A local publisher who has dedicated her work to advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators has been hailed as a trailblazer in the literary world. Rachel Bin Salleh, pictured, was named the inaugural winner of the 2019 Writing WA Literary Lions Medal earlier this month. The medal was created to recognise and reward an individual who has provided inspiration through their practice, dedication and commitment to literature. Ms Bin Salleh said she was still in shock to win the medal almost a month after the event. “It was completely unexpected,” she said. “I just thought it was an honour to be nominated alongside my literary peers. “I think it is a complete honour to receive this type of recognition, especially from Writing WA, the Literary Lions and my peers. “To be the first person to accept this award is very humbling, especially given the physical and logistical barriers that working from Broome may occasionally throw at you.” Through her work as publisher for Broome’s Magabala Books, Ms Bin Salleh helps bring out the stories of Australia’s first peoples. She said the commitment to publishing and the representation of First Nations voices in publishing was continuing to grow nationally and become more vibrant. “I think that any platform that allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a voice is a most sincere way to start,” she said. “I do think certain awards change lives and this opens up a different type of conversation, especially for First Nation creators to be valued. “I am here because of all the authors, illustrators, poets, yarners, dancers and actors that I have worked with over the years. “They have taught me everything I know and I am only as good as the team that I work with, especially at Magabala Books. “I do thank everyone that has been a part of my journey, always.” As the sole regional finalist for the inaugural award, Ms Bin Salleh beat out Literature Centre founder and director Lesley Reece AM and WA Poets Inc. secretary Garry De Piazzi. Chamber of Arts and Culture CEO and judging panel representative Sheila Magadza said it was not easy to come to a shortlist and even harder to single out one winner. “It was a humbling experience to go through this process and see not only the finalist’s achievements but also the quality of thought and genuine care that has been given by each of these people,” she said.