now,” Wood said.

“The thing that my book has done is draw together all of these different instances and say ‘this is not an aberration, this is what our world is like’.”